Guide to the Top MBA Specializations & Concentrations for Doctors


Physicians spend an average of 14 years studying and training to practice. After all that, going back to school for an MBA might seem masochistic. But the major challenges in American healthcare are largely business problems and physicians who spend the extra time to earn their MBA are better equipped to effect meaningful change. They’re also more likely to recoup their educational investment.

A 2011 study in Germany found that physician leaders achieve greater hospital performance than non-medical leaders. But according to a 2014 analysis by the New York Times, the average annual salary of a hospital administrator was $237,000, while the average annual salary of a clinical physician was only $185,000 per year. One of the reasons for this gap is that the standard training of a physician doesn’t include instruction in the business and management underpinnings of healthcare organizations. A doctor with an MBA, however, is ideally positioned to lead within the healthcare industry.

Today’s MBA specializations allow a physician to customize their education to learn about much more than just business administration and online options mean it’s never been easier to add three more letters to the end of one’s name. Physicians are now pairing their rigorous training with expert understandings of finance, management, data analysis, and public policy.

To get a look at the best MBA programs for physicians, read on.

MBA in Finance

In 2018, the global healthcare sector was worth nearly $8.5 trillion. How that capital is collected, managed, and spent has enormous impacts on who receives what type of care. Especially as the US health system transitions to a value-based model and away from traditional fee-for-service, leaders of healthcare organizations will need to be more adept and creative with their finances.

An MBA in finance can empower physician leaders to run their own practices and clinics, or take charge of larger healthcare organizations. Already one of the most popular MBA specializations across all professions, the finance MBA provides strong fundamental knowledge of areas such as risk management, financial management, and capital budgeting.

The online MBA program at the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School focuses on leadership development and strategic analytics, and also includes a finance concentration. Through a variety of electives, the concentration curriculum covers areas such as financial reporting, financial analysis, tax, and corporate valuation. The program consists of 66 credits and can be completed in as little as 18 months.

MBA in General Management

As the fastest growing sector of the American economy, healthcare employs over 18 million workers, but the effective management of those employees and the organizational processes under which they operate are not taught at length in medical schools. MBA programs, on the other hand, are precisely the place to learn the principles and practices of top-caliber general management.

An MBA in general management is a natural fit for any physician who wants to manage their own practice and get the most out of their staff. It’s also a useful tool for physicians who aspire to areas of higher leadership, where the main problems are business-based, rather than medically-based. While most physicians are already preternaturally gifted at logic and science, general management MBAs can teach physicians to also think strategically and relationally.

The online MBA program at Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management offers a specialization in leadership and managing organizational change. In addition to boosting their business acumen, graduates will hone their skills as leaders who celebrate diversity while making strategic and ethically responsible decisions.

While the program revolves around its online component, students will also attend one immersion workshop during their first term: the focus is on personal and leadership development. The program consists of 52 credits in total and can be completed in 20 months.

MBA in Healthcare Informatics

Healthcare is perhaps the largest beneficiary of the data revolution. On the care delivery side, electronic health records (EHRs) are changing the way information is recorded, stored, accessed, and analyzed. On the business side of healthcare, data-driven thinking has become the gold standard for major strategic decisions.

An MBA in healthcare informatics can bring physicians up to speed on the language of healthcare data. These programs cover areas like data analytics, healthcare technology, and IT policy. As the future of healthcare becomes more intertwined with the power of big data, tomorrow’s physicians will need to be fluent in healthcare informatics.

The online MBA program at New England College is one of the few in the nation with a dedicated healthcare informatics specialization. In addition to the core curriculum, students will take three elective courses: the principles of healthcare informatics; healthcare technology and systems; and knowledge management in healthcare. The program consists of 40 credits in total and can be completed in 20 months.

MBA in Healthcare Management

Healthcare management is one of the fastest-growing careers in the country: according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s set to increase at a staggering 32 percent between 2019 and 2029. The enormous complexity of the healthcare industry can’t be managed by frontline workers alone, nor can it be managed by solely business people, but those who have skills in both care delivery and organizational management are sorely needed.

An MBA in healthcare management is perhaps the most natural fit for physicians. These programs teach graduates how to handle complex strategic decisions within an organizational structure, while also taking into account the unique characteristics of the healthcare sector. Physicians with an MBA in healthcare management can go on to lead at the highest levels of the industry.

The online MBA at Northeastern University D’Amore-McKim School of Business can be customized with a healthcare management specialization. Elective courses include health informatics and health information systems; healthcare finance; healthcare industry; and strategic decision making for healthcare professionals.

While the program is generally designed for professionals with five or more years of leadership experience, exceptions are often made for those with non-traditional backgrounds and STEM skills. The program consists of 50 credits.

MBA in Public Administration

Citizens of practically all political allegiances agree on one thing: American healthcare needs policy reform. And as much as business decisions guide the healthcare sector, policy decisions do, too. Business and government must work together to make America’s healthcare system work for everyone. Within that collaboration, a physician’s perspective is a force multiplier.

An MBA in public administration can give physicians a louder voice within healthcare policy. It can also boost their understanding of the incredibly complex and nuanced regulatory landscape that healthcare organizations and their employees face. An MBA in public administration prepares its graduates to interface with government entities, but it also provides a strong background for those working in highly regulated sectors, such as healthcare.

The online MBA at Northcentral University offers a specialization in public administration. In addition to the core curriculum, students will learn how to interpret legal compliance and ethical concerns, how to relate to the media with purpose, and how to evaluate public programs.

Electives also include subjects such a: government and the public interest; quality management in public administration; and municipal budgeting and finance. The program consists of 30 credits and can be completed in 16 months. Do note that applicants without an undergraduate degree in business will likely be required to complete two additional foundation courses, including an intensive three-week course that covers 15 subject areas.

Matt Zbrog
Matt Zbrog

Matt Zbrog is a writer and freelancer who has been living abroad since 2016. His nonfiction has been published by Euromaidan Press, Cirrus Gallery, and Our Thursday. Both his writing and his experience abroad are shaped by seeking out alternative lifestyles and counterculture movements, especially in developing nations. You can follow his travels through Eastern Europe and Central Asia on Instagram at @weirdviewmirror. He’s recently finished his second novel, and is in no hurry to publish it.

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