Find Health Care Opportunities for B-School Students

Delece Smith-Barrow

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has some bad news for those on the job hunt. The May unemployment rate was 7.6 percent - a slight growth compared to April.

The job market for many may be growing more competitive, but at least one industry will be welcoming a surge of MBA graduates: health care.

Of employers in health care worldwide, 89 percent plan to hire MBA graduates this year, according to the 2013 Corporate Recruiters Survey. In 2012, only 77 percent of health care employers were expected to do this.

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For potential MBA candidates looking to establish a career in health care, the job options are many, says June Kinney, associate director of the health care management program at the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania.

"They could be consultants. They could be investors. They could be operations managers. Or they can be entrepreneurs," she says.

The part-time MBA health care management program at the Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University Chicago caters to students who already work in the field but want to advance.

"They may be looking at a director position within the hospital that may be over a clinical area, or maybe even an administrative area. But they also may be in a pharmaceutical firm or medical device firm," says Pamela McCoy, an assistant dean at Quinlan.

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Many of these jobs have been around for years, experts say. But laws by the federal government have certainly created new opportunities.

"It's really driven by all of the Affordable Care Act provisions and impact on the field," Kinney says, referencing the health care reform movement known as Obamacare.

"There's a lot of people going into, obviously, consulting because all of the major providers and players in the field are looking for advice about how to change their operations, how to change their strategies."

Technology has also expanded the number of jobs.

Entrepreneurs are building new apps to connect health care providers to patients and business investors are needed to support this growth, Kinney says. Innovations in health care technology have also paved the way for more health care data to be collected. MBA graduates skilled in analyzing data can better understand patterns of behavior among specific health care populations, Kinney says.

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More physicians are also going into large, group practices, which create openings for MBAs, says James Henderson, academic director of the MBA health care program at the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University.

"A physician who was a solo practitioner before couldn't afford to hire an office manager, a trained administrator," he says. "But if you've got a physicians' group that has 75 physicians, they probably have a couple of MBA or graduate trained people that are actually running their operation."

Business students interested in health care usually take standard MBA classes such as accounting, finance and marketing. Through specialized programs, they also take courses specific to the field, such as health care economics, health care financing and health policy. They can use internships to get hands-on experience, or attend a school that provides residency options.

At Baylor, students interested in health care spend summer break and the first semester of their second year completing an executive residency at a hospital, where they are assigned a preceptor, which is similar to a mentor.

"We carefully place them in situations where they have access to the CEO, CFO or COO in a hospital and regularly attend executive level meetings, even board meetings, so they can get an idea of what's going on," Henderson says.

Salary options for health care MBAs can vary, but experts agree that the potential to take home a big paycheck is high.

At Baylor, most graduates work in hospital systems. Many make around $62,000 to start but can soon expect an increase.

"Within three years, the typical increase in salary is around $25 - $30,000," Henderson says. At Loyola, some students change jobs or receive promotions once they are halfway through the part-time program, while others are promoted once they graduate. And once they're promoted, "They are being paid well over $100,000," McCoy says.

She is convinced jobs in health care will continue to increase.

"The way we've delivered health care in this country for years is being challenged. And so there are going to be some opportunities there," she says. "I think more and more people want to be involved in work that contributes to the good of the whole. And in health care you're certainly enabled to do that."

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