In today’s competitive job market, it’s more important than ever to earn a degree that will help you secure a stable, high-paying career. Healthcare is a growing industry, and though frontline workers such as nurses and doctors may be the specialists that immediately pop into your mind, there is a huge demand for business leaders to handle the behind-the-scenes inner workings of hospitals, healthcare organizations, and healthcare facilities. Healthcare managers and administrators are in charge of the daily fiscal operations, scheduling, and logistics within medical facilities. Earning a Healthcare Management Online MBA is a convenient path to a successful leadership role in healthcare environments.
What is a Healthcare Management Online MBA?
A Healthcare Management MBA is a specialized MBA designed to teach business principles from a healthcare perspective. This degree is also commonly referred to as a Hospital Administration or Healthcare Administration MBA. Business and healthcare seamlessly blend together in this unique MBA degree. Technology commonly used in hospitals and other healthcare settings will also be integrated into classes. For example, accounting software utilized in healthcare settings will be emphasized in accounting courses, in addition to basic accounting principles. Courses can be completed fully online, making it easy for professionals to complete school while continuing to be employed full-time. Programs consist of a minimum of 36 credit hours and will include core business courses and industry-specific courses.
What is the Difference Between a Master’s in Health Administration and an MBA with a Healthcare Management Concentration?
An MHA is a Master’s in Health Administration, but an MBA is a Master’s in Business Administration that can offer specialized courses in Healthcare Management. These degrees sound very similar, so it can be confusing at first to determine which is the best option for you. Graduates from both degrees typically land executive-level careers with the potential to earn six-figure incomes. An MBA covers more broad business concepts while still teaching essential healthcare management topics. Upon graduation, you could pursue a career in a healthcare setting but just as easily pivot to a career in a corporate office or a nonprofit organization. Basically, you are leaving your options open and ready for any business administration or healthcare administration position that comes your way. The MHA is for students who are absolutely certain they only want to pursue positions in Healthcare Administration. Classes in an MHA program will have a much narrower focus on healthcare, which can limit job options.
The robust curriculum in a Healthcare Management MBA generally consists of foundational business courses during the first couple of semesters, followed by healthcare electives. Leadership courses emphasizing problem-solving and communication are also embedded into the curriculum. Students will develop a solid foundation in management, economics, finance, marketing, and accounting. Healthcare courses may include Health Care Reform, Private Sector Healthcare Management, Healthcare Data, E-Health Models, and Global Healthcare Challenges.
Near the conclusion of most programs, students are also required to complete a field project, or capstone, in which they work with a real healthcare organization to create a solution to a current problem. They may present their project in front of healthcare executives and professors at the end of the semester. Additional experiential opportunities may include case studies, consulting projects, and internships. A thesis demonstrating in-depth research of best practices in healthcare management may be required prior to graduation as well.
History of Healthcare Management
According to the American Hospital Association, there are currently 6,090 hospitals in the United States. Modern hospitals employ many healthcare managers to help hospitals run smoothly and provide exceptional patient care, but customer service did not really become a trademark of healthcare facilities until the 20th century. Hospitals were very expensive and sometimes had to turn away patients who needed care. Doctors focused on treating ill patients but were overworked and not equipped to handle the business side of healthcare facilities.
MBAs with an emphasis on healthcare were born from the need for hospitals to be run more efficiently and find cost-effective solutions. The esteemed Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania was amongst the first to offer a specialized MBA dedicated to preparing business leaders to serve in the healthcare industry. In 1971, the Health Care Management Department housed within the business school graduated its first class of MBA students with a special focus in Health Care Management. As new technologies emerged, distance learning MBA options became available. Colleges saw a spike in online enrollment during the pandemic. Online MBA programs will most likely continue to attract more students in the future as they become more and more sophisticated and allow greater customization to meet the needs of the students.
How Do I Choose the Right Healthcare Management Online MBA?
You’re excited about starting a Healthcare Management Online MBA, but don’t get in a rush and apply for every program. They’re not all equal. Accreditation and faculty ensure quality. Program duration and tuition can vary greatly. Take time to research programs. It’s better to wait a semester out than to end up at a school that’s not accredited and will cost an arm and a leg.
Accreditations and Distinctions
The single most important factor in selecting a quality Healthcare Management Online MBA is accreditation. The AACSB is considered the most prestigious accreditation, with less than 5% of business schools receiving this designation. A program backed by AACSB accreditation will move your resume to the top of the pile. Companies know and appreciate the rigor required by these top-notch programs. The other two business school accreditations can come from the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) or the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE). An additional specialized accreditation is offered through the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education. This is the only organization to offer an accreditation for master’s programs in healthcare management education. Currently, only 16 MBA programs in the United States have this prestigious CAHME accreditation.
Many top publications also rank MBA programs with Healthcare Administration concentrations. U.S. News and World Report and the Princeton Review are highly reputable, trustworthy sources. The Princeton Review includes 34 schools on its MBA Specialization: Healthcare Administration list. Each school has been assigned three scores from student surveys, based on overall academic experience, how interesting the professors are, and the accessibility of professors. Prospective students can also read testimonials left by current students. Students may also benefit from viewing online MBA rankings and researching which of those programs offer a concentration in Healthcare Administration. The Princeton Review publishes a ranking list of the Top 50 Online MBA Programs every year.
It is important for the majority of the faculty to have professional work experience in the healthcare industry, so they can share industry-relevant knowledge with you. Professors with healthcare experience will not only be able to give you insights but also will be deeply connected to the healthcare community, so they can help you find mentors or internship opportunities.
An Executive MBA attracts older students who are well-established in their careers. Some EMBA programs offer a Healthcare Management specialization. An EMBA may be the best route for you if you already have management experience but want to cross over to healthcare.
Healthcare Management is often the MBA concentration. However, some programs may allow you to designate a specialization within healthcare. Options may include Healthcare Law and Policy, Healthcare Financial Management, Healthcare Informatics, Hospital Management, and Hospital Human Resources.
The length of the MBA program will depend upon the number of required hours. The average MBA completion time is two years for students who are enrolled full-time. If your schedule only permits you to attend part-time, your completion time may be three years or longer. Though online classes are still demanding, the flexibility allows more students to enroll full-time because they can complete coursework independently in the evenings or on the weekends. Accelerated programs are available for students who are seeking rapid career advancement. These fast-paced degrees can be completed in as short as one calendar year, but students should be prepared to devote substantial time to studying and coursework.
If you’re not quite sure if you’re ready to commit to an MBA yet, some programs will allow you to earn a graduate certificate in Healthcare Administration. These programs are only 12-18 credit hours, and many allow you to apply these credits towards an MBA if you decide to go that route in the future. This is also a great option for professionals who have already earned a general MBA but would like to return to school to expand their knowledge in Healthcare Management.
Synchronous v. Asynchronous
Synchronous courses are live classes you watch and participate with in real time. They have set days and times, so you will need to make sure they don’t interfere with your work schedule. Synchronous courses may be your best bet if you think you will need more accountability through grad school. Asynchronous courses are much more flexible because you can complete the online modules, discussion boards, and assignments any time you wish within a given time frame. If you are self-disciplined, this option may be your preferred method.
MBA programs have a reputation for being expensive, but there are actually a lot of economical options available. When you are creating your application short list, research tuition rates for the programs you’re interested in. Look over your company’s education benefits, and meet with HR to see if they’ll cover or reimburse for tuition. Also, schedule a meeting with the financial aid department at the institute you choose to attend to discuss whether you qualify for any grants or scholarships. Limited scholarship opportunities are also available for students who are members of professional healthcare administration organizations. Apply early for scholarships to increase your likelihood of being selected.
How Do I Apply for a Healthcare Management Online MBA?
At a minimum, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree. Some programs may require the undergraduate degree to be in business, but students who earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Social Work, or Health Management Services are also great candidates. Strong applicants will enter the program with professional healthcare experience. A resume may be a required or optional component. Still, it is best to seek even an entry-level healthcare position or volunteer opportunities if you are planning on applying for graduate school soon. Many online programs waive the GMAT, especially if you have years of industry-related experience. In addition to college transcripts and a resume, your completed application portfolio may also consist of a detailed personal statement explaining your career aspirations, two to three letters of recommendations from supervisors or professors, and a graduate school application fee.
What Career Prospects Will I Have After Earning a Healthcare Management Online MBA?
If you are looking to climb the career ladder, earning a Healthcare Management Online MBA is a great step towards achieving your goals. After earning this versatile degree, students can obtain a multitude of careers, including healthcare administrators, medical office managers, and health information managers. These senior-level positions may involve hiring and training staff, supervising a team, enforcing regulations, and implementing new policies. Most positions will be in a medical office setting but may involve frequent meetings with various departments within the hospital, healthcare professionals, and even patients. Healthcare managers are also needed at nursing homes, dental offices, surgical clinics, substance abuse centers, research facilities, and to serve in non-profit healthcare organizations.
Healthcare managers are highly compensated for their knowledge and expertise, making healthcare a great industry to pursue. While some advanced positions may only require a bachelor’s degree, MBA graduates are primed for more senior-level positions and therefore capable of yielding higher salaries. According to the BLS, Medical and Health Services Managers earned a median annual salary of $104,280 in 2020, and the highest 10% earned $195,630 per year. Amongst health services managers, those working for the government earn the highest salary, followed by state, local, and private hospitals. The need for medical managers is rapidly growing due to the increasing geriatric population, electronic medical records processing, and ongoing pandemic. Between 2020-2030, health manager roles are anticipated to increase by 32%, which is much faster than all other occupations. Healthcare is ranked amongst the top three highest-paid industries for top executives, with an average annual salary of $160,950.
How Do I Succeed in a Healthcare Management Online MBA Program?
If you’ve never taken an online course, there will be a bit of a learning curve. With these tips, you should get adjusted fairly quickly and will likely enjoy the freedom to study at your own convenience.
Before your classes even start for the semester, you can begin to get organized. Do you remember getting a school supply list each year when you were in grade school? Having the right supplies can help you study more efficiently. For students who like to write and read hard-copy notes, purchase a notebook for each class you’re taking, so you can take notes as you complete online modules. Some tests and quizzes may even be open book, so you can refer back to those notes on tricky questions. You will also need pens to take notes and highlighters to easily find important terms when you are studying. Keep a stack of index cards handy to jot down these key terms to make studying for tests a breeze. For those that like to work and study online, find the right program and apps for you to work in. The important thing is to see what works for you.
Also, a paper or digital planner is a must! Write down test dates, assignment deadlines, and any other important dates throughout the semester. Make sure you start assignments early, so you are not overwhelmed the week of a major project. If possible, designate a specific place to study. If you don’t have a home office, get creative with the space you do have. Perhaps, you could add a desk to the guest room, turn a closet into a study nook, or even clear some space in the attic or basement.
Read the Syllabus
This may seem like an obvious step, but many students don’t take the time out to thoroughly read each syllabus. Professors include information about how you will be graded in their class, attendance policies, assignment due dates, important information sources, and their office hours. Even though your courses are online, there may be some required virtual class meetings you must attend.
The beginning of each semester is also a great time to reach out to your professor to introduce yourself and the perfect time to ask for clarification about anything on the syllabus. Don’t wait until the week before an assignment is due to ask questions.
Though virtual students may not venture on campus, there is a multitude of services they have access to. Graduate school often requires students to complete a thesis. Medical journals and other electronic publications are available through the library. Students can also schedule telehealth appointments with the campus health center or counseling center. If you’re struggling with a class, book a free tutoring session. The writing center will also proofread your research papers and offer suggestions for improvement.
Whether you’re trying to land an internship or find full-time employment, career services can help. You can schedule a virtual career counseling session to discuss your goals and career plans with a career advisor that can guide you in the right direction. There are also webinars ranging from salary negotiation to drafting a resume. Business schools sometimes have their own career centers and can help Healthcare Management students gain hands-on experience at hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Hospitals may even offer programs exclusively for students to participate in job shadowing, earn internship credit, and guarantee employment offers upon graduation for meeting certain criteria. Job fairs are typically held during the fall and spring semesters, and HR representatives may also schedule interviews on additional dates. If students are unable to attend these events in person, virtual career fairs may be offered. Also, check the job bank for additional opportunities that are near you. Graduate school is a great time to add experience to your resume to prepare for your future career.
Even distance learning students can and should participate in business organizations. Clubs offer excellent networking opportunities with professionals already in the healthcare field, take your resume to the next level, and provide personal and career development resources. If your campus doesn’t offer extracurricular opportunities for online students, there is a wide array of professional healthcare organizations with nationwide chapters. Below are a few examples of organizations that may have local chapters near you.
•American College of Healthcare Executives
If you are aiming to be the next hospital administrator, why not rub elbows with some of them by joining ACHE? ACHE offers a student associate level, with benefits such as access to the Healthcare Executive Career Resource Center, multiple scholarly publications, and invitations to seminars.
•Healthcare Financial Management Association
HFMA can help students interested in pursuing hospital accounting or other financial careers succeed. Students can complete professional certifications, such as Certified Revenue Cycle Representative or the Patient Access Essential Certificate. These can be saved as digital badges, which can be displayed on your LinkedIn profile or electronic resume. Members can also attend leadership retreats and educational workshops.
•Health Information and Management Systems Society
If healthcare IT is your niche, HIMSS can help you on your journey. Students can compete in case competitions designed just for them, participate in the Emerging Healthcare Leaders Webinar, or be mentored by a seasoned professional.
Research the programs that align the best with your needs. Many programs offer online info sessions for prospective students. Sign up to attend any of these Q&A meetings offered by schools that made your short list. If you find yourself having additional questions, email the business school directly. After you have compiled a list of application deadlines, it’s time to get busy preparing all required documents. Though some programs may have rolling admissions, most accept students for the fall or spring semesters, so give yourself adequate time to submit your best application. After applying, check your email frequently for any updates on your application status or additional required steps. Soon, you’ll be an emerging healthcare leader!