Healthcare is the largest industry in the United States, employing more than 14 million people, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And in coming years, the industry is only expected to grow, generating 3 million new jobs by 2016. And while many of the positions will be hands-on jobs that involve patient care, there will also be plenty of jobs in healthcare administration. Masters of business administration (MBA) graduates who have focused their studies on healthcare will be at an advantage for such opportunities.
An MBA in healthcare is like other MBAs in that it covers core business skills and practices. But it focuses on the specific issues managers may encounter in roles such as hospital administrators, medical practice managers, insurance-company executives and a wide variety of other roles. In fact, graduates may find opportunities in an ever-increasing number of industries beyond hospitals, physician offices and nursing homes, such as working for biotechnology firms, medical-device manufacturers and venture capital firms with interests in healthcare enterprises.
Healthcare MBA programs generally take one or two years to complete, longer if you take classes part-time. Some top programs are found at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, and Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management. Many online programs are available, too.
Hospital administration is a common track for healthcare MBA graduates. The median pay for a top-level hospital administrator is $112,000, according to the BLS. Successful administrators often, but not always, have had a clinical background, such as nursing, before doing the MBA.
In addition to managing large organizations, sometimes with several satellite locations and thousands of employees, they must navigate an increasingly complex maze of government regulations through the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, which account for much of many hospitals' revenue.
Some MBA graduates choose careers as healthcare consultants, with median salaries of about $100,000. They may work for large firms or small, traveling the country helping organizations, such as hospitals, medical practices or nursing homes by providing services or finding solutions to problems. They may focus on fairly routine aspects such as records management and tax strategy, or on special projects such as mergers and acquisitions.
If you like being a bigger fish in a smaller pond, medical practice management might be for you. When several physicians are in practice together, then need someone to manage the organization they've created. Such managers need a well-rounded set of competencies: managing a staff of nurses, medical assistants and business personnel; working with insurers and the federal government to make sure reimbursement payments flow properly; and keeping the practice running to the satisfaction of the doctors who own it. For their efforts, practice managers are paid an average of $73,000 a year.
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