From clinical medicine to consulting and finance, MD/MBAs recognize that through business they can magnify their impact and help thousands of patients at a time.
MD MBA Association
Who is it for?Anyone applying to Medical School, currently in Medical School, or an “MD” is free to pursue an MD/MBA. Due to the astonishing complexity and rapid evolution of the healthcare industry, the dual-degree can uniquely position individuals who are interested in either operating their clinics more effectively, running a healthcare firm, or fixing the US healthcare system realize their ambitions. These days, it is arguably one of the most versatile degrees within the Healthcare space.
Recent data has shown that of the 17,000 US Medical Students who graduate every year, approximately 200 (1%) graduate with a dual MD/MBA degree every year. Of these 200, generally half will go on to pursue residency training, while the other half enter the workforce directly, generally at the associate level position in finance or consulting (on par with their MBA-graduate peers).
What do MD/MBAs do?There are virtually unlimited possibilities within the Healthcare arena for those with the dual-degree. MD/MBAs run the gamut from practicing physicians who use their business knowledge to run their practices more efficiently or to research best practices in quality improvement and cost-effectiveness techniques, to those that manage large healthcare organizations such as Hospital, Pharmaceutical and Medical Device firms, to those who have left clinical medicine altogether and work in Healthcare Consulting, Investment Banking, Hedge Funds, Venture Capital, or Private Equity. Additionally, for those who are interested the MD/MBA degree can be a unique path towards healthcare entrepreneurship.
For more tangible information on what MD/MBAs do, take a look at our MD/MBA Profiles page as well as our MD/MBA Student Profiles page.
When would I do the Dual-Degree?There are generally 3 paths to obtaining the dual-degree:
1) Historically, the vast majority of MD/MBAs were practicing physicians who went back to school to pursue an MBA in either 2-years as a full-time student, or through a longer part-time program. Recently, this “traditional” pathway has become relatively less popular in favor of the two following routes.
2) Apply to one of the 55 combined MD/MBA programs across the country. As a rule of thumb, these usually require 5 years to complete, although there are a handful of 4 and 6 years programs. Be sure to check the specific requirements and timelines of each program, as well as their relative rankings here.
Although there is significant variation between programs, most 5 year MD/MBA programs follow this general scheme: 3 years Medical School, 1 year Business School, and a 5th year of both Medical & Business School (typically 1 semester of each).
3) Take a 2-year leave of absence from Medical School to pursue a full-time MBA. These will require at least 6 years of education, and tuition, but confer the flexibility to pursue the business degree at a different institution.
Where can I pursue an MD/MBA?If you plan to pursue a combined MD/MBA program, check out our Programs & Rankings page for more information. If you are a physician or a medical student planning on taking a 2-year leave of absence to pursue the degree, you can consult our page for general information and links as well as the US News and World Report’s Graduate Business School Rankings for more specific information.
Why would I want to do it?It’s really up to you. If you’re passionate about the Intersection between Medicine and Business and/or Policy, the MD/MBA degree may be a very good fit for you! We encourage you to research the degree through our Articles & Resources page, our Stay Informed page, and our Forums. Good luck!
How do I Apply?Although variable, applicants will generally have to take the GMATs, submit the required application, essays, resume, and letters of recommendation in addition to going through the typical MBA interview process separately for Business School. More importantly, applicants will have to craft a persuading narrative to prove to the MBA Admissions Committee that they have clear goals for how to use their dual-degree.
For a comprehensive guide to applying, take a look at our MD/MBA Application Guide page or Talk to a Current MD/MBA Student.
What are the Downsides?Our team of MD MBA Advisors would like to highlight 3 potential downsides to pursuing an MD/MBA degree:
1. Extra years of time, and tuition money, which may not be the most useful use of resources if you do not plan on using the business skills. If you have a strong passion for combining your interests in business and medicine, then the MD/MBA may be worth the extra year and tuition.
2. Diminished returns on the technical skills, recruiting, and networking that accompanies business school if you pursue a residency program, because by the time you are ready to enter the “business world” many of those skills and relationships may be forgotten. However, this can be fixed by proactively networking and maintaining business school relationships, and by applying business management skills during residency through a variety of experiences (i.e. serving on the hospital’s finance committee, etc…)
3. Most importantly - skepticism from a minority of residency program directors about your true intentions. This can be ameliorated by applying to programs that are open to more business-oriented doctors, and by crafting a narrative that clearly explains how your interests will enhance your impact as a physician.
Despite these negative effects, we strongly encourage anyone who is interested in the intersection of healthcare and business to consider pursuing an MD/MBA.
FAQs:Excerpts from an interview with StudentDoc.com
What is the biggest appeal for physicians and medical students to pursue a business degree?
Physician's and medical students alike are drawn to pursuing a business degree because of the opportunities to innovate best-pratices, pioneer new solutions for age-old problems, and implement change in our healthcare system. From clinical medicine to consulting and finance, MD/MBAs recognize that through business they can magnify their impact and help thousands of patients at a time.
Do you believe there is a growing demand for health care professionals to have a deeper understanding of the business side of medicine?
Absolutely- the synergies between clinical experience and management knowledge is exactly what our healthcare system needs. Traditionally, physician's understand the diseases, treatments, and complexities involved in patient care, while business professionals appreciate the economic realities of competition and costs. Combining these two school's of thought allows the decisions made in the board room to seamlessly transition into the exam room. An MD/MBA once told me that she spent her day translating the medical jargon of doctors into the business vernacular of executives, which represents the cooperation and interdisciplinary focus that has the potential to significantly enhance the way healthcare works in this country.
Medical students already have tremendous demands placed on them as they pursue their medical degrees. Why should they consider adding another demanding component like an MBA to this?
There is no doubt that medical school is demanding, and an MBA is certainly not for everyone. But for those students whose passions lie at the intersection of clinical medicine and business, the MD/MBA can be a great tool for them to achieve their aspirations. Furthermore, the intangible benefits of immersing yourself into a completely unfamiliar environment, where group projects and case studies are the norm, helps mold students into better leaders, a skill that is applicable to any profession.
Do you see interest in MD-MBA programs increasing in recent years? Why do you think that is?
There is no doubt that MD/MBA programs have been gaining popularity: the number of programs has increased from half a dozen to 55 over the last decade. The rapid pace of health system reforms, application of business-like quality and efficiency practices in clinical settings, as well as the need for physician-leaders within the healthcare space motivates many of these students, who hope that the unique combination of skills they acquire will allow them to make an impact.
Further Reading:Popular! American Medical News: Health System Changes Inspire More Med Students to Pursue Dual Degrees
Popular! Financial Times: Healthy Balance on MD/MBA Programs
Fierce Healthcare: Who Needs an MBA? Top Hospitals are Run by Doctors
Popular! New York Times: Doctors Discover the Benefits of Business School
Popular! New York Times: Adjusting, More M.D.'s Add M.B.A.
New York Times: Are the Best Hospitals Run by M.D.’s or M.B.A.’s?