In 2009, Bart LeFan was an opera singer with a problem. He loved performing music and teaching classes as an adjunct professor, but his career path felt unsustainable. He knew he needed a change.
LeFan had taken a side job in healthcare billing to supplement his income, and the work had piqued his interest in health administration. Figuring graduate school was the next step, he enrolled in a dual Master of Healthcare Administration and Master of Business Administration (MHA/MBA) degree program at the Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah. His prior experience in billing, he says, had "convinced me that having the dual degree would help separate me from other candidates and prepare me for the business side of healthcare." Providing education in both business principles and the complex management challenges of the healthcare landscape, the MHA/MBA prepares students for high-powered careers in health management.
Today LeFan has a whole new career as vice-chair of clinical and academic administration for the Indiana University School of Medicine's Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences, where he oversees the physician practice, educational programs, and research initiatives. "Completing the dual program was one of my proudest moments…" says LeFan. "Tangibly, the program set me on a new career path, increased my earning potential, and allowed me to work 'on the side of angels.'"
With the U.S. healthcare sector robust, growing, and changing, the need for well-qualified, business-savvy healthcare leaders is only set to increase. The health sector currently employs more workers than any other sector of the U.S. job market, and is also going through a wave of "big bang disruption" that is presenting new challenges and opportunities for a rewarding career at every turn.
As a result, there are plenty of career paths you can choose after completing an MHA/MBA degree. Read on to learn about a few of the most promising.
What is an MHA/MBA degree? It's a dual degree graduate program that allows students to get two graduate degrees at the same time, shortening the total length of time it takes to obtain both credentials. Many schools enable students to complete the MHA/MBA dual degree in three years; it would typically take four years to complete an MBA program and an MHA program separately. The MHA degree trains students how to navigate the clinical, administrative, and regulatory environment of the healthcare field, while the MBA provides students with a solid grounding in principles of business and management such as finance, marketing, human resources, and strategy.
Who gets a MHA/MBA? As Bart LeFan's story demonstrates, some students come to these degree programs from backgrounds that have little to do with medicine or business, though it's more common for them to have some education or work experience in one of these fields before applying. Other students may pursue this joint degree to further an established career in the healthcare business.
What are the admissions requirements? MHA/MBA applicants must have at least a bachelor's degree. Most programs require a GRE or GMAT score. Programs may have specific requirements about college-level coursework applicants should have completed, such as in accounting, finance, or statistics (e.g. University of Utah). Some programs may require students to have some managerial work experience; occasionally such requirements pertain only to those who want to complete some or all of the coursework online (e.g. University of Scranton.
Those holding the MHA/MBA can go into healthcare or business jobs, or jobs that mix both of these competencies. Many of these positions are at the leadership level. Here are some of the most promising options for MHA/MBA grads:
CEO. MHA/MBA students get in-depth training in both business management and healthcare administration, which positions them extremely well to be leaders in healthcare companies and institutions such as device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and medical groups. They are particularly good candidates to eventually wind up as CEO of a hospital or healthcare-related company.
It will come as no surprise that CEOs have good earning potential; the median annual CEO salary of $183,270. The top 10 percent of earners have a median salary upwards of $208,000, which is supplemented by bonuses and profit-sharing. Employment prospects for CEOs aren't ideal, with a projected 4 percent reduction in CEO positions between 2016 and 2026, but this is a high turnover position, meaning there are usually opportunities for the right candidate.
Director of Operations. Hospitals, health-related companies, and other medical and health institutions need high-level operational competency to maintain their intricate operations. MHA/MBA graduates are well-suited to work as director of operations in healthcare-related concerns, where they are responsible for the management of employees, purchasing, evaluation, research and development, and other critical functions.
The median salary for director of operations jobs is $89,000, with a range from $49,664 to $148,417. Bonuses and profit sharing can increase the total take-home significantly.
Hospital Administrator. Like a CEO and a director of operations, a hospital administrator must have high-level management skills and health industry knowledge to handle the many aspects of running a large medical institution. Hospital administrators uphold the vision and direction of their organization while managing large staffs, ensuring smooth operations, and staying on top of compliance concerns. MHA/MBA program graduates are trained for exactly this type of multilayered job.
The median annual hospital administrator salary is $88,500, with higher-earning pros pulling in as much as $170,000 or more. Even those who are newer to the position are likely making at least $70,000.
Healthcare Lobbyist. Lobbyists represent the concerns of companies, industry groups, or individuals in their efforts to influence policymakers, particularly regulators and lawmakers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics groups lobbyists with public relations specialists, but the profession is distinct; a lobbyist must have deep industry knowledge and a facility with navigating the business world as well as the government area. MHA/MBA graduates are likely to have exposure to and expertise in a number of areas that could help them excel as a healthcare lobbyist
Public relations specialists earn median annual salaries of $59,300 per year, though pay can exceed $112,000. Public health lobbyists working at the federal and state levels can expect to earn in the middle of this range, but pay may be much higher for those with a lot of experience or those working with large and well-resourced companies.
Healthcare Consultant. Management consultants help companies address problems, make big moves, or refine strategy. Those who do this in the healthcare arena—helping medical institutions or healthcare-related companies improve management—are often referred to as healthcare consultants. MHA/MBA graduates are excellent candidates to help providers navigate the business side of healthcare; they are able to provide research, analysis, and conclusions that take both management and health administration priorities into account.
Healthcare consultants make a median salary of $77,000, and are able to pull in $122,000 plus bonuses, profit-sharing, and commissions on the higher end.
A dual MHA/MBA sets graduates up for leadership roles in healthcare companies and medical institutions. Their multidimensional expertise is in high demand as the health field changes and grows, a trend that will likely continue for some time.
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