The emerging market for MBAs in health care
As hospitals and other health care providers strive to cut costs while still giving good patient care, they are hiring an increasing number of MBAs. "There is a whole new set of roles in health care for MBAs, especially those with some clinical understanding," says Eugene Schneller, a professor in the W. P. Carey's School of Health Management and Policy. The morphing MBA job market was examined at a recent conference sponsored by the Health Sector Supply Chain Research Consortium at the W. P. Carey School of Business.
Unlike many of her peers who are investing precious time and money studying for a master's degree in business administration, Emily Pursell doesn't want to work for or a top consulting firm or hedge fund when she graduates. Instead, Pursell, 30, will likely remain at New York Presbyterian Hospital, a non-profit organization that encompasses five centers and 2,335 licensed beds. She's already working there as a strategic sourcing specialist in the procurement department.
There, she is key to an innovative supply chain initiative that is saving her employer money while improving patient care. But when she decided to get a graduate degree, Pursell opted for the master's of business administration degree rather than a public health degree."When I applied for graduate school, I wrote my entrance essay about all these MBA people who are going to work for financial institutions. I want to bring myself, with more value, back to my health care institution," she said.
"Hospitals are trying to recruit top-level talent and be more competitive when it comes to hiring for financial management. At this point, having an MBA in a health care institution is an exception rather than a rule, as it is in the private sector. It renders me a little more rounded." She plans to graduate from Fordham University's MBA program in May, 2009.
New roles for MBAs
She is not alone, according to Eugene Schneller, a professor in the W. P. Carey's School of Health Management and Policy. He noted that many health care organizations are looking outside of health care for their talent. "At ASU," he pointed out, "we are committed to fast-tracking our graduates into these top jobs — and the field is responding."
"There is a whole new set of roles in health care for MBAs, especially those with some clinical understanding. And those who have some knowledge about the distinct features of the health care system, such as its financing and the unique roles that physicians play, are in an even better position to win the leadership positions in major health care organizations. The best hospital systems have engaged MBAs successfully already," he noted.
The procurement or supply-chain department is only one of the areas where MBAs are being recruited. Schneller points out that "Many graduates have entered directly into general and strategic management positions at the department or corporate levels. Others, with more targeted interests, such as marketing, finance, or information technology, seek out positions in those functional departments."
Regardless of the portal, he believes that they can all be contenders for senior management positions. The morphing MBA job market makes sense, as hospitals and other health care providers, both for-profit and non-profit, strive to cut costs while still giving good patient care. For a snapshot of the growing cost equation, consider this: health care costs have increased an average 2.5 percent more than the U.S. gross domestic product since 1970, according to a federal report published last August.
Both pharmaceutical firms and health care providers, including hospitals, are hiring an increasing number of MBAs, according to a white paper by MBA Focus, a Dublin, Ohio, consulting firm. Author Greg Ruf writes that "new firms are entering the MBA talent sweepstakes as they begin to recruit both new and experienced MBAs to their management."
Until recently, MBA graduates, especially those from top-tier business schools, were snapped up by investment banks and consulting firms, but that is changing, Ruf noted. Is he correct? A March 26 search of online employment database Monster using key word "MBA" in health care sectors pulled up more than 5,000 current job openings.
Like other industry insiders, Ruf also has noticed signs of a MBA shortage beginning to develop in some market segments. Pair that factor with the changing demands of many "millennial generation" MBA graduates who seek "both financial reward and personal lifestyle gratification from their jobs, and the competition becomes even more intense," Ruf added.
He contends that millennial-generation students, who range in age from 18 to 29, tend to be full-time MBA students, while part-time MBA students typically are already employed, and returning for more schooling to gain a strategic advantage or switch fields, according to the MBA Focus white paper, "New directions in MBA recruiting." People enrolled in executive MBA programs usually have an average seven years with their employer, and are working in a full-time management position.
Health care preference
"I definitely see a health care preference among our MBA students. Many of the MBA students who want to work in this environment are driven by altruistic reasons, rather than money — they want to help society. They have specific things they want to accomplish along those lines," explained Guy Groff, director of the W. P. Carey School's Career Management Center.
The school, which graduates more than 1,000 MBAs annually, offers among its platforms two MBA/health options: an MBA with a specialization in health care and a concurrent degree MBA/MHSM (Master in Health Sector Management). The Master in Health Sector Management is also offered as a stand-alone degree through the W. P. Carey School of Business.
"The possibilities for management in health care are endless — there are so many directions you can go with the training. Hospital, pharmaceuticals/biotechnology, insurance, consulting, just to name a few," said Jennifer Ottolino, a graduate student at the W. P. Carey School.
Ottolino opted for the school’s concurrent degree program — an MBA and a Master in Health Services Management — which she said costs "less than most single-degree business programs around the country." Marjorie Baldwin, Ph.D., who heads W. P. Carey’s School of Health Management and Policy, recently attended a conference where discussion centered on the growing need for health managers over the next 10 years.
"There are 75 or so accredited programs in health management, and they produce nowhere near the number" of professionals required over the next decade, Baldwin said. "In our last alumni survey, we asked graduates about their job search: 100 percent of respondents told us they found jobs within three months. And right now, we’ve got more internships than students to fill them."
More hospital recruiters are showing up these days at the career fairs sponsored by Baruch College, part of the City University of New York, according to Tracy Handler, director of the school's graduate career management center. "They're becoming regular attendees, and they're targeting our graduates for finance and accounting positions at their facilities," she said. "Given what is happening on Wall Street, health care positions are becoming more attractive to students.
They also want the work/life balance available in that work environment that they won't get working on the street," Handler continued. Jason Bryant isn't sure what his "end goal" is, but when he decided to go back to school for a graduate degree, he settled on the MBA program at the University of Tampa in Florida.
He plans to graduate in May 2009. Bryant, 30, is a product line specialist for the west Florida division of HCA, the Hospital Corporation of America. He works with dozens of HCA's priciest orthopedic surgeons, making sure they get what they need to (a remodeled operating room, another surgical technician, an MRI machine) in return for adhering to his exacting profit-margin guidelines.
"Right now, I'm a little unique, because of where I work, between the supply chain and hospital administration. It's a little bit of both worlds. With an MBA, I can pursue any health care interest — I don't know where yet — so this is a way to hedge my bets and guarantee more opportunities," Bryant said.
- Health care accounts for 16 percent of the U.S. economy. In 2000, as a nation, we spent $4,790 per person on health care. By 2006, that number had grown to $6,697 per person.
- The W. P. Carey School of Business, which graduates more than 1,000 MBAs annually, offers among its platforms two MBA/health options: an MBA with a specialization in health care, and a concurrent degree MBA/MHSM (Master in Health Sector Management). The Master in Health Sector Management is also offered as a stand-alone degree. The W. P. Carey MHSM is the only accredited program in health management in Arizona.
- A March 26 search of online employment database Monster.com using key word "MBA" in health care sectors pulled up more than 5,000 current job openings.
- 2024 outlook from ASU and national economists
Speakers from across the country and region share what’s in store for the year ahead at the 60th…
- Providing adaptable, accessible higher education
ASU professors discuss how W. P.
- MBA debt burden at the top 50 US business schools: Where grads owe the most and least
US News & World Report found W. P.