The Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree has long been one of the most sought-after graduate program 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 like the MBA with a healthcare concentration. 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 is covered in the conventional MBA curriculum.
For example, earning an online healthcare administration MBA 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 18% from 2018 to 2028, with more than 71,000 new jobs created. That’s much faster than the average for all occupations, and indicative of the possible advantages of choosing a specialized MBA.
Healthcare MBA programs (HCMBAs), such as the online track at the George Washington University (GW), offer comprehensive preparation for a role in the modern healthcare sector. The GW HCMBA curriculum combines core classes in finance and management with flexible electives and graduate certificate options in health topics. After earning an MBA with healthcare concentration, graduates are well-prepared to pursue a variety of senior-level positions in healthcare management, clinical practice and the startup space.
What to expect in an MBA in healthcare degree program
A typical healthcare MBA program has two main components:
- A selection of classes in business fundamentals designed to develop decision-making skills, leadership abilities, financial knowledge and managerial acumen.
- Healthcare courses covering topics such as the development of medicines, ethics, clinical research and regulatory administration.
A study-abroad option may also be available. Moreover, healthcare administration MBAs offered online are usually highly customizable, not only to the student’s schedule but also to their academic interests.
For example, the GW HCMBA includes seven distinct certificate options which may be selected to explore in-depth the latest developments and most relevant skills related to issues such as healthcare quality. The U.S. healthcare system has become much more focused on care quality and patient safety over time, and earning an MBA in healthcare is a reliable way to ensure you have up-to-date knowledge and experience.
As their curricula demonstrate, modern online MBA in healthcare administration programs target a slightly different type of student than traditional MBAs. Students who pursue an HCMBA often already have a background in healthcare, although many also opt to transition from other business domains into the healthcare industry.
Physicians, nurses, healthcare administrators and medical scientists can use the HCMBA as a launching pad toward a more managerial or senior role in the field, like hospital administrator or healthcare project manager. Meanwhile, business consultants and entrepreneurs may seize the HCMBA opportunity to diversify their skill sets and enter the healthcare industry. In 2018, the Inc. 5000 compilation of fastest-growing private firms in the U.S. found that healthcare was by far the largest startup vertical, with more than $36 billion in total revenue the previous year.
Admission requirements vary by institution, but generally include a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university, along with a preference for some experience in healthcare. Standardized test scores may also be required.
What can you do with an MBA in healthcare administration?
Careers at healthcare organizations have been growing for many years as the U.S. population ages and demand for health services increases. However, landing a position requires the right combination of educational background and practical skills.
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 multiple possible career trajectories, 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) 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
A health admin or executive position requires the combination of managerial and healthcare-specific skills honed in an MBA with healthcare concentration degree program, making such a job a natural progression upon completing the HCMBA.
A healthcare MBA may be a logical next step for physicians, dentists and nurses 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, plus 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 toolset they need to succeed in increasingly complex environments.
The considerable size of the U.S. healthcare industry (it may account for as much as one-sixth of the country’s gross domestic product) makes it an appealing space for startups and innovation. New firms focused on health services may specialize in anything from simplified appointment scheduling to accelerated drug discovery through artificial intelligence.
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 analytical skills 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 covered in healthcare MBA curricula.
What are the benefits of an MBA in healthcare administration over an MHA?
Students considering a healthcare MBA degree program also often look at Master of Health Administration (MHA) options. 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 more versatile. It provides sufficient background in healthcare management, strategy and practice, while also weaving in broader coursework related to business. As a result, students with a healthcare MBA may have more flexibility in the types of positions they can explore, since their expertise is relevant beyond healthcare.
How much can someone make with an MBA in healthcare administration?
MBAs in general lead to a noticeable jump in salary for many earners. A survey from career platform Relish found that the averaged pre-MBA salary reported by its users was $79,505, compared to $116,248 for post-MBA.
Salaries will vary depending on career title and years of experience. The 2019 BLS figures for median pay for some of the major career categories discussed above are as follows:
- Medical and Health Services Managers: $100,980
- Physicians and Surgeons: More than $208,000
- Registered Nurses: $73,300
- Dentists: $159,200
- Administrative Services Managers (i.e., Project Managers): $96,940
- Management Analysts (i.e., Consultants): $85,260
Across these occupations, 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 higher than average projected growth rate in employment from 2018 to 2028. These BLS projections range from 7% for physicians, surgeons and dentists to 14% for management analysts. Some of this optimism stems from the fact that health services are growing in demand.
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 that has utility outside of the healthcare sector. An MBA with healthcare concentration offers that advantage in a way that an MHA might not, depending on the employers in question.
How can I earn an MBA in healthcare?
MBA programs have evolved significantly over the years. Modern degree tracks like the GW HCMBA are available in a completely online format, which is advantageous in several ways.
First, it enables students to complete their classes from anywhere they have an internet connection without needing to visit campus. Second, it 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.
To learn more, visit the main program overview page, where you can answer a few questions to receive a brochure.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics | Administrative Services Managers
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics | Management Analysts
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics | Physicians and Surgeons
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics | Registered Nurses
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics | Dentists
Inc. | The 10 Hottest Industries for Startups in 2018
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services | Historical