Healthcare looms as the third largest industry in the United States. As of 2020, healthcare spending represented 19.7% of the U.S. economy. According to the most recent Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) figures, national health expenditures (NHE) hit $4.1 trillion in 2020. That figure amounts to $12,530 per person. Expenses were even higher across the board for hospitals, Medicare and Medicaid, and private health insurance.
The CMS projects health spending will grow 5.4 percent annually from 2019 to 2028, totaling $6.2 trillion in the final year. That would equal 20 percent of the forecasted 2028 GDP.
Only some of this spending goes towards lifesaving procedures and medications. According to a Fierce Healthcare article, a publication for industry executives, up to 30 percent of all medical spending goes to administration, including billing and insurance expenses. People in the United States spend around three times more on healthcare administration than the next-highest spending country (Germany).
While administration is an essential part of keeping a healthcare system running, there’s rampant waste—as much as $570 billion per year, according to the article. The overburdened healthcare system lacks capable administrative professionals, including hospital administrators and insurers, who prioritize identifying and implementing practical solutions to combat wasteful spending and ballooning prices.
Registered nurses (RNs) who earn a dual Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree can attain high-ranking administrative leadership positions. These professionals can combine their patient-focused care backgrounds with business acumen and improve the system from the inside.
Want to know more about MSN/MBA dual degree programs? This article explores this academic pathway and covers the following topics:
Nurses who complete a joint MSN and MBA degree program can more easily assume leadership roles in hospitals and other healthcare organizations. This prestigious dual degree offers many other benefits for those who obtain it.
Dual MSN/MBA degree-holders snag many high-paying roles. Two potential careers that many pursue are nurse administrator and nurse manager. Nursing administrators and nurse managers help lead healthcare facilities. They hire and fire, influence policy, and establish budgets.
After gaining work experience, nursing professionals with a dual MSN and MBA degree can attain C-suite positions like chief nursing officer (CNO). These executives exert significant influence over all hospital management practices.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that registered nurses (RNs) in the United States earn nearly $67,000 per year on average. But these earnings also depend on factors like location, job title, experience level, and individual circumstances.
According to Salary.com, nurse administrators in the U.S. earn nearly $100,000 per year on average—those in the 90th percentile and above earn over $119,000. They report that nurse managers in the U.S. earn nearly $120,000 per year on average. ($140,000 for the top 90th percentile and above). Finally, CNOs in the U.S. earn an average salary of over $135,000. Top professionals in this role make more than $160,000 annually.
These positions frequently entice applicants with excellent benefits packages. Benefits include paid time off, a retirement plan, continuing education opportunities, health insurance (including vision and dental), and tuition reimbursement.
One 2022 study from McKinsey found 32 percent of direct care nurses are thinking about leaving their position. Just ten months ago, that number was only 22 percent. Contributing factors include low pay, poor organizational support, and the physical and emotional toll of nursing. One way to move out of direct care but continue your healthcare career is with graduate education.
As a nursing leader, you can influence policy to address issues that affect direct care nurses. Potential improvements include setting better financial goals and establishing more robust support systems for nurses.
Though many dual degree-holders have careers in healthcare settings, they can also work in sectors like insurance and pharmaceuticals. Nurses with a business background can even transition out of healthcare entirely.
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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MSN/MBA programs are frequently available online. Institutions offering remote instruction include:
Other programs are available partially online in a hybrid format. Johns Hopkins University offers an online part-time MBA and an in-person MSN. Hybrid programs are excellent choices for those who want the flexibility of online education with the benefits of in-person learning.
Online programs can be full-time or part-time. They follow the same educational standards as their in-person counterparts, frequently including a capstone project.
One study from Poets & Quants revealed many employers value online MBA degrees equally to in-person degrees.
Admissions requirements are often identical at schools with both programs. However, online students are more likely to continue working during their education. Acceptance rates for online master’s degree programs tend to be higher, according to Poets & Quants data.
Admissions requirements may include a combination of work experience, typically as a registered nurse, plus standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, a personal essay, and bachelor’s degree transcripts. Many schools impose a 3.0 minimum GPA requirement. Most RNs have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).
Notably, many programs have students apply separately to both degree programs.
Single-subject master’s programs typically take two years to complete, while dual degrees often take longer. At Miami of Ohio, the online MSN/MBA program includes three years of study. Drexel students take courses for fours years on the quarter system. Students who pursue one or more of their degrees part-time may study for even longer.
MSN/MBA programs often focus on nursing leadership. For instance, you may complete a practicum that addresses organizational leadership and human resources for healthcare management. Miami University offers three tracks—family nurse practitioner, nurse educator, and nurse executive. Each comes with a unique set of MSN coursework. Family nurse practitioners and nurse educators both include advanced nursing coursework such as:
Though MSN programs may offer elective opportunities, the options are likely limited as students are already specializing. Drexel offers 1.5 MSN elective credit hours, for instance.
MSN degree programs include clinical hours as part of their curriculum. State licensure boards typically require over 500 clinical hours to qualify for advanced nursing practice licensure.
MBA programs cover a wide range of business topics. Students at Loyola of New Orleans complete coursework in:
Students also complete business immersions. These sessions, common to MBA programs, usually happen on-campus, though Loyola immersions occur online.
MBA programs may offer more electives than MSN programs. Drexel requires eight “free” elective credits and nine concentration credits. Additionally, the school imposes an experience requirement. Options include a graduate internship, international business seminar and residency, and consulting.
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