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Grad Program: Healthcare Administration

Basic Information

Healthcare is one of the largest industries in the country, so it offers a vast array of business opportunities.

But the field also presents unique challenges. Let’s say you’re running a hospital, or marketing a new drug, or developing business strategy for an HMO. You’ll need to be responsive to many stakeholders—patients, doctors, investors, regulators, policymakers. And you’ll need a strong grounding in the physical sciences, technology, and economics, not to mention an understanding of business fundamentals and management. Don’t forget that you’ll be operating in an ethical and political minefield.

It’s no wonder, then, that many choose to pursue a graduate degree before entering the field, or to supplement their skills. Classes in this specialization will teach you how the nation’s healthcare system works, as well as the challenges facing healthcare organizations—from government agencies to hospitals to biotech, pharmaceutical, and medical technology companies. You’ll learn about medical technology: how it’s currently impacting healthcare delivery and how it’s likely to change in the future. And you’ll be trained to evaluate a business decision from two perspectives: its effect on your organization’s bottom line, and its effect on patients and other stakeholders. You’ll also study the relevant laws and ethical issues.

Some programs cater to students in the middle of a career in healthcare. Others are designed for those just entering the profession. The best programs will offer you the opportunity to work on real-life management problems with local healthcare companies or hospitals. This experiential learning will leave you well-equipped to succeed in the healthcare industry, whatever your career goals.

Degree Information

Many MBA programs offer a specialization in healthcare administration. These programs generally run two years long. During the first year, you’ll take the same core curriculum as all MBA students. In the second year, you’ll take additional classes specific to your concentration. You’ll be studying healthcare from the perspective of a businessperson. Some universities offer joint MD/MBA programs.

Another option is the Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) offered by some business and public health schools. This degree has a stricter focus on training administrators of hospitals, clinics and other healthcare organizations. Students interested in public health pursue a Master of Public Health (MPH), although this is not considered a business degree. An MPH usually leads to a career in public policy.

If you’re interested in a career in academia, there are a small number of PhD programs in healthcare management and economics.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program
  • How integrated are the healthcare and business aspects of the curriculum?
  • Does the program prepare students for a particular sub-field within healthcare, like emerging technologies or hospital administration?
  • Do students tend to have a background in business, administration, or medicine?
  • What opportunities are available to gain hands-on experience?
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