Getting into Your MBA in Healthcare Management Program: An Admissions Guide

Discover what it takes to get admissions to the healthcare management MBA program you’ve been eyeing from gaining school acceptance to earning your spot in the program.

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Written By

Kathleen Curtis

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Kathleen Curtis is an American writer currently living in Louisville, Kentucky. She has developed content around education for more than a decade for both domestic and international clients.

last updated

12/31/2021

You probably already know the benefits of earning an MBA. The leadership, business, and finance experience can open the door to a wide range of potential careers. However, if you want to narrow your focus to a career in healthcare, pursuing a healthcare management MBA could result in an even bigger payoff. Rather than laying a broad foundation that can be applicable to any number of businesses, zeroing in on healthcare management can transform you into an ideal candidate for high-level healthcare leadership roles. But before you can start thinking about what you can do with a healthcare management MBA, you first have to get accepted into a degree program.

Just like any other degree, the admissions requirements for a healthcare management MBA programs will differ from school to school. That means it’s important that you start doing your research early. Knowing what to expect in the admissions process and feeling prepared each step of the way can make a big difference when time comes to apply. Learn what makes a standout candidate, find out about admissions eligibility and requirements, and get key information on each step of the process from applying to the school to getting accepted into the program.

General Admissions Requirements

When you were an undergraduate, you probably encountered one of two types of admissions methods. If you dealt with a centralized admissions system, you probably remember applying directly to the institution, receiving an acceptance letter, and enrolling in courses. If you applied to a school with a blended admissions system, then you may remember having to apply to the specific department of your major once you’d already been admitted to the institution.

Similarly, not all graduate schools go about admissions in the same way. When preparing to apply to your healthcare management MBA program, it’s important to know whether your school employs a centralized system, a blended system, or a decentralized system where you apply directly to the specific program without having to first apply to the institution.

While students applying to schools with decentralized models will only have to focus on program admissions, those applying to institutions with centralized and blended models will typically need to submit the following in order to gain acceptance. 

Graduate School Admissions

Before being admitted into an MBA in healthcare management program, you first must meet general admission requirements set by the graduate school. Review these common components to get a sense of what to expect but remember that every school is different and it’ll be key to research the specific requirements for the schools on your shortlist before applying.

Undergraduate degree

The large majority of graduate schools require you to hold an undergraduate degree before enrolling, and most require these degrees to be from regionally accredited colleges or universities. Your major won’t always matter, though. More competitive schools may require an undergraduate degree related to the graduate degree you intend to pursue while others allow career changers. On very rare occasions, a university may admit someone without a bachelor’s degree into a graduate program, but this only happens if the individual has unique and exceptional capabilities.

Undergraduate GPA

Undergraduate GPA requirements vary from school to school and program to program. A university may set an across-the-board GPA requirement, while individual programs may require a higher GPA. You should check the general and program-specific requirements to ensure you make the cut. It’s not uncommon for the minimum acceptable GPA to be a 3.0.

GRE/GMAT scores

In recent years, many graduate schools have done away with GRE and GMAT requirements to help level the playing field and emphasize other admission requirements. Some schools still require them, though. To be competitive, aim for a GRE score between 310-315 if possible.

Prerequisite courses

Most graduate schools do not set individual prerequisite courses for general admission. To be sure, check with prospective schools on your list. You may need to take a couple of additional classes to ensure you meet prerequisite requirements.

Official transcript

All schools require your official undergraduate transcript to double-check your stated GPA and ensure you graduated. Your alma mater will supply official transcripts for a small fee. Most graduate schools ask that these be sealed and sent directly by your undergraduate institution to ensure no tampering takes place.

Funding Your Tuition

With the cost of graduate school rising each year, funding your tuition can be a challenge. Many schools decide if they’ll give you additional funding based on information provided by your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), so filling this out should be your first step. Within the application, you can list any school you plan to apply to, and the U.S. Department of Education will send each one the results of your application. As part of your FAFSA, you can qualify for a federal loan with lower interest rates than those offered by private lending entities. It will also tell you if you qualify for any federal grants or work-study programs. Some schools automatically consider you for additional funding through the school itself, while others require you to apply separately to individual scholarships, grants, or fellowships/assistantships.

In addition to university-specific funding, you should also use the months before enrollment to apply for funding awards offered by professional healthcare management associations, non-profits and foundations, hospitals and other healthcare facilities, and state/local governments. Even if each award is small, bundling several can add up quickly.

Program Admissions Requirements

While school applications look for more generic benchmarks to ensure a student can contend with an institution’s level of rigor, program admission requirements make sure prospective students possess the training and focus needed to thrive in a specific MBA program. In addition to general requirements like official transcripts, GPA, and standardized test scores, programs may also set requirements like minimum GMAT score. Programmatic requirements also include more personalized components like essays or personal statements, letters of recommendation, and information on volunteer and/or professional experience.

Undergraduate GPA

Since MBAs are typically competitive, plan for these programs to require reasonable GPAs. Most schools look for candidates with a 3.0-3.2, but some can go up to 3.5-3.7. Asking for a higher GPA is especially common if GMAT or GRE scores are not considered. Additionally, some schools look at overall GPA, while those that only accept students with related undergraduate degrees may set a separate GPA requirement for the final 60 credits taken in a program.

GMAT scores

Some MBA in healthcare management programs require GRE and GMAT scores. The GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test) is more specific to business and management degrees, while the GRE (Graduate Record Exam) provides a more generic test of advanced skills and knowledge. Required GRE/GMAT scores depend entirely on the institution, and the minimum score can vary dramatically based on how competitive a program is. Because of this, review scores required by prospective schools before ever taking an exam, so you know what to aim for. Some schools provide a GRE/GMAT waiver if your GPA is high enough.

Prerequisite courses

Prerequisite courses depend entirely on individual MBA programs. Some accept students with unrelated undergraduate degrees while others look for candidates with backgrounds in healthcare administration, biology, health science, or business management. If don’t have a related academic background, you can show your passion for the field through volunteering or professional experience. As with GRE/GMAT scores, review prospective programs to identify ones with set prerequisite course requirements.

Volunteer hours

Volunteer hours are typically a standard requirement in degrees focused more on clinical care and medicine, but some MBA in healthcare management programs also have this admission requirement. This is especially true for applicants with unrelated undergraduate training. If you don’t currently have existing and relevant volunteer hours, find a local clinic, hospital, or another healthcare setting where you can give of your time and learn about relevant topics along the way.

Essay/personal statement

Essays and personal statements give admission panelists a better sense of your history, professional interests, and how you plan to use your MBA to make a difference. Some programs provide specific questions to answer while others let you craft a unique personal statement. Read several examples of top-tier essays and personal statements to get a sense of what to write.

Letters of recommendation

Letters of recommendation allow mentors, former/current supervisors, former/current educators, volunteer managers, and/or faith leaders the opportunity to provide an insider perspective on you and your ability to succeed in a graduate program. Give your references plenty of time to write thoughtful, insightful letters.

Resume

Because the MBA in healthcare management operates as a professional program, many require students to possess at least 1-2 years of related work experience before being accepted. The resume portion allows you to outline relevant professional experiences that demonstrate both an interest in the discipline and an ability to work in dynamic settings.

Program Admissions Interview

Competitive MBA in healthcare management programs often use interviews to identify top-tier candidates and make final decisions about who they accept. These interviews used to always take place in person, but the COVID-19 era has made telephone and virtual interviews far more common.

Interviews typically consist of departmental faculty, including the dean of the program and the admissions director. Questions vary based on individual programs, but you can prepare by considering why you want to study this topic, why you want to attend a particular program, and how you see yourself using the degree after graduation. Common questions you may be asked include:

  • What drew you to this particular MBA in healthcare management program?
  • How do you see the next 5-10 years of your professional life playing out?
  • What makes you a good candidate for this particular program?
  • What strengths and weaknesses will you bring to the program?
  • What questions do you have about the program or the department?

Making it to the interview portion of the admissions process is a great sign, so do your research and walk into the interview feeling confident about your efforts thus far.

Does My Undergrad Degree Matter?

While students with undergraduate degrees related to healthcare management will naturally have taken classes that overlap with or provide a foundation for advanced study in this area, MBA programs also value learners with different perspectives and knowledge bases. If you studied English in your undergraduate degree, for example, you may not have taken as many business classes, but your understanding of how to communicate with various stakeholders is probably more advanced compared to other candidates. A combination English undergraduate and MBA can even make you more appealing to employers who want someone who can communicate with customers and other employees well. In fact, almost 60% of MBA students at Harvard Business School come from other undergraduate disciplines like engineering, social sciences, arts/humanities, or math/physical sciences.

To help express why your undergraduate studies make you a strong MBA candidate, consider the unique qualities you bring to the table based on your undergraduate degree and include those in your essay/personal statement. If you studied science, for instance, you’ll have a better understanding of some of the challenges healthcare providers on the clinical side face. Engineers may have a better perspective on the more technical and industrial aspects of how a large organization operates. Admissions panelists want to see that you know how to use your degree in versatile ways and that you can transfer existing knowledge into an MBA in healthcare management program.

Other Things to Think About

In addition to all the factors already discussed, remember that a lot of other things impact the application process. Before ever starting the process or thinking about enrolling, make sure you’ve considered some of the other key points highlighted below.

Transfer Credits

If you previously attended a graduate-level business or healthcare management program but decided to switch schools, you may be able to transfer those existing credits to your new program. Credits from a properly accredited MBA in healthcare management program are more likely to transfer, but not all schools accept them regardless of the school they come from. Some programs operate on a cohort model, meaning new learners start the program at the same time and progress through classes together. In this case, transfer classes would throw off the rhythm of the program.

Additionally, if you previously studied a topic unrelated to healthcare management, these credits likely won’t transfer. If you first thought you wanted to study geography, for example, but changed course after a semester, those classes likely won’t work for your healthcare management requirements.

Accreditation

Accreditation plays a vitally important role in the school and program selection process since a lack of accreditation can cause later trouble with transferring credits, seeking licensure, pursuing a doctorate, and even finding a job.

At the institutional level, look for regional accreditation provided by one of the six accrediting bodies approved by the U.S. Department of Education. At the programmatic level, several respected accrediting bodies exist. The Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) is well known on the healthcare side of the degree. From a business perspective, look for MBA programs accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), or the International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE).

If you cannot easily find the accreditation information on the departmental or program website, each accrediting body provides a searchable database of schools they currently accredit.

Resources

American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management

AAHAM offers members access to certification opportunities, virtual and in-person events, and information on the discipline.

American College of Healthcare Executives

Joining ACHE offers access to regional chapters, education programs, career advancement services, and networking with more than 10,000 members.

American Health Information Management Association

Formed in 1928, AHIMA acts as the leading voice for professionals in this field. It provides certifications, education, career information, and events.

A Day in the Life of a Hospital Administrator

GE Healthcare provides this in-depth look at what a hospital administrator position involves and how to feel adequately prepared for the role.

First Month in an MBA in Healthcare Management

YouTuber Lolgesell shares her experience of completing the first month of her MBA in healthcare management at Western Governors University.

Healthcare Financial Management Association

HFMA acts as a professional association for healthcare managers working in financial positions and provides a variety of membership benefits.

My Experience in an MBA in Healthcare Management

Hear firsthand about one student’s experience in this innovative program and what you can expect if you follow this path.

National Association of Healthcare Access Management

Members of NAHAM can take advantage of certifications, professional toolkits, featured articles, and online conferences.