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Physician executive MBA programs

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Thinking about a physician executive MBA? This article discusses the options and the factors you’ll want to consider as you select a program.

An executive MBA (often abbreviated as EMBA) is a master of business administration degree-granting program geared toward professionals who already have significant experience. They offer flexibility to allow students to continue working full-time and can often be completed in a shorter period than traditional MBA programs due to the fast-paced nature of the curriculum. 

Physician executive MBAs are a subset of executive MBA programs which, as the title suggests, are specifically geared toward physicians. Although the degree conferred is the same, the coursework focuses on business administration in healthcare and medical settings.

This is the first post in a two-part series on executive MBAs for medical professionals. The next will cover ways to pay executive MBA fees and tuition. Sign up for the email list to be notified when next week’s article is published!

The advantage of physician executive MBA programs

Most pre-meds don’t study business in undergrad. Moreover, most medical schools offer little, if any, coursework focusing on the business of medicine. So, for many physicians, an MBA expands the possibilities for higher-level administrative roles.

Turner, Stawicki, and Guo wrote in a peer-reviewed, systematic literature review of MBAs for physician executives that an MBA is associated with competitive advantages for physician executives. It better equips them to “to face the challenge of the dynamically evolving healthcare landscape.”

In another study, Amanda Goodall (whose hairstyle is just about the coolest I’ve seen) found a strong association between ranked quality of a hospital and whether the CEO was a physician or not (p <0.001).

Physician executive MBA programs versus conventional executive MBA programs

Executive MBA programs geared toward physicians have several distinctions from traditional programs, which can be quite appealing to some physician applicants.

As mentioned above, the curriculum is highly focused on the business of healthcare, health policy, and other topics near and dear to our hearts. Healthcare-specific coursework might include:

  • Health economics
  • Healthcare policy
  • Marketing in healthcare organizations
  • Financial statement analysis in a healthcare organization
  • Healthcare law
  • Ethics for the business of medicine
  • Healthcare IT management

Some programs offer CME credits for certain required sessions.

The professional network gained through a physician executive MBA program may be more relevant to physicians than the connections that would be made in a non-physician program.

Finally, an MBA from a physician-specific program may carry more weight for some employers or hiring managers, though I suspect this is uncommon.

Executive MBA programs specifically for physicians

To my knowledge, these are the only five accredited executive MBA programs that are exclusive to physicians. (Though even some of these also accept other doctoral-level healthcare providers such as podiatrists, dentists, and optometrists.)

A summary of US-based physician executive MBA programs follows. Costs are as of 2019.

1. University of Tennessee Haslam College of Business Physician Executive MBA

UT Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business Physician Executive MBA program is a one-year program emphasizing career impact and return on investment through leadership development and a curriculum focusing on the application of the material, innovation, and financial acumen.

Length: 1 year

Format: Online with four 1-week sessions in Knoxville, TN

Cost: $76,000

2. Brandeis Heller School for Social Policy and Management Executive MBA for Physicians

Designed for practicing physicians who are – or seek to be – in positions of management or leadership, Heller’s Executive MBA for Physicians is focused on improving both clinical outcomes and financial results in healthcare organizations by training physician-leaders in the new science of medicine and management.

Length: 16 months

Format: Online with four 10-day sessions in Wellesley, MA

Cost: $57,700

3. Indiana University Business of Medicine Physician MBA

A unique and targeted curriculum, world-class faculty, and a delivery model that gives students the momentum to make an immediate impact on their organizations are what the Kelley School of Business Physician MBA program states makes them stand out. They teach how the industry operates now, as well as how it should operate.

Length: 21 months

Format: Online with monthly sessions in Indianapolis

Cost: $85,500

4. Auburn University Raymond J. Harbert College of Business Physicians Executive MBA

The Auburn Physicians Executive MBA boasts that its program is tailored to meet student’s needs. It is notable with regard to its international and US study trips to learn about healthcare systems and healthcare policy.

Length: 21 months

Format: Online with five 3.5-day sessions in Auburn, AL, plus two travel-study experiences – one abroad and one in Washington, DC

Cost: $64,935

5. UT Dallas Healthcare Management Executive MBA

The Alliance for Physician Leadership is a partnership between the Naveen Jindal School of Management and the University of Texas School of Medicine to offer the Healthcare Management Executive MBA for physicians wishing to transition into an executive management role in their organization or health system.

Length: Flexible, but 1.5 years at the minimum

Format: Online business classes plus 4-day “core” class sessions in Dallas every other month, which can be taken in any order.

Cost: $54,540

Executive MBA programs that aren’t specifically for physicians

There are many more executive MBA programs than there aren’t physician executive MBA programs. This is not an exhaustive list by any means. This is a selection of some of the most highly regarded programs.

1. Northwestern Kellogg School of Management Executive MBA Program

In addition to its Executive MBA Program, Kellogg School of Management offers the PHYSICIAN CEO program, which is similar but doesn’t provide an MBA degree.

Length: 2 years

Format: Multiple schedules are available; classes can be taken in either Evanston, IL (3-day classes twice each month) or Miami, FL (monthly 4-day classes)

Cost: $213,564

2. University of Chicago Booth School of Business Executive MBA

Booth School of Business is home to the world’s first executive MBA program and is a household name when it comes to MBAs.

Length: 21 months

Format: Classes are held every two weeks on Friday and Saturdays, with several residential weeks including in Chicago, Hong Kong, and London

Cost: $194,000

3. Duke Fuqua School of Business Executive MBAs

Two program types – the “Weekend Executive MBA” and “Global Executive MBA” – are offered by Duke’s business school, with the latter providing internationally-focused business education.

Weekend Executive MBA

Length: 19 months

Format: 3-day (Friday through Sunday) in-person courses each month plus a 2-week intensive course, along with remote coursework

Cost: $140,400

Global Executive MBA

Length: 18 months

Format: Distance learning interspersed with the several US and international residencies

Cost: $149,500

4. University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton MBA for Executives

A satellite campus in San Francisco allows west-coasters to take advantage of UPenn’s Warton MBA for Executives and its world-class finance education.

Length: 2 years

Format: In-person class sessions every other weekend in either Philadelphia or San Francisco

Cost: $210,900

5. Columbia Business School Executive MBA Program

As with Duke’s program, the Columbia Executive MBA Program offers a global education through its partnerships with schools in London and Hong Kong.

Length: Several schedule options, which are either 20 months or two years in length

Format: Some variability, with weekend in-person sessions and two 5-day residencies

Cost: $208,680

Closing thoughts

A lot of factors will likely play into your decision of which schools to apply and which program to attend. These include length, format, and cost, which are covered above, as well as location and specific requirements for candidates.

One criterion you can use to quickly rule out some programs is a lack of accreditation. Look for schools that are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, which is the highest accreditation standard for business schools.

Some employers may have a particular program for which the sponsor employees. For some programs, employer sponsorship is required, though financial sponsorship from your employer is not necessarily needed.

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