According to the New York Times, the majority of hospital leadership used to have backgrounds in medicine—but now, only about five percent do. Unsurprisingly, studies have shown that hospitals perform better and have better health outcomes with medically educated leadership.
Enter the healthcare management master’s in business administration (MBA), which equips students with business management skills specifically tailored for the healthcare industry.
Before we dive in, it's important to note that universities may distinguish their management and administrative programs, even if there are overlaps in curriculum. You'll likely spot the terms used interchangeably.
Harvard Business School chair Robert Huckman explains, "There is no single, agreed-upon definition of what's in and out of the field of healthcare management, but we tend to think of it as the set of skills that an individual would need to lead a complex organization and to deliver health care."
What can you expect in the professional world after earning your healthcare management MBA? In this article, we'll review the highest-paying healthcare management jobs for MBAs and answer the following:
Earning an MBA is a significant financial investment, with tuition averaging in the $30K to $50K range. So, after several years of intense study, what can you expect to earn as a starting salary with your new degree?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for healthcare managers is over $104,000 a year.
As with many careers, the range in pay relates to the size and type of the company where you’re employed, as well as its location. Small non-profits will not offer the same salaries as a nationwide hospital system. Hospital administrators and health service managers work in:
The highest-paid positions are full-time jobs in the public sector, followed by positions at hospitals and in outpatient care. Management positions within these healthcare settings will command the highest pay, especially if you have extensive experience.
It's no surprise that the best-paid positions are at the top: chief executive officers (CEOs), chief information officers (CIOs), and chief financial officers (CFOs). Each of these roles directs patient care from an operations, technological, or financial point of view. Chief nursing officers also earn a significantly higher salary than most other healthcare professionals.
Depending on their role, the C-level officer manages staff, protects patient health information, and controls crucial information systems. Administrative positions—which also require an MBA—branch off into materials management, healthcare marketing, and public affairs.
When looking at the average healthcare management salaries below, keep in mind that these numbers may not include their compensation packages. Many CEOs, for example, receive stock options, bonuses, and other benefits, in addition to the salaries.
Location matters, too. Top-earning CEOs in the country who work in large metropolitan areas like New York make more than $1 million a year.
According to the BLS, a bachelor's is the standard degree required for entry-level management positions. However, since there are a limited number of leadership roles in this field, an advanced degree makes you a highly competitive candidate, and an MBA is expected in many positions. For instance, Salary.com reports that 53 percent of CEOs at physician practices hold a master’s (and they earn anywhere from $382,565 to $445,294 per year).
All students working toward a healthcare management degree share one common passion: patient health. They understand that the business knowledge and expertise gained through an MBA program can have an enormous impact on the care patients receive at their healthcare facility.
Career paths within this category break down even further ,depending on the student's unique skills. Tech-savvy professionals might focus on the administration of electronic health records. Financial experts may take more electives in insurance and government policy.
The most common healthcare service career paths include:
A healthcare management MBA prepares students to manage the business aspects of everything that keeps medical facilities like hospitals, doctors' offices, and clinics operating efficiently and successfully. This includes any area that falls outside of direct patient care, including accounting, staffing, budget creation, operations management, planning, and medical records management.
According to George Washington University, these programs cater to current practitioners—such as doctors, nurses, and dentists—to healthcare administrators. The skills they acquire are intended to elevate these professionals into leadership roles with greater responsibility and higher salaries.
Most healthcare management MBA programs take between two and three years to complete. Accelerated programs like the one at the University of Bridgeport only run between 12 and 15 months.
If you’re concerned about balancing your MBA with a full-time job, you should consider part-time or online programs that take longer, but may be a better fit with your busy schedule. For example, the online MBA at Case Western Reserve University only requires between 60 to 90 minutes of live class time balanced by self-paced, asynchronous learning.
The majority of MBA programs seek students who have spent somewhere between three to five years in either the business or medical field. You may also encounter programs that have waive GRE and GMAT scores and admit students with bachelor's degrees from a wide range of concentrations. That being said, many MBA cohorts can be quite small. Universities want to provide individualized attention to their students, meaning it can be tricky to secure one of those coveted spots.
To apply, you'll likely need:
Course offerings vary from program to program, but healthcare management MBAs generally touch on the same topics. Overall, you'll master accounting, policy, operations, and the technical aspects of healthcare administration.
Common courses include:
Students work both in real-time online and on their own; have the opportunity to visit campus for in-person immersions; and complete hospital residencies near where they’re based.
Between the business and the healthcare management components of this course of study, you already have two specialties to choose from. But what if you specifically want to graduate and land a tech-focused management position with a medical practice?
Within some curricula, you will find electives that dive even deeper. Depending on the school, students can often take between three and five electives on top of their core classes, including:
The best MBA programs in healthcare management are accredited, well-respected in the industry, and focus on the needs of their students. If you're at the peak of a burgeoning career, an online program may be the key to balancing work, life, and your education. Let's take a look at three top-rated programs with MBAs in healthcare management.
The CWRU curriculum is built around the specific needs of working students. You’ll complete half your work independently (asynchronously) and the rest through live, online classes, office hours, and group discussion boards (synchronously).
At Case Western Reserve University, students complete their MBA residency at local Cleveland medical facilities, including the Cleveland VA Medical Center, and graduates leave the program with direct ties to some of the largest healthcare employers in the area.
The program also features:
As one of the top 40 online MBA programs according to US News and World Report, George Washington University offers a fully remote program for aspiring medical managers. The body of students brings together doctors, nurses, consultants, and administrators from all over the field.
The GWU program takes 31.5 credit hours to complete, 12 of which are in chosen elective courses. In addition to the program's core curriculum, students can tailor their degree to a unique career path through a long list of electives. They can also earn a certificate in topics such as:
The Johns Hopkins MBA program takes a modern, data and technology-focused approach to its management education. Ranked in ninth place in US News and World Report's healthcare management programs, JHU offers a flexible program for busy professionals in both business and the medical industry.
Students can specialize their MBAs, covering areas such as:
JHU’s Carey Business School notes that past graduates have landed positions with average salaries of $113,934 in places like AstraZeneca, the US Air Force, and Johns Hopkins Hospital.
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