Jobs in healthcare fall into two basic categories: caring for patients’ medical needs and overseeing the massive business end of healthcare administration. Healthcare administration is the faster-growing side of the industry. That’s in part because Americans are living longer, bringing them beyond peak health and into more complicated relationships with their doctors and specialists. The business of healthcare is expanding and evolving to meet this rising need.
With U.S. administrative healthcare costs consistently ranked highest among all advanced global economies, the battle rages around how to lower costs and who will pay for procedures, pharmaceuticals, and services rendered. Healthcare workers account for 11 percent of the American workforce, and healthcare spending accounts for 18.1 percent of the GDP—a sizable industry to manage.
The size and scope of the healthcare industry continue to grow in complexity as healthcare management evolves with innovation and technology. Electronic health records, telehealth services, health information systems technology, and informatics are all driving the need for health services managers and healthcare executives to help organize and integrate data from across networks in the industry. Within individual hospitals and healthcare centers, patient-focused administrators attend to improving care coordination, team-based communication, and management of healthcare staff.
This level of decision-making, organization, and leadership for business operations and patient care requires years of experience in the industry and, for most, a master’s in healthcare administration. For professionals looking to advance in healthcare industry business strategy and planning, the first step is sharpening their training and gaining extensive critical and technical skills taught in a Master of Business Administration focused on healthcare.
Unlike a Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA), an MBA program in healthcare administration offers broader training on business leadership across industries, supplemented by core healthcare management coursework. Curriculum offerings are program-specific, with some designed as a more general approach with added healthcare electives and others teaching from a distinctly healthcare-focused perspective. Each type of MBA healthcare degree program focuses on topics like financial management of healthcare institutions, health informatics and systems administration, hospital operations and facilities management, public health policy and law, and structural dynamics in healthcare.
An MBA degree for healthcare professionals provides the training and skill sets necessary to streamline a facility’s budgets, functions, and patient outcomes. In addition, healthcare workers who obtain the degree can more easily move to an administrative or leadership role to focus on initiatives that target clinical, staffing, and financial inefficiencies. Reasons to be interested in getting your healthcare administration degree are plentiful. They include greater flexibility in the job market, a higher healthcare management salary, and a desire to move into top-rank positions like clinical project manager, hospital CEO, or hospital CFO.
The length of time it takes to complete your MBA program depends on the program type you choose. There are part-time, full-time, on-campus, and online MBA program options. You may also choose an accelerated program design. Typically it takes two years to complete a full-time program, whether in-person, online, or in a hybrid format. Part-time programs typically require three years to complete.
Several healthcare administration MBA programs offer either fully online or hybrid formats, allowing greater flexibility for students who want to continue working while they study. For example, Case Western Reserve University’s program offers a trimester schedule for its online MBA program, which allows students to take more classes in a year than other master’s degree programs. Other programs may offer a similar combination of synchronous and asynchronous coursework, on-campus residencies, and one-on-one support.
Admissions requirements are similar for MBA programs, but you’ll need to research specifics. Most applicants have years of experience with insurance companies, biotech firms, or specialists. Still, a healthcare background is optional for some programs. It can also be helpful to gain work experience in human resources, finance, or IT positions.
MBA programs like Case Western Reserve University’s require a personal essay, post-secondary education transcripts, transfer credits, two professional recommendations, and an interview. In addition, international students may need to have their transcripts reviewed by Education Credential Evaluators (ECE).
Health administration undergraduates sometimes start out in admissions, marketing, risk management, managed-care analysis, or other non-clinical staff positions and work their way into higher-level administrative roles. While it’s possible to work in healthcare administration without an MHA, it can take a lot longer to climb the managerial ladder without a master’s degree. (
According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2018, the median wage for health service managers was $99,730 per year, with the highest 10 percent in the field earning over $182,600 in base pay. Employment opportunities for health services managers is expected to grow by 20 percent by 2026. This growth is much faster than growth for other occupations. ( )
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Master’s degree-holding healthcare managers earn more than their counterparts with undergraduate degrees. A bachelor’s degree can land you entry-level positions in healthcare administration or potential mid-career job opportunities. However, the difference in average annual salary for MBA graduates is significant.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that management-level healthcare professionals earn about $104,830 per year. The top ten percent of senior administration salary levels can reach about $209,990 per year. By contrast, positions retained by undergraduate degree holders average about $70,000 per year.
Education is only one factor when calculating earning potential for healthcare administration jobs. Setting and geography also impact income. Settings may include hospitals, healthcare facilities, inpatient and outpatient medical practices, nursing homes, diagnostic firms, health insurance companies, and government agencies. The industry profile for medical and health services managers includes high median annual salaries for positions in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing ($225,700), scientific research and development services ($219,050), and navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing positions ($252,520).
Geographical location also influences the pay scale equation, including earning potential and cost of living considerations. For example, while the national average for a healthcare manager’s salary is just over $104,830 per year, there are areas of the country where median annual salaries are higher, including New York ($171,620), California ($145,090), Massachusetts ($152,450), and Florida ($119,520). Note that these tend to coincide with expensive places to live.
Job titles also hold different values in the healthcare market. Directors, vice presidents, or upper-level executives boast high earning potential. Provider network directors, for example, earn $169,034 per year on average. Directors of Informatics earn $242,000 per year on average. VP positions in clinical services ($180,000) and strategy ($366,000) also enjoy high median annual salaries. Hospital CEOs, home healthcare CEOs and other chief executives can earn $500,000 or more.
There are clear distinctions when it comes to salaries for healthcare jobs. MBA holders earn more than their bachelor’s-degree-holding colleagues. It’s a growing industry that is increasingly tech-heavy and reliant on vast amounts of data and information. An MBA in healthcare administration provides training for top-level jobs managing data, systems, operations, workforce, and policy with analytics and leadership savvy.
These skills are transferable to other industries, giving MBA graduates the flexibility to move within the healthcare field and across different sectors. Deciding to pursue a healthcare administration MBA is a personal choice, worthy of research. However, for professionals looking to strengthen their resume and increase their earnings, it may be well worth the investment.
(Last updated on January 18, 2024)
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