How to Value a Healthcare MBA: What You Need to Boost Returns

A female healthcare manager works on a laptop computer.

In a 2018 essay, Emergency Medicine Doctor Nick T. Sawyer called for physicians to get involved in medical management and administration, noting that "healthcare is now strictly a business term." This may initially read as hyperbolic—until you consider that the healthcare industry employs 11% of American workers and healthcare spending accounts for more than 17% of the U.S. economy. The administrative side of medicine is the fastest-growing subfield of this flourishing sector.

There are multiple reasons for the boom in demand for qualified medical and health services managers in hospitals, patient care networks, biotech research labs, healthcare facilities, pharmaceutical companies and public health-focused government agencies. Americans live longer, but they're not necessarily healthier, and they're using more responsive, preventive and nursing care. The web of regulations governing patient privacy, billing and insurance, and drug and medical device manufacturing is more complex than ever. In a world with fast-evolving superbugs and global pandemics, healthcare is fraught with facilities oversight. Add to that expanding treatment options coupled with changing patient expectations, plus healthcare insecurity, and it becomes abundantly clear why healthcare management is one field in which opportunity abounds.

Geography does not limit opportunity in this sector—nor is the job market limited to administration and staffing. Even small cities have at least one hospital and numerous medical practices, and consolidation in healthcare has propagated vast nationwide managed care organizations. Medical managers work in finance, HR, marketing and operations in patient care settings—but there are also healthcare managers and administrators in biotech, medtech, informatics and the pharmaceutical industry.

The only limiting factor may be education. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), healthcare managers with graduate degrees have the most robust job prospects. Programs like the part-time Online MBA with a Healthcare Management Track at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management teach the essential skills healthcare managers need to manage highly diverse teams in healthcare systems, navigate complicated laws and regulations and weigh the costs of care against patient outcomes.

"Case Western Reserve designed the online healthcare MBA for maximum flexibility."

Whether you're a career changer looking to transition into an administrative role in medicine, a career advancer already working as a healthcare administrator, or a career crosser who wants to move away from clinical work into management, an online healthcare MBA from Weatherhead School of Management can empower you to meet your goals without disrupting your life.

How long does it take to complete an online healthcare MBA?

Calculating the time investment required to earn a healthcare MBA online is essential when you're evaluating this degree's ROI. Most MBA programs with a healthcare administration or medical management concentration require students to complete 30 to 50 credit hours of work in 18 months to three years to graduate. Students can complete Weatherhead School’s 48-credit-hour part-time Online MBA with a Healthcare Management Track in 2½ years over the course of eight terms.

However, unlike full-time, on-campus graduate programs that ask MBA students to commit to an intensive class schedule, Case Western Reserve designed the online healthcare MBA for maximum flexibility. The synchronous element of the program includes just one weekly 60- to 90-minute session per class. Students can complete asynchronous work whenever (and wherever) it is most convenient. Two residencies round out the program, ensuring online learners take full advantage of the university's relationships with four nationally recognized, Cleveland-based healthcare institutions—Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, MetroHealth and the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center—and connect more deeply with their peers.

How much does an online healthcare MBA cost?

Cost is often prospective students' No. 1 concern when choosing the best online MBA for their needs. While tuition (with or without financial aid) does figure heavily in the basic ROI calculation, it is not necessarily the most important factor. The value of a healthcare MBA nearly always has more to do with the content of a program and the network students build while in it than the diploma it confers.

Case Western Reserve's 48-credit Online MBA with a Healthcare Management Track costs $1,500 per credit hour or just over $72,000 in total tuition. Weatherhead School of Management students finance their education through a mix of scholarships, student loans, cash out of pocket and employer sponsorships—and get plenty of return on their investment.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a healthcare MBA?

Salary aggregator PayScale reports the average income for healthcare MBA holders is roughly $82,000 per year—a figure calculated using data submitted by both early-career administrators and the highest-paid executives. On the other hand, the BLS reports that healthcare professionals in management and leadership positions typically earn around $104,000 and can earn more than $200,000 in senior-level roles. Again, those figures are averages and most likely don't take earning potential into account.

Consider the highest-paying jobs in healthcare management. Home healthcare CEOs, for instance, earn about $195,000 and demand is growing in this specialized patient care field, which might drive salaries up even further. Hospital CEOs can make about $154,000, but high-profile chief executives command salaries in the eight-figure range. And hospital CFOs earn about $136,000, though CFO salaries over $300,000 are not unusual in larger hospitals and hospital networks.

Looking at why some clinical practice managers, for example, earn $90,000 and some make closer to $130,000 can help you maximize the ROI of a future healthcare management degree. First, administrators, managers and healthcare executives in more extensive networks and more prestigious institutions have higher compensation packages in general. Graduating from a program like Case Western Reserve's online healthcare MBA, which has relationships with nationally recognized hospitals, healthcare networks and industry business leaders, puts you on track to become one of the highest earners in the field. Second, consider the difference between traditional healthcare management master's degrees and Weatherhead's online MBA, which offers a full, standalone Master of Business Administration experience with a healthcare management specialization built on top of it.

How to calculate the ROI of an Online MBA with a Healthcare Management Track

The most basic 10-year degree ROI calculation looks like this: (expected post-MBA salary x 10) - (pre-MBA salary x 10) - (total cost of a healthcare MBA). However, this simple equation doesn't consider opportunity costs associated with earning an MBA, future raises or how pursuing an online degree differs from pursuing one on campus. ROI also varies from program to program because higher education institutions offer different levels of student support, networking opportunities and program curriculum.

The online healthcare MBA offered by Weatherhead School of Management, for example, is a high-touch, hands-on program developed by faculty members at the forefront of innovation and leadership in healthcare management. Students benefit from access to a network of the best hospitals and healthcare organizations in the nation and the larger community of healthcare organizations in the region. Quantifying benefits like these is harder than simply subtracting the cost of an MBA from future earnings, but it is worthwhile when your goal is to choose the best possible online master's degree program.

What are the benefits of attending Case Western Reserve’s online MBA program?

The return on investment of a healthcare management degree from Weatherhead School of Management is arguably strong, even without factoring in the competitive tuition or the program's flexibility. 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.

More importantly, a degree from Case Western Reserve opens doors. There are 270 corporate partners in the Weatherhead network and 20,000 Weatherhead alumni with work experience in healthcare and other fields. Case Western Reserve's online healthcare MBA graduates are well-connected and benefit from the university's participation in the Cleveland Innovation District initiative and proximity to the Cleveland Health-Tech Corridor. The city is a well-known hub of healthcare and medicine. While students may only be in Cleveland during the required residencies, virtual interviews with local healthcare industry leaders are part of the standard coursework and student experience.

The curriculum pairs the core courses found in a traditional Master of Business Administration program with a cutting-edge, healthcare-focused core that makes up approximately 40% of the online healthcare MBA program’s credits. Students spend as much time learning advanced financial and managerial decision-making, risk management, financial management, operations management and human resources management fundamentals as they do studying healthcare finance, organizational behavior in medical settings, health economics, and regulatory issues in medical management and public health.

The uniquely focused, industry-driven core courses in the program and the connections students make are not the only intangible benefits of choosing Case Western Reserve's Online MBA with a Healthcare Management Track. The online learning experience is purposefully very similar to the on-campus experience. Students pursuing their MBAs online participate in live debates, group projects, presentations and student teaching experiences, and receive support at every stage of their academic journeys. The student-to-instructor ratio is low, and faculty offer regular virtual open-office hours. And healthcare MBA candidates work with Student Success Coaches throughout the program and can access resources from day one.

How can an online MBA benefit your earning potential?

Some sources assert that there's little difference between the value of a part-time online MBA degree and a full-time on-campus MBA from an accredited college or university because employers view them identically. Viewed through that lens, the ROI of a healthcare MBA is roughly the same whether you earn it online or in person. Even the costs associated with commuting or relocating to attend an on-campus program may not significantly shift the scales.

When you consider opportunity costs, it becomes abundantly clear that the monetary return on investment of a part-time degree program is that it allows students to continue working. You can factor lost income into the basic ROI calculation by subtracting two years of pre-MBA salary from your final total, but that sum will not tell the whole story. A healthcare MBA graduate who worked through the program may start with a higher post-MBA salary—and earn more than that peer throughout their career.

What's the ROI of an online healthcare MBA?

To find out, do the math. Remember, there's no need to factor in relocation expenses, commuting costs or lost income because you can continue working while earning this degree. Post-MBA healthcare management jobs routinely pay more than $100,000 per year—approximately $104,000, according to the BLS. Multiplied by 10, that's $1,040,000. The average salary associated with a bachelor's degree in healthcare administration is about $62,000, or $620,000 over 10 years.

Subtract the cost of Weatherhead's $72,000 online healthcare MBA from $420,000 (the difference between pre- and post-MBA salary) and the result is a $348,000 return on investment. That's a substantial sum—but likely lower than it will be in reality. Healthcare management MBA holders advance quickly throughout their careers. They also have the healthcare leadership skills and qualifications necessary to step into the highest-paying roles in health and medical management. In other words, it's unlikely you'll earn the same salary for 10 years post-MBA, and your income will probably be considerably more than calculated above.

Even without earning promotions, an annual 3% cost-of-living adjustment to your base compensation brings your ROI up to $409,483, calculated this way:

  • ($1,192,243 = total earnings at $104,000 starting salary) less ($710,761 = total earnings at $62,000 starting salary) less ($72,000 tuition).
Income After 3% Annual COI Adjustment
Starting Salary $62,000 $104,000
Year 2 $63,860 $107,120
Year 3 $65,776 $110,334
Year 4 $67,749 $113,644
Year 5 $69,782 $117,053
Year 6 $71,875 $120,565
Year 7 $74,031 $124,181
Year 8 $76,252 $127,907
Year 9 $78,540 $131,744
Year 10 $80,896 $135,696
Total $710,761 $1,192,243

Is an MBA with a healthcare management focus the best degree for me?

According to a Corporate Recruiters Survey conducted by the Graduate Management Admissions Council, demand for MBAs is high in healthcare. That fact alone may inspire you to review Case Western Reserve's admission requirements. If you are still not sure this is the degree for you, consider that earning an MBA in healthcare management online can be the first step in launching a career that allows you to make a real difference in the world. Healthcare leadership is about more than cutting overhead and driving up profits. Effective management and data-driven healthcare policy implementation in clinical settings can decrease the amount of time patients wait for treatment, increase the resources practitioners have at their disposal when treating patients, and boost patient satisfaction and retention. There's even evidence that effective management and administration can improve outcomes by making patients safer through process improvements.

Apply now and in just a few terms, you will have what it takes to take your place among the healthcare leaders working to make the world a better place at the intersection of management and medicine. Or, if you still have questions about the financial commitment required to earn Case Western Reserve's Online MBA with a Healthcare Management Track or the career opportunities open to MBA holders in the medical field, connect with an Enrollment Advisor at onlinemba@case.edu or 216.352.4965.

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