7 VP-Level Positions for Healthcare MBAs Who Want to Drive Change

A female business executive leading a discussion in an office.

Many lists of healthcare management careers are surprisingly brief. The implication is that most Master of Business Administration graduates who specialize in healthcare become either hospital CEOs or healthcare consultants, healthcare managers or healthcare administrators. In reality, however, a healthcare MBA from a strong program is a versatile degree that will qualify you to step into numerous VP-level roles in different areas of healthcare. These positions might not make it onto most lists of careers for healthcare MBAs, but they are every bit as interesting, rewarding and lucrative as the positions listed above. Like the roles above, they exist in hospitals and healthcare networks, surgical centers, medical research labs, pharmaceutical companies, health insurance firms, health services firms and government agencies.

Landing one of these VP-level positions is a matter of not just having an MBA but having the right MBA because success in healthcare management requires more than business acumen and quantitative skills. Executives who want to drive change in the healthcare industry need to be domain experts who understand how managerial decisions in medicine can affect cost of care, access to care and even patient outcomes. That's why the Online MBA in Healthcare Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management approaches this discipline from two angles. The curriculum includes both a traditional management core that covers the full spectrum of advanced business administration and a focused healthcare core designed to give you a firm grasp of the business challenges unique to medical environments. That's a big part of why you'll be prepared to step into any of the roles below with a healthcare MBA from Case Western Reserve, but there's more to the Online MBA in Healthcare Management than the curriculum.

"Networking and support are as much a part of Case Western Reserve's online healthcare MBA program as they are in in-person programs."

How CWRU prepares students for successful healthcare management careers

The Online MBA in Healthcare Management prepares students for healthcare management careers with a one-of-a-kind curriculum that pairs traditional Master of Business Administration coursework with a focused healthcare core. MBA candidates spend as much time studying healthcare finance, organizational behavior in healthcare settings, health economics, and regulatory issues in medical management and public health as they do advanced financial and managerial decision-making, risk management, operations management and human resources management.

Networking and support are as much a part of Case Western Reserve's online healthcare MBA program as they are in the school’s in-person programs. Students pursuing MBAs online at Weatherhead School of Management will participate in live debates, group projects, presentations and student teaching experiences. They connect with professors in virtual open-office hours and work closely with Student Success Coaches who provide academic and career support. Case Western Reserve's online healthcare MBA candidates benefit from the university's participation in the Cleveland Innovation District initiative and proximity to the Cleveland Health-Tech Corridor during the two required residencies. And before and after graduation, MBA candidates leverage the career-boosting power of Weatherhead's corporate partners and alumni. During the residency portion of the MBA program, students will also have the chance to work with Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, MetroHealth and the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center.

Given all that, it's easy to see why Case Western Reserve tops U.S. News & World Report's school rankings in Ohio, is #19 nationally for part-time MBA programs and consistently ranks among the top 50 universities in the nation.

Roles for Healthcare MBAs Who Want to Drive Change

There are scores of healthcare management career paths at the executive level for healthcare management professionals and healthcare administrators with master's degrees in the business of healthcare. In most organizations, the roles below are very senior, second-in-command positions that report directly to c-level executives. People in these positions often head up specific administrative divisions in healthcare systems and usually have a great deal of decision-making latitude. They're also responsible for driving strategy, which means they're in a position to make improvements that positively impact everything from organizational culture to operational efficiency to patient satisfaction and outcomes. Perhaps you don't associate executive roles with better patient care. Read on to find out how vice presidents in medical settings make a difference.

VP of Clinical Services

Average salary: $152,000
This healthcare executive provides leadership, direction and oversight in all areas related to patient care. The VP of Clinical Services may or may not be a clinician, but their impact on healthcare delivery is profound in either case. Their responsibilities can include ensuring all clinical care processes prioritize patient safety, participating in program creation and assessment, assisting with budgetary planning and financial oversight, developing team-based care initiatives and provider partnerships, and monitoring and reporting key performance indicators. They may play a larger role in the development of organizational culture in patient care facilities than the other executives profiled below, and their overall impact on provider engagement and job satisfaction may be greater, too.

VP of Communications

Average salary: $183,000
The COVID-19 pandemic brought to light just how important communication is in the healthcare field. Providers, facilities and healthcare networks had to quickly share the latest information about the virus and evolving infection-prevention protocols with patients, providers and the surrounding communities. There was a time when the typical VP of Communications was largely focused on brand consistency, public relations and supporting marketing strategies to increase visibility and boost reputation. Today, professionals in this healthcare management role handle a much broader range of internal and external communications. They still establish and oversee communication standards, develop public relations programs and draft key messages for strategic initiatives, but they also have to be ready to respond to emerging public health threats and able to communicate compellingly to an audience increasingly driven to comparison shop for care.

VP of Finance

Average salary: $176,000
Financial management in healthcare is about more than balancing the books. The VP of Finance oversees activities related to accounting, reporting, financial operations and financial planning, but their primary goal is making sure providers and facilities can provide fiscally responsible quality care. While their day-to-day activities may revolve around managing capital allocations, driving scale initiatives, monitoring organizational investments and generating analytical financial insights to assist with decision making, they are aware that effective financial management in healthcare environments supports quality patient care, patient safety, medical research and the expansion of services to include the latest treatment options.

VP of Marketing

Average salary: $156,000
This healthcare executive oversees all aspects of marketing and public-facing content development and works closely with leadership in departments as diverse as internal medicine and communications. In some ways, their work is similar to that of marketing executives in other settings. They leverage data to identify consumer markets and develop strategic plans to reach them, and they support strategic growth initiatives with demand generation. The marketing needs of healthcare facilities and networks are unique, however, because demand is relatively fixed, the consumer is seldom the final decision-maker and the benefits of the products being marketed (e.g., specialty treatments) may be difficult for consumers to grasp. An engaged VP of Marketing has goals beyond attracting customers, however. They play a pivotal role in informing consumers about new treatments, best practices in preventive care, emerging public health issues and how to weather illnesses such as cancer.

VP of Provider Network Strategy/Management

Average salary: $157,000
Healthcare professionals in this role help build effective provider and managed care networks by overseeing partnership strategy, contract negotiations, provider relations and network development. Launching and maintaining a stable provider network is extremely complicated, and a successful VP of Provider Network Strategy typically has knowledge and skills related to partnership contracts, regulatory compliance, reimbursements, finance and forecasting. Once a provider network is established, this executive may be responsible for resource allocation across the network, monitoring local markets, managing relationships between providers and facilities, and growing the network. While a VP of Network Strategy's goals are ostensibly business-focused, the work they do benefits patients by reducing costs and making care more accessible.

VP of Operations

Average salary: $153,000
Healthcare organizations face some of the toughest operational challenges. Executives in this role contend with uncertain demand, variations in process between teams, the pressure to reduce costs without negatively impacting the quality of care and the fact that operational issues in healthcare environments can have dire consequences. The VP of Operations is responsible for creating or overseeing the creation of operational processes that help clinical teams to operate efficiently and effectively. They develop short- and long-term operational strategies designed to meet goals related to cost control, capacity planning, resource utilization, patient satisfaction and business development. As healthcare management careers go, this is one of the most multidisciplinary. Working in healthcare operations requires a thorough understanding of clinical care, healthcare rules and regulations, accounting, human resources and customer service. It's also one of the senior healthcare management roles with the biggest impact on quality of care.

VP of Strategy

Average salary: $193,000
The VP of Strategy—sometimes known as the VP of Business Development, VP of Growth or VP of Strategic Initiatives—shapes and drives business strategy, creates organization-wide development initiatives and secures growth-enabling partnerships. On the surface, this role is business-focused, but like other healthcare executives, the VP of Strategy does a lot to support quality enhancements in patient care. Consider that business growth empowers practices, hospitals and networks to implement positive change. For instance, strategic partnerships make team-based care possible, potentially boosting patient satisfaction levels and increasing job satisfaction among providers. Growth increases the resources available to providers in a facility and lets managers across departments meet changing staffing needs. Consistent growth driven by smart strategy also ensures that facilities can offer patients the latest treatments, medicines and medical devices.

Now is the time to prepare for a future in healthcare management

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts demand for healthcare managers will rise at a rate much faster than average over the coming decade. Bachelor's degree holders will step into some of these newly created jobs for healthcare managers but senior-level positions will go to those with the right knowledge and qualifications. It isn't hard to see why. Healthcare administration in the U.S. is complicated. Medicine is a business, but one where the stakes are high, operational issues can cost lives and an evolving landscape of strict rules and regulations govern healthcare policy and procedure.

Executives in healthcare need both a firm grasp of business management competencies and a deep understanding of how medical facilities, healthcare networks, insurance companies, nursing homes, long-term care facilities and pharmaceutical firms operate. Some of the most challenging roles to fill in healthcare management are those geared toward professionals with the kind of dual-domain skills students gain in Case Western Reserve's Online MBA in Healthcare Management. Weatherhead's advanced degree program develops leaders who are ready to take on the toughest healthcare management challenges and drive change in vice president and other executive roles such as CFO, CEO and Chief Health Information Officer.

If you're ready to join them, start by reviewing the Weatherhead School of Management admissions requirements and then apply. There's no time like the present to earn a healthcare MBA. Financial aid is available, and career opportunities open to MBA holders in the medical field are some of the most lucrative around.

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