MBA Candidates: How To Successfully Transition to a Healthcare Career
Healthcare is the leading producer of jobs in the United States, accounting for almost 16 million jobs as of the end of last year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s an industry that’s ripe with opportunities for driven individuals to excel. So how do you get your foot in the door?
One of the smoothest ways to get a management job in the healthcare industry is by being recruited out of an MBA program. Hospital systems and health insurers, as well as pharmaceutical and biotech companies see the value of a rigorous management education and routinely spend a significant amount of time courting business school students.
Entering the healthcare workforce through a rotational or leadership program, or simply through an MBA-level position allows you to leapfrog multiple levels in these companies and puts you on a shortened path to senior management roles.
What degree should you get?
There are a number of degrees that can lead you to a management path in healthcare. Obviously, you can have an MD or RN and work your way up to a management role. You can obtain an MHA (Master of Health Administration) which is a professional degree pursued largely by students fresh out of college seeking administrative fellowships in hospitals. Or, if you are a professional with a few years of work experience looking to enter healthcare in a position that will allow you to make an immediate impact, an MBA program may be a great option.
What should you look for in a business school?
All schools are not cut from the same cloth. Assemble your consideration set by looking at the resources that your prospective schools devote to healthcare. Consider these questions:
- What healthcare-specific classes are available? If you are in a different industry, you’ll want to learn healthcare jargon and industry dynamics so that you can put your best self forward in job interviews. Are there faculty whose research focuses on the healthcare business?
- Does the school have a healthcare club? Contact club leadership to learn how active the club is. What sorts of activities or events does the club offer? Will you have the opportunity to interact with industry leaders in a school-sponsored healthcare conference or on a club trek to visit a variety of organizations in the space? Don’t forget to highlight these conversations on your application.
- What percentage of the class enters healthcare after graduation? Are there career counselors that focus on specific industries and is there one for healthcare? Use LinkedIn to get a sense of the depth and breadth of the alumni network in healthcare.
- Who recruits on campus? Do you have to seek out employment or do the opportunities come to you? Which companies make campus presentations? Are there prominent healthcare alumni with whom you can connect?
Should you go to a school that offers an MBA with a healthcare focus?
Some MBA programs even offer a healthcare-specific MBA. Alternatively at some MBA programs you can do a major of concentration in healthcare or earn a targeted healthcare certificate . Is this right for you?
In my opinion, employment data trumps marketing hype. Look at the career placement reports. Are graduates pursuing the kinds of roles you can see yourself doing? What are the starting salaries? Do you need to apply to the healthcare track or can anyone opt in after being admitted to the general MBA program? What will be the story you craft to make your case to the admissions committee?
I did it. So can you!
After a grueling two years in Real Estate Private Equity, I wanted a drastic career change, not only with better work-life balance but also more meaningful work. Without knowing specifically what industry to pursue, I applied to business school as a way to transition into a role where I would have the ability to impact people on an individual level.
At Harvard Business School, I discovered the plethora of opportunities available to MBA graduates in healthcare organizations. At the time, HBS had no healthcare concentration and only a few dedicated healthcare classes. However, the healthcare club and alumni network were incredibly active and powerful. I was able to transition into a management role as a Business Analyst for a national integrated healthcare organization in which I could leverage the quantitative skill set gained during my time in PE and apply it to solve vastly different challenges.
By combining my aptitude for analytics with the general management approach I learned at HBS, I was able to excel in my job and was rapidly promoted to Senior Consultant. In this role, I worked on internal strategy and deployment of quality improvement projects—exactly the kind of work that let me have the impact on patients and front-line staff that I sought. My MBA was a game changer.
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