Leaders in public health management face one of the most exciting periods of development in this field over the next decade. Creative health care service providers, health advocates, and authentic visionaries can change the health care system to build healthier communities. One way to get a jump-start in a leadership position is to further your education with a dual degree such as the MBA (Master of Business Administration) and MPH (Master of Public Health) program. The MBA/MPH combines the best of business management with public health, providing skills to compete for top positions in biotechnology, health technology and medical device firms, pharmaceuticals, managed care and insurance companies, consulting firms, healthcare delivery systems, and international development agencies.
Why a Dual Degree?
Prior to the development of dual degrees, students would need to take two sequential master’s degree programs. This effort usually took four years. A dual degree, which also provides two master’s degrees, can be completed within three years depending upon the school’s curriculum.
A dual degree program’s concurrent nature allows students to develop and integrate their skills more effectively than if the degrees were obtained sequentially. If you decided to take the MBA alone, the studies would provide you with a strong foundation in leadership and general management; however, it would not provide in-depth integration with any particular industry. If you were involved with an MPH degree, you would receive a comprehensive understanding of the health care field. By combining both programs, students can be well prepared for a career in health services management.
Also, a student who acquires both degrees offers a broader appeal to employers. Some employers are happy with an MBA to fill leadership positions; however, other employers may look at the MBA/MPH as a person who is well rounded and suited to a public health environment. Your employment experience also may depend upon the academic content of the curriculum based on differences associated with being in a business school or a school of public health, or in another setting. Part of your research before you enter a dual-degree program would be to study the curriculum to determine if it fits your goals.
How to Research the MBA/MPH
There are certain distinctions between graduate degrees and programs based on your educational environment, prior education, and professional experience:
- Students should decide if they want to study in a traditional on-campus setting, or if they would prefer to learn in a non-traditional manner such as online. Either type of environment is acceptable as long as it through an accredited institution. This gives students the flexibility to make this decision based on your current lifestyle, your current career obligations, and if you want to attend school full time.
- Prior education makes a difference in the type of curriculum you might desire. If you have an undergraduate degree in epidemiology, you might choose to focus on disaster management for your graduate studies. Some MBA/MPH programs groom students specifically for international public health, health policy or biostatistics. If you find a school you want to attend for your graduate degree during your undergraduate studies, you might want to make sure that you don’t end up with redundant degrees.
- Another factor to consider is the faculty; if the faculty has published, and whether the faculty serves or consults with health care organizations. From another angle, a large and distinguished alumni association that supports the program by hiring students and graduates for internships and full-time jobs upon graduation is also important.
Regardless of the institution you choose, the relevant accreditation to look for is from the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME). CAHME accredited master’s level programs, not the college, university or the school of public health in which a program resides. All CAHME-accredited programs must meet clear criteria related to curriculum content and design, faculty and university resources, and career development and progress of a program’s graduates.
Employment Prospects with an MBA/MPH
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical and health services managers held about 283,500 jobs in 2008. Job opportunities should be good for the next decade, especially for applicants with work experience in health care and strong business management skills. Medical and health services managers with experience in large hospital facilities will enjoy an advantage in the job market, as hospitals become larger and more complex. Competition for jobs at the highest management levels will be keen because of the high pay and prestige.
A master’s degree in health services administration, long-term care administration, health sciences, public health, public administration, or business administration is the standard credential for most generalist positions in this field.
Most colleges that offer a dual MBA/MPH degree program expect an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university and a 3.0 GPA or better. However, schools vary in acceptable degrees, and sometimes do not require a public health or business undergraduate degree. Some colleges may also require some years of work experience in a business or health care field, as well as other potential requirements.
Some programs may require applicants to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Colleges and universities often ask for references and a letter from a college or university faculty member with whom the applicant has studied. Be prepared to provide essays that reflect on your background, training and experience, and/or your expectations from a dual-degree program in business and public health.
What to Expect from an MBA/MPH
The dual MBA/MPH degree is appropriate for students who are interested in high-impact careers as managers of healthcare organizations at local, national, or global levels. Students often examine the link between health policy and effective management, incorporating studies in health administration and organization with health policy, planning, and financial analysis.
After completion of these degrees, students can seek high-level administrative positions in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, at venture capital and entrepreneurial start-ups, in policy development and advocacy, and health financing, insurance and consulting. Related careers can include insurance underwriters and social and community service managers.
A dual MBA/MPH online degree can help enable you to vie for a coveted position in a crowded field of professionals, especially if those competitors offer only one graduate degree. The dedication and commitment required for a dual degree can cement your reputation as a person who can face highly complex public health challenges from a business perspective. Upon graduation, you can feel confident about offering solutions to build healthier communities.