Business Administration

How Long Does It Take to Get a Healthcare MBA?

How Long Does It Take to Get a Healthcare MBA?
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Christa Terry profile
Christa Terry June 10, 2019

Working in medicine is your lifelong dream. Going to medical school? Not so much. Earning a healthcare MBA will put you in the thick of the healthcare industry relatively quickly, with the flexibility to pivot to other industries in the future.

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What can you do with a healthcare MBA?

MBAs are in demand in hospitals, the healthcare management sector, biotech research labs, pharmaceutical companies, and government agencies. You’ll find them in positions like CEO, COO, and executive director, and in departments like marketing, product management, finance, HR, and operations. After graduation, healthcare MBAs work in care delivery (in the hospital, home care, or diagnostic sectors), for corporate industries (this is where biotech and pharma come into play), or as consultants.

If this sounds exactly like what you’re looking for in a career, understanding how long it takes to complete an MBA degree (whether you’re looking at a part-time online MBA program or a full-time MBA in healthcare management) is absolutely crucial when you’re planning for the future. Plenty of healthcare MBA programs can be completed relatively quickly, but choosing among these programs is a lot harder than just finding them.

The information in this article can help you narrow down your options by figuring out what type of healthcare MBA program you’re looking for. What follows is an overview of healthcare MBA programs and, more importantly, information about how long it takes to get a healthcare-focused master’s degree for full-time students and part-time MBA students.



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What type of students pursue healthcare-focused MBAs?

Your fellow students will likely include private practice physicians or other medical professionals looking to up their game when it comes to handling the commercial side of medicine. The demand for healthcare management professionals is on the rise, and median base salaries for new MBAs in the healthcare sector are around $125,000 per year. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the medical administration and healthcare management field is growing rapidly. Just over 350,000 jobs will be created in healthcare management between now and 2026, and today’s MBA students want a piece of that action.

Most of your classmates, however, will also be in the program because they want to play an important role in healthcare without all of the bedside responsibilities. So, whether you’re already in the medical field or you just want to be, you’ll be in good company.

Healthcare MBA programs: an overview

Finding an all-encompassing healthcare MBA program overview can be tough since schools handle their healthcare management degree programs differently.

Some schools — like Vanderbilt University — treat healthcare as an official MBA concentration, and their program offers rigorous industry-specific courses. Other MBA programs don’t offer official concentrations in healthcare but find other ways to accommodate students interested in healthcare.

Yale’s program is one of these: after students meet the core MBA degree requirements, they can take as many healthcare-specific courses as they can handle. Either way, students receive specific instruction in the business of healthcare and the complex web of rules and regulations that governs the industry as well as the general business education that an MBA provides.

Common questions in choosing a program

If you haven’t researched traditional MBA or online MBA programs yet, you probably have a ton of questions. A few of the most common questions are below (and the answer to all of them depends on the program):

  • What is the course of study in a healthcare MBA program?
  • How many hours of study per week are required to earn a healthcare MBA?
  • What will the course load be like each semester if I pursue a healthcare MBA full-time?
  • What is the minimum number of courses I can take when studying to earn a healthcare MBA?

Everything from workload to curriculum to course load requirements is determined by the school.

What all healthcare MBA programs have in common

What all healthcare MBA programs have in common is that they teach the following fundamentals in an interdisciplinary setting:

  • Business Administration, Business Law, and Business Information Systems
  • Accounting and Financial Management
  • Marketing and Operations
  • Leadership
  • Health Law and Policy, Healthcare Reimbursement, and Public Health
  • Risk Management and Insurance

In addition to the core curriculum, many students also complete clinical internships in order to gain hands-on experience. If you’re thinking that sounds like a lot, you’re right, but that’s why healthcare MBAs emerge from these programs ready to tackle the significant and critical challenges of the healthcare business.

MBA vs MHA: What’s the difference?

Before committing to an MBA in healthcare management, you need to consider how deep into healthcare you really want to dive. Some students go looking for Master of Business Administration programs when what they ought to be looking for is a Master of Health Administration (MHA) program, and vice versa.

There is plenty of overlap between an MBA and an MHA, but there are also key differences:

MHA programs are hyper-focused on healthcare. Students delve deeper into topics like care delivery, ethics, health policy, scheduling, and laws. Even the core curriculum is healthcare-specific, meaning that MHA graduates leave school prepared to jump into specialized roles like managed care analyst or insurance administrator.

Healthcare MBA programs, on the other hand, include numerous general business courses; healthcare MBA students take the same finance, economics, marketing, management, and accounting courses as students in other concentrations. They come out of these programs with a broad understanding of business, with some specialized knowledge of the business of healthcare (but probably not as much as their MHA counterpart).

The question between the two degrees boils down to deep vs. wide. If you are sure you want to spend your entire career in healthcare, an MHA might be the right degree for you. If you want to leave open the option of moving to another industry later in your career, the healthcare MBA is probably the better fit.

How long does a part-time healthcare MBA program take?

In general, part-time healthcare MBA programs take two to three years to complete, although they can take even longer; it really just depends on how many credits per semester you can handle.

Of course, there are exceptions, like Northwestern University’s accelerated part-time healthcare MBA program. And in case you’re wondering what the typical weekly schedule of a part-time healthcare MBA student looks like, it usually involves taking a couple of classes in the evenings or on Saturday.

As you research part-time healthcare MBA programs, be sure to consider:

  • The number of credit hours part-time students can take each semester
  • Whether there are two or three semesters offered each year
  • What internships (if any) are required
  • Whether you’ll need to take any additional core courses you missed during your undergrad years
  • How much time you’ll be required to spend on campus

Some schools treat their part-time MBA programs as subordinate to/less important than their full-time graduate degree programs, so before you choose a program make sure it will give you access to the same courses and faculty as your full-time counterparts.

How long does a full-time healthcare MBA program take?

Having read this far, you’ve probably already guessed that the answer will depend on the school and the program you choose. Most full-time MBA programs can be completed in two years or less; some schools offer three full-time semesters per year for students who want to complete their graduate degree at a faster pace.

There are also accelerated one-year programs at schools like the University of Findlay, Emory University, and the University of Texas at Austin for motivated students who can handle the pressure of fast-tracking a graduate degree.

So, what will your course load be like each semester if you pursue your healthcare MBA full-time? Most full-time students take three or more courses per semester.

How long will it take you to get a healthcare MBA?

You might think that MBAs, in general, follow a standardized master’s program, but that’s not the case.

There are two primary indicators for how long it will take you to get a healthcare MBA:

  1. The number of credits required by your program. Some healthcare MBA programs require as few as 30 credits, while others require 48 or more. The average is about 36. That said, the second factor that will determine how long it takes you to earn your MBA in healthcare will be the pace of the program you choose.
  2. How quickly you complete those credits. Some MBA programs require students to take certain courses at certain times, but others are self-paced. That typically means that the majority of courses are available online and start dates are flexible. If you choose a self-paced healthcare MBA program, how long it takes you to complete it will depend on the workload you choose to take on at any given time.

When to consider accelerated programs

To complete your healthcare MBA as quickly as possible, consider programs that include accelerated sessions designed to take students from enrollment to graduation speedily. For instance, the cohort-based Executive Healthcare Management MBA at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington is an online program that lasts just twelve months. Students at a similar program at the University of Texas at Tyler begin the healthcare MBA program in the spring semester and graduate the following December.

In the end, only you can decide how much time you can reasonably devote to earning your healthcare MBA. The part-time online MBA program that’s perfect for someone already working in the healthcare field for a company that supports employee education might look very different from the program that’s right for a student who just received an undergraduate degree and is looking for a full-time MBA. But however long it ultimately takes you to earn that degree, know you’ll eventually unlock some pretty amazing — and recession-proof — career opportunities as a result. Full-time or part-time, scholarships and loans can help make earning your degree more affordable.

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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