Does an MBA in healthcare require medical expertise?

Does a candidate for a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) in health care management need medical expertise to pursue this graduate study?  It is widely agreed up on that it is not necessary to have medical expertise to pursue this advanced degree.

Does a health care administrator or manager needs medical expertise to do a proper job? It seems reasonably clear that the administrator who knows about the conditions medical personnel encounter in treating their patients would be more competent than one who does not if neither is superior by other measures.

What Healthcare Managers with MBAs Do

With an MBA in health administration, such professionals in large hospitals:

  • balance budgets
  • review expansion projects
  • or manage group practices at multiple locations

Master’s graduates might have executive positions:

  • in medical equipment sales
  • with nonprofit groups
  • at government health agencies

Some health administrators are clinical managers, usually professionals with knowledge in clinical areas. Most nursing clinical managers are former nurses or nursing college graduates who cannot supervise hospital floor nurses without such backgrounds. But overall, the term “administrator” is generally for healthcare workers who are neither doctors, nurses, or aides.

Healthcare Management Education

In healthcare, most people think of doctors, nurses, medical technicians, and others who care for patients directly. Sound healthcare systems also require:

  • cost managers
  • investigators of patient care practices
  • hospital administrators
  • insurance analysts, and more

Specialized training in both healthcare and business is necessary. Healthcare MBA programs provide this training. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business is the accrediting institution recognized by the United States Department of Education. It says an MBA in healthcare management meets the need for healthcare administrators and managers. It combines a comprehensive business education in management theory and practice applied to healthcare. Normally, an MBA healthcare degree requires two years of full-time study.

Business School Curricula — Oregon

No business school that awards the MBA degree requires medical education or experience for admission. Nor does it include study of any medical subject in its curriculum. A typical course of study for a healthcare MBA is “72 credit hours covering such curricular areas as:

  • Understanding the Healthcare Industry
  • Leadership and Management in Healthcare
  • Operations and Quality in Healthcare
  • Marketing
  • Business Planning and Strategy

An example is the Oregon Health & Science University/Portland State University healthcare MBA program.

Business School Curricula — Harvard

At the Harvard Business School, reputedly the best, many MBA candidates choose these “focused, healthcare industry-specific programs”:

  • Business Innovations in Global Healthcare
  • Emerging Issues in Healthcare
  • Implementing Cost Management in Health Care
  • Leading High-Performance Healthcare Organizations
  • Managing Healthcare Delivery
  • Value Measurement for Health Care

The list includes no medical subject.


So the short answer to the question is no. Business schools require no medical expertise for admission to an MBA academic program in healthcare management. Arguably, MBA healthcare managers would find career advantages from the study of medical subject matter, but business schools do not offer them that benefit at this time.

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