When healthcare professionals consider their MBA options, they’re usually confronted by this question: Is an MBA with a concentration in healthcare management equivalent to a Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA)? While the two degrees are similar in many aspects and make one eligible for higher-level roles in the healthcare industry, the MBA with a concentration in healthcare management places much more emphasis on business administration coursework—providing you with significant expertise in this area, which an MHA doesn’t—and the degree is applicable to roles in many other industries besides healthcare.
American University’s MS in Healthcare Management program director Dr. Eric Oestmann underscores what makes a healthcare management MBA stand apart from an MHA: "So in healthcare management, we want you to be not just an inch deep and a mile wide. We want you to be a mile deep and a mile wide. We want the depth and breadth of knowledge and skill-based outcomes from this degree, versus healthcare administration, which really is a much more high-level degree in terms of information only."
Our guide will cover all you need to know about a Master of Business Administration with a specialization in healthcare management and whether it's right for your career goals. We'll touch on:
The combination of an MBA degree with a healthcare track may seem like an odd pairing at first. After all, an MBA degree is typically pursued by students seeking to work in the financial, marketing, technology, and consulting industries. How does healthcare fit in?
The simple answer is that in the United States healthcare is a business. In many ways, hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities operate as traditional businesses—even when they receive government support.
So, let's start with the basics. A healthcare management MBA program provides a master's level education in the financial, operational, managerial, and policy-related aspects of running a successful healthcare system.
Healthcare management MBA programs seek a range of prospective students both in and outside the field. With training in everything from data informatics to nonprofit management, MBA graduates can set their sights on health services manager roles all the way up to the chief executive officer of a healthcare organization.
Depending on the structure of the program, you'll need to earn between 30 and 48 credits for graduation. Online MBAs offer optimal flexibility for professionals already active in the field, while in-person programs will move at a more accelerated clip. In just two to three years, students can earn a healthcare management MBA on either a full-time or flexible part-time schedule.
In both full- and part-time programs, the curriculum will be a mix of core MBA and healthcare courses, as well as specific electives tailored to your specialization.
To begin, let's take a look at each category. The classes below are pulled from top schools like the online masters program at Case Western Reserve University and Wharton.
These classes cover the foundational business management skills you’ll need to lead a team within a healthcare setting:
Typical healthcare track courses include:
Both schools offer electives like these that allow for some specialization with your degree:
While many prospective students come from healthcare administrator backgrounds, others have business skills from other fields, but hope to transition to the healthcare field.
For example, Case Western Reserve University specifically notes that they look for mid-career professionals from within or outside the field, preferably with a minimum of three to five years of experience.
Their admissions requirements include:
Similar programs, such as the one at DeSales University, also require:
A vital aspect of a postgraduate education is the opportunity to build a professional network with your peers in the field that may help you find your ideal job down the road. What kind of demographics can you expect from your cohort of fellow students? Here is a mix of class profiles from the past several years from top programs:
Like all online master's or bachelor's degrees, balance is the key to an excellent virtual program. The online MBA with a healthcare management track at Case Western Reserve University combines experiential learning with the flexibility of online coursework that you can work through at your own pace from wherever you’re living.
For example, the school offers:
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for medical and health services managers is in the six-figures. High-ranking positions earn an average salary of $104,280 (which can be much higher, depending on industry and location). In addition, the BLS predicts a much faster-than-average growth for these careers at an impressive 32%.
What positions can you expect to qualify for after graduation? And which doors unlock because of your MBA degree?
Let's start with the many settings that need strong financial and operation management skills:
Positions vary depending on your specialty—from project management to data analytics. Your business skills guide some of the most crucial decisions for profitability and, most importantly, the level of quality care for patients.
Common job titles include:
C-level positions in healthcare—such as CEO or CFO—typically require a master's degree for consideration. The healthcare management MBA and MHA are two of the most popular routes to these positions, but the MBA offers the managerial skills needed to be a strong leader in the healthcare sector.
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