For the more than 315,000 medical administrators and health service managers, healthcare is a challenging business with ever-changing practices, regulations, and governance. Jobs for healthcare executives are expected to grow by 23 percent from 2012-2022. These professionals bring various skills to the table to help increase efficiency, stability, and functionality across healthcare organizations. To take the first step towards an advanced healthcare career, learn more about the various online MBA in healthcare programs that are currently available.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor (BLS) reports that a master’s degree is required of almost every position in healthcare management. An online MBA in healthcare or healthcare administration can be completed in as little as 12 months, depending on the school and individual student. Degrees combine traditional business management and best practices with healthcare industry-specific knowledge and leadership tools. Courses typically include studies in data-driven financial management, long-term planning, legal and ethical issues, change management, marketing, and human resource management. Capstone projects provide research opportunities for students to apply their learning to current healthcare settings.
Students enrolling in online MBA in healthcare degree programs hail from a diverse range of professionals, seeking to build on their experience in fields such as medicine, biotechnology, nursing, health information systems, governmental organizations, or business management. They may already be managers and administrators who are seeking to transition to the healthcare field. Some are practicing healthcare specialists, building credentials for promotions to departmental or leadership roles. Here are some examples of students well suited for the degree:
Donna held a bachelor’s degree in sociology and worked in human resources for an insurance company in San Diego. She liked HR and recruiting, but she wanted to advance in the field and apply her skills in the healthcare sector. She sought and completed an online MBA in healthcare management with a focus on human resource development and labor relations. Today she has her own HR consulting practice and serves as a talent scout for a major healthcare provider.
Luis spent 15 years in nursing and became a mid-level manager after completing his bachelor’s degree in nursing. He liked the leadership role and was considering pursuing a master’s in nursing. But after interviews with hospital administrators at several healthcare institutions, he was convinced that another nursing degree would be too confining. He decided to enroll in an online MBA in healthcare program to qualify for top-leadership roles in healthcare, pharmaceuticals, consulting, and insurance.
An online MBA in healthcare gives students a strong business foundation for leading and transforming healthcare organizations. Here’s a look inside the healthcare MBA toolbox:
Branding is the process of developing and marketing the attributes that circumscribe the core offerings in healthcare or life science organizations.Applications
Marketing, change management, human resources.
Entrepreneurship is the development and execution of a business plan from concept to reality. An entrepreneur drives the project by scoping the scale and budget, hiring the key leadership personnel and support staff, and leading marketing and public relations efforts.Applications
Human resource management, change management, marketing, planning and budgeting.
Human resource management skills are critical when it comes to decision-making and planning. Human resource managers oversee hiring and ongoing training programs, dispute resolution issues, and manage employee retention programs.Applications
Human resource management, planning and budgeting, legal research.
IS courses build leadership skills in systems development, structure, security, and information management pertaining to healthcare records. Managers must juggle multiple sources of information and create an effective workflow, while at the same time meeting federal and state regulations and reporting laws.Applications
Financial planning, budgeting, analytics, supply chain and business intelligence.
Healthcare managers and administrators must employ qualitative data analysis skills in evaluating an organization’s finance, marketing, operations management and project planning efforts. Students learn to use a range of tools (including mathematical models, hypothesis testing and statistics) commonly used in healthcare management for decision-making and planning.Applications
Project planning and budgeting, project management, human resource management, analytics, change management, supply chain, business intelligence.
The curriculum on an online MBA in Healthcare program embraces the overarching topics in financial and resource management, legal regulations, information technology, leadership, marketing, policy, facility operations and development. Most schools require a final capstone research project that demonstrates the student’s ability to synthesize newly learned skills into creating practical solutions in a healthcare setting.
Here is a sampling of courses culled from existing online MBA healthcare degree programs:
In this course, students conduct an in-depth analysis of decision-making, financial planning and implementation of operating budgets based on factors of pricing, operations costs and key processes.
Federal and state regulatory and reporting provisions govern healthcare delivery and oversight. Students will explore issues in risk management, healthcare compliance, evolving legislation, internal audits, environmental safety and Medicare reimbursement.
Students learn the critical importance of healthcare information systems that improve productivity, informed decision-making, transaction processing, human resources, financial planning, patient records and data security.
To effectively oversee hiring, training, retention and management of healthcare personnel, managers must learn the best practices and evidence-based tools pertinent to the healthcare field. Emphasis will be on a review of legal, ethical and social issues related to performance management in a healthcare setting.
This course includes a detailed investigation of how corporate strategy, information and data management and operations inform decision-making in supply chain, product design, forecasting and project management.
Supply chain management combines strategic practices in the design, planning and operational oversight of transactions that affect suppliers and customers. Requirements include the study of a hospital supply chain and the ultimate goal of cutting costs while satisfying consumers.
Students learn the ethics of healthcare delivery, including meeting legislative regulations and reporting practices in the industry. Topics include issues of professional liability, life supports, death and dying, abuse and fraud.
What is the role of strategic planning as it relates to gaining a competitive advantage in the healthcare marketplace? Students review strategies in marketing designed to boost overall performance and growth. Projects include the development of a marketing plan for their current employers.
Searching for the right online MBA in Healthcare program is just the beginning of your journey to a management career. The process then shifts to completing and submitting college applications and materials to prospective schools. You may also be required to attend a brief campus orientation before beginning online classwork. At the end, you may be required to complete a supervised internship in a relevant healthcare setting as well as a comprehensive research paper. Here’s a year-by-year look at a sample online MBA in Healthcare program and the steps to graduation:
The application process is rigorous. Each college or university has its own admissions process and entry requirements. The key in the preparation year is to determine what’s necessary to apply to your target colleges and begin rounding up materials. It cannot be stated enough: Getting an admissions packet to each school by the deadline is crucial. So is the task of rounding up recommendation letters that attest to academic excellence and on-the-job performance. In a competitive round of admissions, recommendation letters can make all the difference. To begin, considering doing the following:
Take a test drive of the online school’s course delivery software. Look over the master academic calendar. Are you a good candidate for online learning where students must be self-directed, motivated and able to meet academic deadlines?
Download applications or application procedures from a handful of target schools, noting the rigid deadlines for completing admissions. Build a calendar for creating the packet, including dates for completing requests for transcripts, recommendation letters and financial aid applications.
How will you pay for tuition and supplies? If you need financial aid, visit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) website and submit the forms. If you’re a working professional, talk to your HR department about employee tuition re-imbursement programs for graduate school.
Contact employers, former professors, or healthcare organizations familiar with your abilities that will attest to your suitability for management work.
If required, forward test scores from related admissions exams such as the Graduate Admissions Management Test (GMAT).
Order official transcripts from prior undergraduate or graduate college work and have them sent to target schools.
Write and submit an admissions essay: a personal statement of career goals, professional accomplishments and why this MBA program is best suited to prepare you for the healthcare management field.
During the first year, MBA students should expect to immerse themselves in required core business management courses as well as electives that focus specifically on healthcare management. First year classes typically include studies in ethics, finance and economics, leadership, marketing, operations, human resource management, accounting for managers, and information systems in healthcare. Depending on the program, students may be required to complete some of these courses in the summer between each year. Students should find a faculty mentor or adviser in the first year to help in focusing a field of research for conducting work on a final or capstone project to be completed in year two. In programs requiring a supervised internship, students should use the first year in lining up prospective venues.
In the second year, MBA students should complete core classes and enroll in elective courses that focus on a chosen area of expertise such as healthcare informatics, governmental and non-profit organizational management, or community health. Programs may require an internship or offer an internship elective. An MBA in Healthcare internship is typically done at a participating healthcare provider or related medical, pharmaceutical, or research organization. Some students arrange to complete internship requirements at healthcare organizations where they work. Finally, students should complete a scholarly research project focused on a current problem in healthcare, which should conclude with a solution or long-term plan. During this year, students can also complete internships with governmental healthcare organizations, medical research laboratories and manufacturers, and health insurance firms.
Students enjoy a consummate range of options for earning an online MBA in healthcare; they’re not restricted by location and typically avoid residency requirements common to some traditional programs. At the same time, they must ferret out the best schools to match their educational goals and financial requirements. One of the first obvious elements in qualifying a potential school is whether it holds formal accreditation. Voluntary accreditation means that the faculty, curriculum, and research facilities at the institution meet quality standards and are routinely assessed by independent evaluators. Common accreditation agencies in the field include the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) and, for online degree programs, The Distance Education and Training Council.
In addition to accreditation, students should examine prospective colleges and universities for these indicators of a high quality program:
Explore the bios of faculty members at target schools. Does the faculty represent a cross-section of business experts with expertise in healthcare management? Have the professors established a track record in publishing on the field? Do they hold academic or professional relationships with healthcare management organizations? Do they have extensive experience working at major hospitals and with healthcare systems? A professionally active faculty member can provide not only valuable mentoring, but also extensive networking opportunities for students entering or advancing in the healthcare management field.
Reputable organizations and publishers create a top-down list every year, ranking educational institutions for the quality of academic programs and online degrees. Ranking guidelines vary by evaluator, however many are based on the school’s prior awards, program reputation, graduation rates, strength of faculty credentials and research support. Read the program reviews, especially with an eye toward summaries of the degree program, class summaries, degree options and the school’s sweet spot in specialized curriculum. How well does the curriculum map to career goals? How well are students prepared for real-word practice?
Life happens. The key advantage of pursuing an online degree is the asynchronous presentation of courses and discussions. However some courses are more rigid about scheduling lectures or discussions in real time, with real-time participation requirements. Many advanced students enrolled in graduate studies have jobs and families. That’s why it pays to nail down virtual and physical attendance requirements before signing on to the program. Some colleges combine online studies with required campus orientation meetings or seminars. Others may require virtual attendance at predetermined times to allow students to participate in live discussions. What is the school policy governing continuous and/or consecutive enrollment? What happens if the student must take a semester off to attend to family or work commitments?
One last word on the search: In business, long-term relationships between alumni figure prominently in career recruitment and placement. If a prospective college has an alumni association in healthcare management, find out how active it is and ask to speak with a member.
Mathew worked for three years as a staffing recruiter in California’s central valley. He concentrated on finding qualified personnel for the 14 area hospitals in Fresno, Clovis, Reedley, Coalinga, and Selma. But he wanted to work for a single facility, eliminating the commute he did across the wide area he represented. Despite his excellent track record, he was repeatedly turned down for not having a graduate degree on his resume. He couldn’t afford to give up his job to pursue a traditional degree, so he enrolled in a two-year online MBA in Healthcare with an emphasis on Human Relations. Today he lives in Sacramento, a manager in the HR department of a 50,000-member medical organization.
What is the key role in healthcare human resources?
I know it’s an overused term, but it’s all about relationships. We are only as good as our relationships – with our staff, our employees, our trainers, our doctors and nurses, and with business leaders in the community. The first voice a candidate hears must be human and intelligent, not some recording on a call router.
How did your MBA program address your career goals?
Once I learned I would need the degree to move on, I stopped fighting it and looked for a workable online program. In my first semester I realized I was driving my own education and I could focus my research on projects that benefitted my current employer. You want the degree to create wins on your resume.
For a course in business information technology, I worked with the IT manager at my recruiting firm to create a single deliverable that included a digital interview guide, letter of employment verification, and onboarding checklist. The deliverable satisfied the course requirement but, as importantly, improved our processes.
What would you recommend to incoming MBA students?
Following up, I would repeat the importance of getting real-time experience with all the HR tools and best practices. If you’re new to the field, take an internship. When you incorporate your learning with tangible accomplishments, recruiters know they’re dealing with a practitioner, not just a theorist.
Healthcare administrators may depend on their education to help develop their leadership and financial management skills. Choosing the best online MBA degree among the multitude of options doesn’t have to be a struggle. A great place to start is with the search tool below that allows prospective students to ferret out online schools based on factors that matter the most, including tuition, type of school, program details, accreditation and more.
Those choosing to pursue an online MBA in healthcare usually due so thanks to schedules already full of other commitments, like busy family and work lives. Earning an online degree can make it significantly easier to balance holding down a full-time job and taking on the coursework that comes with an MBA program. While there are many options out there designed specifically to allow those who want to earn their MBA in healthcare online, they’re not all created equally. We’ve ranked the top programs in the country based on a variety of metrics such as cost and student services offered. Discover who came out on the top of the list of the Best Online MBA in Healthcare Programs for 2015-2016.
|RANK||COLLEGE||AC Online SCORE||Business school||AACSB Accreditation||Student-Faculty Ratio||Cost||MORE INFO|
|1||Ball State University||96.57||The Miller College of Business||Business and||0.71|
Tuition Info: In state $408 per credit
A concentration in health economics, policy and administration at Ball State University's online MBA allows students to access almost all of the same course choices as their on-campus counterparts with the same faculty members leading the classes. The program is flexible, and allows students to continue working while earning degrees. Most students enroll in two courses per semester, and finish in five to six semesters. Courses may be synchronous (a live webcast) or asynchronous (no set time to view course materials). All lectures are available to watch again after the original webcast date. Communication with professors and other students is handled thorough email, discussion boards, file sharing, chats and, occasionally, over the phone.
|2||Northeastern University||96.29||D'Amore-McKim School of Business||Business||1.85|
Tuition Info: $1433 per credit hour
Boston's Northeastern University has an online MBA program with multiple specialization options, including healthcare management. The program is 50 credits: Five electives in healthcare management topics and 13 core courses. The program can be completed in two years, even for working students. There is also a dual degree option, which combines the MBA with a master's degree in finance. Curriculum is experiential, encouraging students to use their classroom knowledge in real-world applications. Students may also choose to complete a campus-based residency. This option allows online students to take an intensive one-week course that counts towards their degree as a three-credit elective.
|3||Hofstra University||94.29||Frank G. Zarb School of Business||Business and||5.21|
Tuition Info: $70000 total cost
The MBA program at Hofstra's Zarb School of Business has a concentration in strategic healthcare management. In an optional cohort model, with small class sizes and groups of students that progress through their classes together, students can graduate in two years. There is also flexibility to allow students to take fewer classes at a time and accommodate their work and personal schedules. The program has two four-day residencies, and includes interaction with industry leaders and global corporations in New York City. Courses are held through the Blackboard Learning Management System and typically use audio and video lectures, discussion boards, online assignments and exams, and supplemental videos and websites for instruction.
|4||Marist College||90.8||School of Management||Business||0.69|
Tuition Info: $750 per credit hour
Marist College's online MBA with a specialization in healthcare administration is appropriate for both professionals already in the healthcare field, and those new to the arena. The program can be completed in two years for students who have an undergraduate degree in business. For those without that background, the program may take three to four years. Courses are three credits each, delivered over eight weeks. They are structured similarly to in-person classes, with lectures, readings, and class assignments posted at regular intervals. Although there are no set times that students must be online, assignments and exams have deadlines throughout the eight weeks and must be submitted according to the professor's set schedule.
|5||University of Massachusetts Amherst||90.54||Isenberg School of Management||Business and||1.55|
Tuition Info: $825 per credit hour
The Isenberg MBA with a Focus on Healthcare Administration at the University of Massachusetts Amherst prepares students for a wide range of management positions in the healthcare industry. Students take two foundations courses, 11 MBA courses, and three electives in public health, with topics including public health law, globalization and health, financial management of health institutions, ethical issues in public health, and health disparities. The program has three admissions deadlines during the year, and four semesters. Prospective students can take up to two courses at the university before completing an application to the program.
|6||Morehead State University||90.1||College of Business and Public Affairs||Business||0.76|
Tuition Info: $562 per credit hour
The Morehead State MBA with a health systems management track requires students to participate in a community partner clinical placement to gain real-world experience and learn about a variety of healthcare issues. There are 24 core courses for the MBA portion, with additional electives in health systems management. Topics of study include trends in the healthcare industry, health economics, and healthcare leadership and ethics. There is no on-campus time required in the program; however, students may need to attend proctored exams, either at an MSU extended campus site or a local site.
|7||Quinnipiac University||89.62||School of Business and Engineering||Business||1.66|
Tuition Info: $895 per credit hour
Quinnipiac University School of Business online MBA health care management track prepares graduates to work in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, insurance agencies, diagnostic facilities, and assisted living facilities. The program begins with 28 credits of MBA core requirements, followed by specialized courses in health care administration. Topics of study include financial decision making, quality management in health care facilities, and information systems strategy. Students also choose one elective, with options including project management, supply chain management, and a consulting practicum. There are fall, spring, and summer start dates.
|8||Fayetteville State University||89.47||School of Business and Economics||Business||Not Reported|
Tuition Info: In state $786.83 per cre
Professionals desiring to hold higher-level management positions in healthcare facilities can select a concentration in healthcare management at Fayetteville State University's online MBA program. The program includes 24 credits of business administration courses, followed by 12 elective credits focused on healthcare management. Some applicants may need to take additional foundational courses if they do not have an undergraduate degree in a relevant field. In addition to traditional online and in-person classroom options, the university also has distance-learning facilities in Goldsboro and Rocky Mount. In this setup, students can attend classes, speak with classmates and professors, and join the discussions through interactive video feeds. All lectures are recorded so that online students can get the same information and education as on-campus students.
|9||King University||87.39||The William G. McGowan School of Busin||Business||Not Reported|
Tuition Info: must request info
The MBA specialization in healthcare management at King University can be completed in 16 months, and is designed specifically to accommodate students with busy personal lives and those who continue to work while studying. Curriculum focuses on the leadership skills needed to work in a number of healthcare management settings, and across a variety of organizations. Online courses are the same as those offered in on-campus settings and use a team-based learning model. The case method of learning is implemented in material delivery, in which students will use a four-step learning process (from reading and analyzing data to determining course of action) in real-world based scenarios.