How do healthcare-specific business skills differ from general skills?

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The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is one of the most versatile graduate education credentials. With it, you can improve your prospects across a wide range of industries and roles, from management consulting to healthcare leadership.

Starting in the early 2010s, the MBA became the most conferred graduate degree, and many of its recipients have experienced benefits ranging from improved resume quality to salary increases. The Financial Times estimated that average pay for MBA alumni was $142,000 and had increased 42 percent between 2014 and 2018.

One of the main reasons the MBA has value is because it provides a background in both hard and soft business skills. Hard skills include quantitative analysis, application of economic theories and principles, and knowledge of mathematics, while soft skills encompass communications capabilities, teamwork, and self-awareness.

The healthcare MBA (HCMBA) from the George Washington University (GW) covers the wide range of skills typical of a traditional MBA, along with additional training in healthcare-specific areas. This combination makes it ideal preparation for students seeking careers as healthcare managers and executives.

An MBA student reviews an assignment

How do these skills stack up against the conventional ones emphasized in an MBA? Let’s take a look:

Healthcare skills

Excelling in healthcare leadership requires proficiency in understanding the industry’s current challenges as well as its rapidly changing trajectory, two forces that pull the industry in opposing directions:

  • Healthcare is both highly regulated and high-stakes, which makes the integration of new technologies and practices particularly challenging, since they must comply with a significant body of existing statutes.
  • At the same time, there is major impetus for wide-reaching change in healthcare, due to the desire to rein in costs and produce better outcomes for patients. The ongoing shift to value-based reimbursement is one of the biggest initiatives on this front.

In this context, the HCMBA ensures MBA students have the depth and breadth of expertise to navigate these issues and others. At GW, all HCMBA candidates must complete 12 credit hours of healthcare electives. Examples of currently qualifying electives in this category include:

The Clinical Research Industry

Clinical research is a team-oriented undertaking. As such, it blends soft (teamwork) and hard (scientific research) skills. Researchers must be adept project managers who can make informed decisions that account for the backgrounds of their R&D teams and the needs of clinical subjects.


How do diseases spread? What’s the best way to screen patients in a specific population for a given condition? Epidemiology helps answer these questions and many more. With this knowledge, HCMBA students will have sufficient background to contribute to efforts such as case-control studies and outbreak containment responses.

Introduction to Global Regulatory Affairs

The complex regulatory environment of healthcare governs every task from pharmaceutical research to clinical trials. Moreover, these regulations vary between jurisdictions, meaning healthcare leaders must create and/or update their compliance strategies depending on the laws in question. This course covers the relevant U.S. and international legislation that healthcare professionals should be aware of.

Issues and Trends in Health Systems

This class provides an interdisciplinary perspective on macro-level issues, trends and policies affecting the healthcare industry. Students work in teams to identify the major influences on healthcare in the contemporary U.S.

Health Information, Quality and Outcomes

The healthcare industry is always implementing new and updated technologies to support care delivery. From electronic health records to informatics tools, there’s no shortage of such solutions, but they are not always easy to implement or get value from. In this course, students learn about the common issues in health technology and how to use specific tools for better clinical and administrative results.

Healthcare Quality Analysis

Quality is a major concern in modern healthcare. Traditional fee-for-service models have rewarded health providers for the number of procedures performed rather than for their outcomes. The HCQ Analysis course exposes HCMBA students to the different statistical and analytical methodologies for measuring quality so providers can comply with applicable quality-related mandates from bodies such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Medicines Development

Creating new medical treatments is a complex, multi-step process fraught with scientific and regulatory risk. Many R&D efforts fail to produce a product that can demonstrate acceptable results and earn approval from an oversight agency such as the Food and Drug Administration. GW HCMBA students will learn about how to navigate specific challenges and ensure consistent structure of related trials.

Patient Safety Systems

Each year, medical errors cost billions of dollars and lead to thousands of preventable deaths. The GW HCMBA patient safety systems course provides insight into the common causes of medical error and how modern technologies can be used to reduce it.

Regulatory Strategy in the Development of Drugs and Biologics

Bringing a new drug or biologic to market requires extensive planning that accounts for business requirements, regulatory pressures and current clinical research. MBA students completing this course will be able to devise an effective regulatory strategy to govern the lifecycle of drug/biologic development.

MBA holders assess the KPIs of a healthcare organization.

General MBA skills

The typical MBA program has a core consisting of courses in economics, management, accounting and mathematics, and the GW HCMBA is no exception. All students must complete 31.5 credit hours spread across the following classes:

  • Financial Accounting
  • Managerial Accounting
  • Decision Making & Data Analysis
  • Operations Management
  • Finance
  • Global Perspectives
  • Micro for the Global Economy
  • Organizations and Human Capital
  • Marketing
  • Business Ethics and Public Policy
  • Strategic Management
  • Foundational Management Topics in Health Care

Like the healthcare courses, these classes cover soft and hard skills in business, giving students the abilities to apply advanced concepts within varying circumstances and as members of teams. With this knowledge, HCMBA recipients are prepared to compete for some of the most desirable positions in healthcare.

The GW HCMBA is a 100 percent online program that is both comprehensive and customizable. Learn more by visiting our main page today, where you can request a copy of our free program brochure.

Recommended Readings:

Hard topics you can learn in the GW HCMBA

Exploring the 7 graduate certificates as part of the GW online Healthcare MBA


An MBA is still a great boost for salaries

MSHS in Healthcare Quality