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What’s the Difference Between an MBA in Healthcare vs. a Masters in Healthcare?

Sep 25, 2020
What candidates should consider as they consider different healthcare degrees, including an MBA in Healthcare, a Master in Health Administration, and a Master of Management in Health Care

By Kara Sherrer

You’d like to get a masters degree in healthcare, and you’ve narrowed down the options to an MBA in healthcare or a masters in healthcare. What distinguishes these 2 options, and which should you choose? We talked with Burch Wood, Director of Health Care Programs at Vanderbilt Business, to learn the difference between an MBA in Healthcare and a Masters in Healthcare and which candidates are a good fit for each type of program.

MBA in Healthcare

An MBA with a healthcare concentration is a distinct degree with a well-rounded curriculum. Just as with any MBA concentration, students complete core classes in foundational subjects like accounting, finance, operations, and marketing. They also complete an elective concentration in healthcare, with classes covering the business aspects of the healthcare industry. Students also have the opportunity to participate in many clubs, both professional and social, as well as work closely with dedicated career coaches that help them recruit for internships and jobs.

Burch Wood

Burch Wood

“Most MBAs have 3 to 5 years of job experience. If you’re wanting to leverage your business experience to move on to your next step in your healthcare career, or if you’ve been in in an in another industry and you want to switch, it’s a lot easier to switch careers when you do a full-time MBA, where you have time to work with a career management office who can help you see your current talents and where they’ll fit in a new career,” Wood explained.

Not every MBA program offers a healthcare concentration or classes, so if you know that you’re definitely interested in this degree, use that criteria to help narrow down your list of MBA programs. More experienced candidates might also want to consider Executive MBA programs, especially if they wish to keep working while earning their degree.

Masters in Healthcare

“Masters in Healthcare” is actually a catch-all term that could potentially refer to a wide variety of specific degrees, including a Master of Health Administration (MHA), Master of Management in Healthcare (MMHC), Master of Public Health (MPH), and Master of Science in Healthcare. What all these programs have in common is a dedicated focus on the healthcare industry. This is reflected in the curriculum, which for the most part doesn’t include overarching business core classes in the same way an MBA program does (the MMHC is an exception).

Probably the most common degree out of this list is the MHA, which can be a strong fit for recent college graduates who know they want a career on the delivery side of healthcare and are looking for a credential to help them launch their careers. “For those who aren’t business inclined, or are really young, that is right out of college, and want to go immediately into the program — that’s usually where the MHA comes into play,” Wood said.

Vanderbilt Business also offers a Master of Management in Healthcare (MMHC) for doctors, nurses, other clinicians, and non-clinical administrators already working in healthcare who want to round out their education with business fundamentals. The curriculum teaches core business subjects such as finance and accounting through a healthcare lens while students continue to work full-time.

“(For) people who have been in the healthcare industry and have a background in health care, (the MMHC) shows how you put that to work,” Wood said. “Because they are working full time, it allows them to immediately go and put the ideas into practice.”

As the name implies, a Master of Public Health is a good fit for candidates hoping to go into the policy side of healthcare or looking to learn more about community healthcare. Master of Science in Healthcare and similarly named degrees are usually offered online, and the curriculum varies from program to program; check with the school for specifics.

Should You Choose an MBA in Healthcare or a Masters in Healthcare?

Whether you opt for an MBA in healthcare or a masters in healthcare degree depends on many factors, including your age, previous work experience, and the direction you want your healthcare career to go. To help you get a sense of what degree aligns best with your goals, Wood recommends talking to alumni of various programs and people working in the healthcare space with careers you’d like to emulate. “I think it really comes down to what the person is looking for and where they’ve been so far,” he said.

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