When you think about healthcare jobs, you probably envision doctors, nurses, physician assistants, and other clinical positions. Don’t let that limit you. “There are so many opportunities beyond patient care,” explains Tanya Peterson, a healthcare career consultant with Polish2Prosper. “Jobs in the administrative, business, and financial side of healthcare help provide what clinicians need to succeed.”
If you have a business degree or are considering pursuing one, a whole slew of non-clinical jobs could fit your passions, skills, and background. Nearly every organization tied into healthcare—from hospitals and insurance companies to assisted living facilities and pharmaceutical companies—needs business-savvy employees. Perhaps one of these jobs is right for you.
Best Business Degrees for Healthcare Careers
Business degrees, especially those in business management, complement the medical expertise of employees on the clinical side of healthcare organizations. “You learn operations, business structure, revenue, metrics, and so many other things in business school—the fundamentals of business that clinicians don’t get in medical school,” says Peterson, who used to be an occupational therapist.
Healthcare jobs are open to people with both a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in business.
Bachelor of Business Administration
“Healthcare, especially in the U.S., is a business,” Peterson says. “Healthcare organizations need experts to make that business run.” Education in business can help prepare you to do just that.
With a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), you will learn general business skills, from economics and accounting to management and finance. This major prepares you for a wide variety of fields and positions. This degree typically takes four years to complete.
You can also focus on healthcare management and healthcare administration. These emphases allow you to dive deeper in the specifics of the healthcare industry. In particular, they help you hone skills in managing people. They also teach healthcare-related background, such as public health policy.
What Classes Will I Take?
Universities vary in the required courses of a Bachelor of Business Administration. Generally, these classes include:
Beyond required courses, business degree programs offer room for elective classes and specialization. This flexibility allows you to focus on a particular field, such as healthcare, or a skill, such as finance.
Master of Business Administration
A Master of Business Administration (MBA) teaches not only academics but also the how-to and decision-making processes graduates will need to thrive as business executives. These programs teach a breadth of topics to cover nearly everything you’ll need to know to run a business (or a part of one).
A typical full-time MBA program takes two years to complete. That said, there are several variations. Some schools offer an accelerated Master of Business Administration. Others offer tracks (often called executive MBA programs) tailored to working professionals, with evening classes, online coursework, and flexible options. This is a particularly good option for people with other commitments, such as work and family, that make a full-time program difficult.
Nearly all MBA programs require applicants to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). Earning a competitive GMAT score makes your application stronger.
“A master’s is necessary for some, but not all, non-clinical healthcare jobs,” Peterson says. “When deciding whether to pursue an MBA, look at your goal and reverse engineer the path to get there. If you need more letters behind your name, then go get that degree.”
What Classes Will I Take?
Again, courses vary from business school to business school. All will teach the fundamentals of business, though. You’ll most likely study:
BBA vs MBA: Which One Should I Pursue?
Clearly, both a bachelor-level and master-level education will cover many of the same topics. (Take a look at the summaries of coursework for each degree above to see the overlap.) Still, important differences separate the two.
First of all, bachelor’s degrees are more often earned in lecture format courses filled with many other undergraduates. In contrast, master’s programs are often designed around smaller, more intimate discussion-style classes.
In addition, bachelor’s programs rely mostly on individual work. Students primarily study, write papers, complete projects, and take exams on their own. Group projects are mixed in, but the emphasis is on demonstrating your own knowledge.
Master’s programs emphasize collaboration and group work. This is partly to reflect the business reality: In your future positions, you’ll need to work closely with others to get the job done.
Finally, master’s programs feature much more project work than a BBA program. The focus on projects—for example, writing a business plan, launching a service, or executing a marketing campaign—demonstrate the skills students are honing and can serve as examples of your expertise when applying to jobs.
How Does a Business Degree Differ from a Healthcare Management Degree?
A general business degree and healthcare management degree both cover the basics of business. Healthcare management programs specialize in topics uniquely relevant to jobs in hospitals, insurance companies, physician offices, and other health-related settings. In general, you can add “of healthcare” to many general business courses to get an understanding of healthcare management classwork (such as, economics “of healthcare”).
Some job settings—especially prestigious or competitive companies—prefer candidates who have specialized in healthcare management.
When you are deciding which degree to pursue, research the roles and settings where you want to work after graduation. Do most employees have an advanced degree and, if so, what type? What are the minimum education requirements outlined in job postings? This sleuthing will help you choose the most relevant degree to your goals.
What Do Businesspeople Do in Healthcare?
The responsibilities of clinicians vary widely, from drawing blood to brain surgery. Similarly, people working on the business side of healthcare do different things, depending on their role and seniority.
Business-focused positions are not client-facing. Rather, these employees work behind the scenes. “Clinicians treat patients, but people in business roles make sure bills get paid, patients have a good experience from intake to discharge, and many other things that keep the business running,” Peterson says.
These roles are often administrative, managerial, financial, or technical. They also offer the opportunity to climb higher in the organization structure and to take on leadership responsibilities.
Job titles vary among settings, but after earning a business degree, you can pursue jobs in these areas:
These are some of the most popular roles you can pursue with a business degree:
Healthcare Services Management
Healthcare service managers oversee groups of clinicians. They ensure that the patient-facing work of healthcare providers matches with business needs by planning, directing, and coordinating their work.
Median Salary: $104,830
Job Growth: Demand for these positions is expected to increase 28.4% by 2031—much faster than average growth.
Most Applicable Degrees: A bachelor’s degree is the minimum education requirement, and master’s degrees in business are becoming more common.
Financial managers help companies plan and execute strategies to work toward their financial goals. This entails outlining actionable plans, directing investments, creating financial reports, managing risk, and providing company leadership with the information to make data-based decisions.
Median Salary: $139,790
Job Growth: The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates these positions will grow by 16% by 2031. This is about twice the average growth rate of 8% that the BLS anticipates for all career fields.
Most Applicable Degrees: A bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement, and most positions require relevant experience as an accountant or financial analyst.
Human resources professionals in healthcare settings recruit, hire, coordinate, and support staff within an organization. They may also work on training, retention, performance monitoring, and professional development for employees.
Median Salary: $130,000
Job Growth: These roles are projected to grow 5.2% by 2031, slightly faster than average.
Most applicable degrees: Depending on the seniority of the position, you may need a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Healthcare administration degrees are particularly helpful.
Healthcare Chief Executive
Healthcare executives plan the overarching strategies for an organization’s success, from meeting financial goals to ensuring quality of care for patients.
Median Salary: $189,520
Job Growth: The growth for these positions is less than average: -8.2% by 2031.
Most applicable degrees: Master’s degree in business and/or healthcare administration.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Where Do They Work?
Hospitals aren’t the only place you can find rewarding healthcare careers. A business degree opens the door to work in many settings.
Just about every setting that provides healthcare also has business needs. While you’re exploring careers, look for jobs in medical clinics, hospitals, insurance companies, assisted living facilities, long-term care facilities, rehabilitation facilities, pharmaceutical companies, medical device companies, and public health departments.
- Human resources manager, budget analyst, patient advocate, medical writer, administrative roles such as admissions or records clerk
- Healthcare administrator, administrative roles
- Long-term care facilities:
- Healthcare administrator, risk management manager, patient-family liaison
You Might Also Consider …
Hospitals, clinics, and care facilities are the most common healthcare-related settings where people with business degrees can find rewarding careers. There are even more places to expand your job hunt—including some you might not have thought of.
- Healthcare services and facilities:
- Labs, private ambulance services
- Medical devices, equipment, and supplies/manufacturers:
- Surgical instruments, medical devices in a range of specialties (oncology, cardiovascular, respiratory, etc.)
- Medical insurance and managed care:
- Health and dental insurance companies, healthcare technology companies, centers for Medicaid and Medicare services
- Pharmaceutical drugs:
- Bio pharmaceuticals, prescription drugs
“Master”ing a Move Up: Pursuing a Graduate Degree
If you already have a bachelor’s degree in business, you might wonder if you should step up your education. “If you realize there’s a gap between the degree you have and the position you want, you may want to go back to school,” Peterson says.
Some jobs and settings will be more attainable for people with a master’s degree, she adds. These positions include:
- Upper management
- Executives (CEO, CFO, COO, etc.)
- Budget analyst
What’s more, “if you’re looking to work in a multilevel organization like a large hospital, positions might require more in terms of degrees and experience,” Peterson explains. Your location is also a factor. Jobs in competitive locations (such as metropolitan areas) may require advanced degrees, whereas low-competition locations (such as rural areas) may not.
If the administrative or management side of health appeals to you, get acquainted with some organizations and associations in the field:
With professional insight from:
Healthcare Career Consultant