The Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree has long been one of the most sought-after graduate credentials. Recently though, business schools have rethought their traditional MBA programs, with many of them opting to channel more resources into online MBAs and specialized degrees, such as a Healthcare MBA.
These options are especially appealing to students who need an alternative to full-time, in-class study to balance their personal and professional commitments, while also gaining specific expertise beyond what the conventional MBA curriculum covers. But what can you do with an MBA in healthcare?
Earning an online Healthcare MBA (HCMBA) can be a viable path toward an in-demand career in the growing healthcare industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in the broad category of medical and health services managers is expected to grow 32% from 2019 to 2029, with 133,200 new jobs created. That’s much faster than the projected average growth for all occupations and indicative of the possible advantages of choosing a specialized MBA.
What Is Healthcare Administration?
Healthcare organizations have been growing for many years as the U.S. population ages and demand for health services increases — and this in-demand industry needs leaders to handle the business of providing medical care. However, landing a position in healthcare administration requires the right combination of educational background and practical skills.
Healthcare administration involves planning, directing and coordinating health services. Some healthcare executives lead entire medical facilities, while others are responsible for a specific clinical department, group, program or project. Their work helps to not only ensure high-quality patient care but also guide a healthcare organization’s strategic and financial vision.
This combined emphasis on health services and management responsibilities requires business expertise as well as the ability to adapt to technological and regulatory changes in the healthcare industry.
What Are Some MBA in Healthcare Careers?
According to the BLS, careers in the wide-ranging category of medical and health services managers generally require at least a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field for entry. Master’s degrees are preferred or even mandatory in some instances.
The main reason for earning an advanced degree from a Healthcare MBA program is to satisfy such requirements — and open doors to the multiple options for what you can do with an MBA in healthcare, including:
Health Administrator or Executive
These roles are the closest fit to the BLS category mentioned earlier. Individuals with such job titles (or similar ones, like hospital administrator or medical and health services manager) perform tasks like:
- Overseeing provider finances like medical billing and patient fees
- Staying up to date with the latest applicable regulatory changes
- Creating departmental budgets and tracking all spending
- Collaborating with physicians on work schedules and hiring
- Recruiting and interviewing candidates for clinical and administrative positions
- Working with electronic health records
- Representing their employers at conferences and other events
Medical and health services managers had a median annual salary of $104,280 in 2020, according to the BLS. A health administrator or executive position requires the combination of managerial and healthcare-specific skills honed in an MBA with a healthcare concentration program, making such a job a natural progression upon completing the HCMBA.
The median annual salary for physicians and surgeons in 2020 was at least $208,000, according to the BLS. For dentists, the median annual salary was $164,010, and for registered nurses it was $75,330. A Healthcare MBA may be a logical next step for any of these professionals seeking to move into leadership positions. More specifically, the HCMBA can help develop their strategic decision-making skills and give them additional competency in clinical research.
Clinicians of all kinds are often called upon to be leaders in their organizations, since they possess specialized knowledge and training. Adding a healthcare administration MBA to their medical degree gives them even more tools to draw upon in situations in which they have to manage other personnel, make decisions that affect the entire organization and respond to sudden financial or operational crises.
Bringing a new drug or medical device to market is challenging and costly. Regulations change frequently; compliance requires careful coordination of all development-related activities, as well as clear reporting showing how specific features were implemented to satisfy corresponding requirements.
Shepherding such projects from start to finish takes a special kind of expertise, combining strategic decision-making and management with deep healthcare industry knowledge. An online Healthcare MBA gives current and aspiring pharmaceutical project managers the tool set they need to succeed in increasingly complex environments. The BLS reports that administrative services managers, or project managers, had a median annual salary of $98,890 in 2020.
The U.S. healthcare industry accounted for nearly one-sixth of the country’s gross domestic product in 2019, according to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The considerable size of the healthcare sector makes it an appealing space for startups and innovation. New firms focused on health services may specialize in anything from helping people lower prescription costs to accelerating drug discovery through artificial intelligence.
Small business owners had a median annual salary of about $67,100 in 2021, according to PayScale. Starting any business comes with significant challenges, including managing a tight budget, scaling up hiring and office space, and managing remote work policies. The core curriculum of an MBA program is invaluable for developing competencies in those areas and preparing students for the realities of running a startup.
Consultants make recommendations to healthcare organizations on how to optimize their practices and remain on sustainable financial footing. To do that, they interview relevant personnel, gather information and present possible solutions to management. The BLS lists the median annual salary for management analysts, or consultants, as $87,660 for 2020.
The analytical skills that often are the focus of an HCMBA prepare students for consulting careers. Knowing how to understand financial statements, manage teams and work in a healthcare-specific context are all vital components of healthcare consulting that are also topics covered in Healthcare MBA coursework.
What Are the Benefits of an MBA in Healthcare Over an MHA?
Students considering a Healthcare MBA degree program also often look at pursuing a Master of Health Administration (MHA). Although the names of the MBA and MHA programs are similar, their curricula and associated career outcomes are quite different.
In short, the MHA is a much more specialized credential than the MBA. An MHA degree track will typically focus closely on topics in population health, healthcare economics and healthcare management decision-making. Although the curriculum may include some classes covering finance and accounting, the overall course selection is meant to prepare students exclusively for a career in healthcare.
In contrast, the Healthcare MBA is versatile. It provides sufficient background in healthcare management, strategy and practice, while also weaving in broader coursework related to business. As a result, students may have more flexibility when it comes to what they can do with an MBA in healthcare as opposed to an MHA because their expertise is relevant beyond that specific industry.
Newly minted MBA graduates have the credentials to stand out in the rapidly growing and evolving healthcare sector. The BLS has estimated that employment in this industry will expand 15%, much faster than the average for all occupations, from 2019 to 2029, adding 2.4 million jobs — the most of any occupational group.
Senior-level medical and health services managers are expected to see even faster expansion: 32% growth over the same time frame. MBA graduates with years of relevant experience are especially well-situated to compete for these in-demand and high-paying positions, pursue other leadership roles within their organizations or start their own firms.
Median Salary for MBA in Healthcare Graduates
Master’s degrees in general lead to a jump in salary for many earners. For example, the BLS reports average earnings for those with a master’s are $240 higher each week — which translates to nearly $12,500 each year — compared with the average salary for bachelor’s degree holders. Salaries vary depending on career title and years of experience, but across the occupations described above, the median annual pay is notably higher than the average for all professions.
Adding an MBA on top of an undergraduate or professional degree may aid in the pursuit of high-compensation positions, although the wage differential will vary by employer and job type.
Another trait common to these roles is a strong projected growth rate in employment from 2019 to 2029. For example, the BLS projects a 7% increase in jobs for registered nurses and 4% for physicians and surgeons.
But even the more general positions, like administrative service managers, are expected to see rapid growth in employment. This underscores the value of having a degree with utility outside of the healthcare sector. A Healthcare MBA offers that advantage in a way that an MHA might not, depending on the employer.
How Can I Earn an MBA in Healthcare?
The George Washington University online Healthcare MBA program offers comprehensive preparation for a role in the modern healthcare sector. The curriculum combines core classes in finance and management with flexible electives and graduate certificate options in health topics. After earning an MBA in healthcare, graduates are well-prepared to pursue any of a variety of senior-level positions in healthcare management, clinical practice or the startup space.
Because the program is online, it enables students to complete their classes from anywhere they have an internet connection — without needing to visit campus. It also provides more flexibility than a traditional program since it doesn’t require a lengthy commute or time spent in a physical classroom. Finally, it has a customizable curriculum designed to give students a comprehensive background in business and the choice to specialize in health topics of the greatest interest to them.
Discover how GW’s Healthcare MBA can help you achieve your professional goals.