One of the main reasons I chose to study optometry, was so I could be an entrepreneur and a business owner while working within healthcare.
I received minimal business education in optometry school, and felt unprepared and unfulfilled by the time I graduated. At first, I scoured the internet and poured through magazines for information on practice management, and listened to endless hours of optometric podcasts. While I obtained valuable information, it just was not as detailed or encompassing as I would have liked. This motivated me to enroll in online MBA (Masters of Business Administration) courses.
My coursework thus far has provided me with advanced business acumen, which has already started paying dividends as I've begun to identify new marketing and growth opportunities, analyze operating budgets, and establish projections for the practice I'm currently employed at.
With that being said, these are my top 5 reasons optometrists should consider taking MBA courses.
1. There are many MBA course options available.
I elected to take a non-traditional route. I was not confident I would be able to adhere to the requirements of a full time 2 year program, so I decided to test the waters first by participating in a 10-week online course to earn a certificate. There are many online programs that allow you to take equivalent courses from recognized colleges and universities...for free! Some of these resources include:
I chose to attend an “Introduction to Marketing” 10-week Certificate course through the Wharton School of Business on Coursera.org.
A certificate does not count as credit toward an MBA program and you are not an alumni of the participating university. Instead, the Verified Certificate proves that you have met the passing criteria of the online course offered by the university.
I looked for schools with a strong program that provided some classes via the Internet. Although these classes are not easier, the flexibility of taking the class on your schedule makes them valuable. When choosing an MBA program, consider convenience, costs, and whether the program meets your objectives.
2. It can help you achieve a competitive edge when applying for positions.
We all essentially have the same knowledge after a 4 year optometric education, and yes, some of us do go on to complete a residency program to gain a further edge; however, how many optometrists can say they have the tools to grow a practice with the knowledge they learned from business enrichment? A candidate with clinical skills and business knowledge may be able to provide other strategies and avenues of practice growth and profitability when practices are seeking to expand.
3. Provides an opportunity to continually engage in self-improvement and self-learning.
Once you are done with school, you should never be done learning! One of the main benefits of personal growth is you acquire a new mindset and knowledge, even without adding more letters to your name. By using all the experience and connections you have already gained, you will be prepared to identify new marketing and growth opportunities. In my studies, I learned valuable lessons applicable to optometry, like the strategies of large successful companies in regards to consumer interaction, which we all know is vital in our profession.
4. Boost your practice potential.
One profound lesson I learned during my studies was, "If you don't measure it, you can't manage it." You need the skills to track sales and forecast future trends. Strategic planning, human resources, finance, marketing and other components of MBA programs offer valuable tools that can boost your professional potential. In the future, I would like to concentrate on human resources, which many say is the most tedious aspect of practice management.
Keep your goal in mind as you investigate programs. If you want to improve your practice, you need to take a broad approach and take courses that focus on marketing and managing people for example.
5. Optometry is a business.
Concentrating on the business aspects of optometry can put the bigger picture into perspective. My coursework has allowed me to apply real world business strategies within an optical setting. My analytical thinking and problem-solving skills have also improved. In addition, it can prepare you to become more capable of handling the ups and downs of running a business.
Although an MBA program can bring benefits to your career, consider the following factors before making any concrete decisions. Business school requires significant time reading, writing papers and completing assignments. Even an online session requires 10-20 hours a week of coursework. This translates into time away from your practice and family.