In healthcare programs, students have a lot of flexibility in how they focus their studies. For example, a full-time student might choose to pursue a health-oriented Master of Business Administration (MBA) at a school of business, or opt instead to complete a Master of Public Health (MPH) at a school of public health. At some institutions, a dual MBA MPH may be available, combining the essential coursework of both degrees into one track.
As trends such as telemedicine and value-based reimbursement reshape the health sector, professionals with a combination of managerial and healthcare-related expertise — which can be acquired via MBA, MPH and dual MBA MPH programs — are well-positioned for success. Consider the outlook for medical and health services managers, the broad category that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics uses to group many healthcare professionals with graduate degrees. These managers earned median pay of more than $99,000 in 2018, while their total employment was expected to increase 18% from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the average for all professions.
So which program option offers the best path forward? Making an informed decision requires weighing the requirements and focuses of the two degrees against your own personal objectives, and also determining which program provides the most feasible learning environment. Let’s look at MBAs, MPHs and dual degrees in more depth.
Master of Business Administration
The health-focused MBA, such as the Healthcare MBA (HCMBA) available at the George Washington University (GW), is an excellent fit for students from a wide range of professional backgrounds looking to help improve care, expand access, innovate processes and engage communities. HCMBA students at GW have previously worked as physicians, scientists, nurses and administrators, to name just a few common roles.
In general, healthcare MBAs train students in subjects, methodologies and practices that span the intersection of business and healthcare. This combined focus differentiates them from MPH programs, which are typically more oriented on health matters alone. Core coursework for an HCMBA will resemble that of a standard MBA, with classes on:
- Managerial accounting
- Financial accounting
- Data analysis
- Human capital management
- Operations management
- Business ethics
Beyond that core, a healthcare MBA will offer courses that explore topics in healthcare. For example, the GW HCMBA includes numerous electives spread out across four major areas: clinical research administration, health care quality, health sciences and regulatory affairs.
Using what they have learned in an MBA program, graduates can apply entrepreneurial skills and business acumen to careers in clinical practice, consulting, administration and biomedical technology. The HCMBA’s applied focus, world-class faculty and flexible online format make it a practical and convenient option designed for working healthcare professionals. Coursework can be completed over the internet, culminating in a degree that is identical to one earned through traditional on-campus study.
Master of Public Health
MPH program curricula generally focus on topics such as population health, biostatistics, epidemiology, and the social, political, economic and environment determinants of public health.
In the process of exploring these subjects, students will usually learn about quantitative methods for collecting and analyzing public health data while developing a keen understanding of public health policies and laws and also honing their communication and leadership skills.
There is some similarity here to health-focused MBA programs, which also emphasize the ability to work with numbers and be an organizational leader. However, MPH degree tracks will not incorporate the classic MBA core courses unless they are part of an MBA MPH dual (concurrent) degree program. Instead, their common required and elective classes will include ones in:
- Public health systems
- Environmental health
- Organizing and mobilizing communities for public health
- Public health research methods
- Managing health services organizations
- Public health communication and marketing
- Global environmental risk and health epidemiology
- Health promotion program design and evaluation
- Maternal and child nutrition
Given the wide breadth and relevance of MPH coursework and concentrations, professionals with this degree can be found working in many different settings and positions. In addition to medical and health services management (i.e., the work covered by the BLS’ medical and health services manager category described earlier), MPH holders may be employed at think tanks, research institutions, nonprofits, government agencies and in the private sector.
Dual MBA MPH
A dual MBA MPH program is one degree track that confers both an MBA and an MPH upon completion. Such programs are designed for students looking to acquire comprehensive expertise across the domains of public health (MPH) and health-oriented management (MBA). Curricula for dual MBA MPH programs usually consist of a selection of required courses similar to the ones mandated in standalone MBA and MPH programs.
Since it is a dual degree, a combined MBA/MPH will differ from pursuing either credential in isolation. Some of the most significant differences include:
- More total required credits: A dual MBA/MPH will include much more coursework overall, across a broader range of subjects, than either degree would on its own. Accordingly, dual degree students should prepare for a longer overall time commitment.
- Admission requirements: Some institutions may require students to be admitted by both their school of business and school of public health before they can begin work on the dual degree. Other eligibility requirements may apply depending on the school.
- Completion time: One commonly marketed advantage of dual MBA MPH programs is the ability to complete the combined degree more quickly than doing both the MBA and the MPH individually. Online learning formats may make accelerated completion even more feasible.
MBA vs. MPH vs. dual MBA MPH: Which one should you choose?
There is a distinct difference between the traditional MBA and MPH, as the former covers topics in management and finance and the latter is focused on public health issues and research. However, healthcare professionals can pursue rewarding careers with either degree, and may even wish to combine them to acquire the widest possible expertise.
Although there’s no right answer to the question about which degree to earn, a healthcare MBA program such as the GW HCMBA provides extensive flexibility and depth for learning about the financial, social and clinical aspects of modern healthcare organizations. That, in turn, translates into a skill set applicable to many possible career paths.
Beyond its core MBA curriculum, the HCMBA includes a diverse set of healthcare and general electives and multiple graduate certificate options.
Students can also complete one of seven graduate certificates available through the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences. The classes in those certificates can count toward the HCMBA’s requirements and increase the breadth of subject matter covered in the program, without requiring the extra coursework of a dual MBA MPH degree track.
The GW HCMBA is a 100% online program designed to accommodate the needs of working professionals. Students work with world-class faculty and earn a degree that is identical to what they would attain through an on-campus program. The GW School of Business is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, while the university itself has accreditation through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
How to earn your HCMBA at GW
To learn more about how to get started with the GW HCMBA, visit the main program page today, where you can read a quick overview and also answer a few simple questions to receive a copy of our brochure.
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