According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, healthcare spending in the United States is over $3 trillion, amounting to nearly 18 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2016. That slice of the pie has been increasing rapidly—5.3 percent from 2014 to 2015, and 4.3 percent from 2015 to 2016.
Healthcare is big business — and big business needs the kind of managers that come out of the nation’s top MBA programs.
An MBA is the classic degree for executives. A program with a concentration in healthcare management offers you the best of both worlds: exposure to the healthcare business with all its unusual and specific concerns, together with a core mastery of how to lead and succeed in the world of big business.
Career Options with an MBA in Healthcare Management and the Salary You Can Expect
Like the master’s in healthcare administration, an MBA is held by many top executives in healthcare organizations.
The major difference may be found less in the job titles and more in the types of businesses that are hiring MBAs versus those that hold a master’s in health administration. An MBA with a healthcare focus will be considered a stronger hand for positions that require a heavy helping of high level business skills with relatively little exposure to the operational aspects of healthcare.
A medical equipment manufacturer looking for a COO or a pharmacology business hiring a director of strategy execution might prefer an MBA with a side of healthcare knowledge. A hospital looking for a chief medical officer, however, is likely to be more impressed by a full-fledged MHA.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), mid-level general and operations managers earned about $103,650 as of May 2020, while those in the upper echelon of healthcare administration earned salaries that exceeded $208,000 during this time.
Some of the top-paying states for these professionals according to average salary included:
- New Jersey: $172,790
- Connecticut: $161,460
- New York: $159,050
- Washington D.C.: $159,000
- Delaware: $155,860
MBAs are also the preferred degree for C-suite executive positions in healthcare, including chief executive officers, chief operating officers, and chief financial officers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), chief executives in healthcare and social assistance enjoyed a median salary of $160,950 as of May 2020. Keep in mind these figures represent base salaries only and do not include financial incentives like bonuses and stock options that are standard fare in these types of positions.
May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and job market trends for general and operations managers and top executives in healthcare and social assistance represent national and state data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Salary statistics representing mid-level= 50th percentile; senior-level/highly experienced = 90th percentile. Data accessed August 2021.
Selecting an MBA Program with a Healthcare Management Emphasis
Ultimately, healthcare administration is about effective business leadership, and those are exactly the skills that an MBA is designed to prepare you with. So even if you’re destined for the healthcare sector, it’s best to evaluate your MBA options primarily on the basis of the quality of the business education they deliver.
Here’s a few ways to get a fell for how well a program will prepare you for an executive leadership position in the healthcare industry:
Accordingly to GMAC, the Graduate Management Admissions Council, MBAs represent around 66 percent of all business degrees awarded.
This makes for a very competitive market for candidates looking to get into MBA programs. All MBA programs receive far more applications than they can accept. The best of them will have acceptance rates in the low single digits.
You want to aim high but also adjust your application targets to include schools you’re likely to get into. Your current CV and GRE/GMAT scores can help you evaluate your odds of getting into a given MBA program. Still, plenty of MBA programs don’t require an entrance exam at all, and that doesn’t necessarily reflect on the quality of the program.
Business schools these days are more often looking at other aspects of a candidate’s readiness for grad-level business training, giving weight to things like undergraduate performance, work and other life experiences, extracurriculars and volunteerism.
One of the secret benefits of an MBA program comes not from any specific subject that you learn, but in the connections you make while you’re there. The most valuable of these will be with people already out in the business world, serving in the kind of jobs you hope to find after graduation.
Picking a business school that has strong ties to outside businesses can be even more important than things like curriculum or faculty. These connections determine what internships will be available for you, the type of capstone projects you might work on, and the guest lecturers you will hear speak and ask questions of during the course of your MBA program.
Online Degree Programs
Many MBA programs are available online today, including those from top-flight schools that you might never have otherwise considered. But the convenience and relatively lower cost of online education offers you the opportunity to look at options at big name schools you didn’t even realize were on the table.
An online program can allow you to find the perfect fit for your career plans from a much broader array of options. You won’t have to relocate or find yourself restricted to only local schools.
You can also use the flexibility of online options to keep working your day job even as you are boosting your career prospects through education. You can work on online coursework at any time that is convenient for you, whether it’s 3 a.m. or on your lunch break.
MBA in Healthcare Management Core Curriculum and Electives
In larger MBA programs, you might find yourself taking variations on classes in traditional business subjects that specifically teach the topic from a healthcare perspective. In others, you will take the same MBA courses that are the cornerstone of the businesses school you attend, with some additional specialized courses covering the healthcare business specifically.
Larger programs are also more likely to offer electives, which can span the entire spectrum of business topics, including:
- Organizational behavior
- Decision science
- Human resources
- International business
- Quantitative methods and analysis
Accounting and Finance
Businesses run on numbers, and any decent MBA program is going to give you a heavy helping of macro and microeconomics and accounting and finance classes. This will include getting the basics of the Generally Applied Accounting Principles (GAAP) that companies use for handling their books and an overview of financing and debt in the healthcare business context.
No business survives long if customers don’t know about it, so marketing is an essential area for executives to understand.
You’ll learn about advertising strategies and marketing campaigns and how to assemble and assess client demographic information.
Business Strategy and Management Principles
These courses are the heart of any MBA program—the secret sauce to creating a vision and strategy that will lead to business success. In these courses you will learn about leadership principles and motivation in the context of healthcare.
Case studies of successful or unusual healthcare business stories often feature prominently in these courses, and are broken down to demonstrate the elements that lead to the outcomes in these situations, and how even better outcomes could have been achieved.
Law and Ethics
Companies operate within a strong legal framework that both protects their rights and establishes the obligations they have to customers and investors. Expect to learn about both contract and employment law.
Beyond strict legal requirements, you’ll also be taught about ethical obligations and how they fit together with branding and marketing as well as general business practices.
Business Operations and Technology
Business executives may deal with lofty decisions and grand plans, but if they have a disconnect from what’s happening down in the trenches, none of it lasts very long. You’ll learn about the nuts and bolts of making a healthcare business run in these courses, and how facilities operate and are managed.
You may be asked to game or simulate aspects of running a healthcare business to get a feel for all the interacting elements. And because no business today runs without a strong helping of information technology, you’ll learn about management information systems and the cutting edge systems that can offer strategic advantages in the market.
Capstone Projects or Internships
Capstone projects are not as common in MBA programs as they have become in other master’s programs, but they are becoming more prevalent. They are designed to simulate or allow students to actually take on a real-world business problem that forces them to synthesize all the knowledge they have acquired in other classes.
Internships are a more traditional way to offer real-world exposure. By placing students in a role where they take on real responsibilities in actual businesses, they get a chance to work and gain insight into business operations and strategies.
Accreditation Standards for MBA Programs with a Healthcare Management Emphasis
Accreditation is the process by which colleges and universities are assessed by an independent third party organization to determine whether or not their academic and administrative standards are rigorous and contemporary enough to meet the high expectations of the business world. Accrediting agencies look at elements that contribute to the quality of a program and its curriculum, including things like:
- Faculty hiring and tenure requirements
- How curriculum is established and kept current
- Grading and appeals standards
- Application and assessment processes
The third party accreditation agencies are in turn assessed by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the Department of Education (DOE). There are six regional accrediting agencies in the U.S., and another few that accredit online programs specifically. These agencies handle basic academic accreditation of the university a business school is housed in.
But for the business schools themselves and the programs they offer, there are more specialized agencies that specifically assess the quality of individual programs. This means that in addition to basic university level accreditation, you should look for an MBA program that has also been accredited by at least one of these three agencies:
- The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
- Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
- International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education (IACBE)
They go through the same process as other accrediting agencies, but with a view toward evaluating the program specifically in a business education context.
An even higher standard is an accreditation from Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME). They make the same type of evaluation, but in the even narrower context of healthcare management.
CAHME primarily accredits MHA programs, but a handful of MBA programs have also been included. These represent the highest standards of healthcare management education available today.