A common question arises when considering a career change to a non-clinical position. If you're seeking work as an administrator, you may be thinking: “Will I need a business degree?”.

business degree

It seems that more physician leaders have an MBA, MHA, MMM or MPH (an MPH is not actually a business degree, but a significant number of physician executives seem to have one). A business or management degree is definitely not a requirement for a career as a physician executive. There are many very successful physicians, including numerous CEOs, working in hospitals, insurance companies, medical groups and not-for-profit organizations.

If you have not already graduated from one of the 65 joint MD/MBA programs (referenced here) then you will likely consider obtaining it or a similar degree after completing residency. Pursuing such a degree is a big commitment. The costs will run into the tens of thousands of dollars. It will require thousands of hours of study and preparation, and up to a three-year commitment to complete.

I believe it should seriously be considered, however. Here are four reasons to pursue such a degree.

1. Demonstrate Your Commitment

This is may be the least important reason to pursue a degree. But when making a shift to a new career, it is sometimes necessary to demonstrate that it is not a passing whim.

This is especially true if you are trying to obtain an administrative position at your home hospital, or in your home town at a new organization. Your peers may need evidence that your interests and skills have evolved in order to take you seriously.

2. Differentiate Yourself

You may have taken a leadership role and handled several projects. You demonstrated your ability to lead and manage. Now you are interviewing for a position as a full-time administrator. You may well find yourself competing with several other qualified candidates.

All things being equal (experience, expertise, communication skills, etc.), the candidate with the degree is more likely to be hired.


3. A Business Degree May Be Required

Sometimes the employer will often not mention any degree requirements beyond the medical degree and board certification. Many employers will list a preference for candidates with a master's degree in business or healthcare administration.

Although still uncommon, some larger systems require applicants to have that management degree. And, I have even seen a few postings list a CPE (Certified Physician Executive) as a preferred qualification.

4. Different Perspective and Enhanced Skills

This is really the most important issue. Sure, you may have participated in educational offerings (through specialty societies, the American Association for Physician Leadership, the Advisory Board, the American Hospital Association, or the American College of Healthcare Executives, etc.).

But participation and immersion in a management degree program will provide:

  • more depth of study,
  • ongoing exposure to faculty,
  • development of problem solving and project planning skills, and
  • more practice working in teams.

I have witnessed a transformation in colleagues who have completed a business degree. They have better mastery of the business aspects of healthcare. They are better managers and leaders. And they display more confidence, in general.

Additional Resources

As I was finishing up my research on this topic, I came a cross a very insightful blog post by Dr. Paul E. Shannon at “beyondclinical's Blog”. In addition to the author's thoughts, there are several interesting comments that you may find thought-provoking.

I am very interested in your experience with this issue.

  • Have you completed a degree program during your quest to move from a clinical into an administrative career?
  • Has it been worthwhile?
  • I am thinking of putting together a list of MBA, MHA and MMM programs – would that be of use to you?

Comment below or email me at john.jurica.md@gmail.com.