Everything You Need to Know About Getting an MBA as a Healthcare Professional

May 8, 2019
10 min read
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The need for healthcare managers is on the rise. If you love the industry but want to move outside of patient care, an MBA may be your next step!

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Working in healthcare is great! But sometimes we realize that our strengths or interests lie in areas other than direct patient care. One promising sector of healthcare you may have considered exploring is the business management aspect. This can include anything from running a private medical practice to acting as a hospital administrator. The degree accompanying this type of endeavor is the Masters in Business Administration, which we will discuss in depth to assist you in discerning if this may be a career path of interest for you.

What is an MBA?

A Masters in Business Administration (MBA) is an advanced degree that provides a candidate with high-level skills needed for success in the fields of business and management. These skills are in the areas of problem-solving, leadership, communication, finance, accounting, and business analytics. Students that graduate with this type of degree are ready to apply their new knowledge and utilize the new techniques developed in real-world scenarios.

Are there different types of MBA degrees?

Yes, and you can choose the right concentration for your area of interest. Within MBA programs there are numerous options for concentrations which include (but are not limited to): accounting, economics, entrepreneurship, finance, global management, human resources, marketing, information systems, operations, risk management, technology, and, last but not least, healthcare administration.1 There are also programs specifically for healthcare, such as a Healthcare Systems MBA and even a separate masters program in healthcare administration (M.H.A., which is different from an MBA).

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What type of training do MBA programs provide?

After mastering the foundations of finance, accounting, data analysis, and management, the remaining courses in MBA programs push students outside of typical coursework boundaries. Many of the lessons incorporate real-life and historical business situations as well as the development of techniques to resolve corresponding issues.

The business matters can range from recovering from a poor financial situation to keeping employees motivated and on task. Courses often encourage students to work in group settings in order to simulate real work environments. There are also mentorship and internship programs involved to assist in establishing professional connections and making contacts for potential job opportunities.

What type of opportunities does the degree provide?

In general, MBA graduates often go on to fill positions in consulting or management. As a healthcare provider, your interests may have a more focused scope. If you are considering working in medical management or administration, the programs will strengthen your leadership, communication, and organizational skills. With continual changes in healthcare legislation, increases in medical costs, and changes in managed care, healthcare managers are in increasing demand.

The MBA program teaches healthcare providers to develop a different mentality about patient care than what you were taught in your respective professional schools. They teach you to consider the patient but also the impact of technology, budgeting, contract negotiations and everything involved in the process of providing care.2 There are even particular roles that medical providers with management training are ideal for!3

How can I incorporate this degree into healthcare?

Most healthcare providers are highly skilled problem solvers, and we know there are many problems to be solved within this field (diagnostically and logistically speaking)! In a hospital setting, the acquired skills will allow you to act as a strong liaison between medical staff and administrative staff and work together with them to solve these complex industry problems. Having insight into both patient care and relationships on the team lends itself to the creation and execution of new policies and protocols.

Pharmaceutical, telehealth, and biotechnology companies also have a need for management personnel with these qualities to act as operations managers, strategists, financial analysts, and marketing analysts.4

If you are an aspiring practice or business owner, and MBA will provide you with the skills and confidence to be successful in your endeavors and become your own boss. It can also open doors by providing connections with mentors and possibly future business partners.

Is there an entrance exam for MBA programs?

The required entrance exam for most MBA programs is the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test). The GMAT exam is 3.5 hours long and covers topics from basic mathematical and verbal skills to advanced quantitative analysis and reading comprehension.

Additionally, and possibly most importantly, the exam probes high-level problem solving and reasoning capabilities—which are very important qualities for success in this field. During the exam, candidates are provided with graphical data and charts requiring analysis and comparison that simulate possible, real-life scenarios. There is also an analytical writing task as part of the exam during which candidates must refute or defend a given argument.

The exam is administered via computer at nationwide test centers and is offered throughout the year; there are not set annual test dates. The current registration cost for the GMAT exam is $250. Some programs will wave the exam requirement if you already have a professional or doctorate degree, or if you have extensive work experience in a relevant concentration under your belt. However, this is on a case-by-case basis and is different for each program.

Is there prerequisite coursework for MBA programs?

Candidates must have already completed a Bachelor’s degree in order to pursue an MBA, but it does not necessarily need to be in business, accounting, or finance! Basic statistics and economics are common prerequisite courses for these programs, but prerequisites may also be waived on a case-by-case basis. If you opt to pursue an MBA, be sure to see if related work experiences or other relevant studies can replace some prerequisites.

Do I need work experience to apply to an MBA program?

Applicants for this advanced degree can range from people fresh out of undergraduate studies to professionals with many years of experience. Applicants may already work in business or finance but can have work experience in a multitude of other areas as well, including healthcare! For this reason, a wide range of experience levels and varying background interests is extremely common for MBA programs.

While having work experience is not required, per se, in order to apply for an MBA program, it is recommended. Having some level of work experience may facilitate a better understanding of the applications of what is taught in the coursework. Also, having work experience will allow you to choose areas of interest within the program that you wish to focus on. Having real-world experience gives you insight into which areas of business management you want to specifically pursue and steer you toward developing skills that you need to strengthen in order to reach your career goals.5

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The exception to this rule is if you are considering an executive MBA program. These are designed specifically for those who already have extensive work and managerial experience which is why they are condensed and shorter in length to complete.

How long are the programs?

MBA programs, on average, require between thirty-five and fifty credit hours. Time-wise, that can range from a single year for condensed “executive” programs (which, again, are typically reserved for professionals who already have a business management background and work experience) to two or three years (for part-time programs) long. Finding time to pursue an additional degree can be quite tricky, especially for a practicing healthcare provider.

Can I still work while completing an MBA program?

Yes, if you want to! Most MBA programs are designed with the working professional in mind. That said, many programs offer options for full-time, part-time, and even online enrollment. Most of the part-time programs have evening and weekend offerings to accommodate busy work schedules.1 Working while completing the program may also be fiscally beneficial in order to cover the cost of furthering your education.

What are the program costs?

Depending on which program you are interested in and whether it is full-time, part-time, or online the cost of earning an MBA degree can vary greatly. Programs through state colleges and universities can start around $600 per credit, but private university programs may cost up to $2,500 per credit. If you're already employed full-time and interested in enrolling in a master’s degree program, it would be worth it to ask your human resource department about tuition reimbursement opportunities!

Why consider an M.B.A?

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for healthcare managers is on the rise! Between the aging population and ever-changing government regulations, the business of the healthcare industry is predicted to continue to grow and is one of the fastest growing business sectors!6

If you are thinking about applying for MBA programs, I would urge you to consider your current position and where you would like to be five to ten years from now. Would this type of program open new doors for you on your career path? Will this degree make you more confident in your skills? Perhaps it will give you a competitive advantage for the promotion or new position you are looking for? Will this degree assist you in becoming a leader in your industry? If you answered yes to any of the above, an MBA may be the right fit for you!

References:

  1. Schweitzer, Karen. “Understanding the MBA Degree.” ThoughtCo. March 16, 2018. https://www.thoughtco.com/mba-understanding-the-mba-degree-466766
  2. Regan, Holly. “Should you get a healthcare MBA? The experts weight in.” Software Advice. 2018. https://www.softwareadvice.com/resources/should-you-get-a-health-care-mba
  3. Powell, Farran. “5 top jobs for MBA grads in health care.” U.S. New: Education. March 22, 2017. https://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/articles/2017-03-22/5-top-jobs-for-mba-grads-in-health-care
  4. Sherrer, Kara. “Where do MBAs go to work in healthcare?” Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management. April 20, 2018. https://business.vanderbilt.edu
  5. Shindler, Lindsey. “6 Reasons why you need work experience before your MBA application. “Business Because. Oct 23, 2017. https://www.businessbecause.com/news/mba-application/4840/6-reasons-why-work-experience-mba-application
  6. Healthcare Management Degree Guide. “Why pursue an MBA in healthcare vs. a standard MBA.” Healthcare Management Degree Guide. https://www.healthcare-management-degree.net/faq/why-pursue-an-mba-in-healthcare-vs-a-standard-mba
About Danielle Kalberer

Dr. Danielle Kalberer is an optometrist practicing on Long Island, NY. She attended the SUNY College of Optometry, completed residency at the Northport VAMC, is a fellow of the American Academy of Optometry and is Board Certified in Medical Optometry.