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Exploring Joint Degree Programs: The MD/MBA

Posted in Test Prep on April 30, 2011 by

In recent years, business schools have begun to offer more joint and dual degree programs. An MBA is a versatile degree, and it pairs well with many other fields. Interested in the advantages, challenges and requirements involved in pursuing two degrees at once? In this series, we’ll chronicle the pros and cons of a number of degree combinations, and explore some of the career options they can open up.

First up: the MD/MBA.

What it is:

MD/MBA programs offer candidates the chance to get two degrees: a Masters of Business Administration and Doctor of Medicine.

Who offers it:

According to the American College of Physician Executives, about 65 MD/MBA dual degree programs are currently offered in the United States.

Top business schools that offer joint MD/MBA programs include Columbia, Tuck, Fuqua, Harvard, Kellogg, Wharton, Stanford, and Yale, among many others. For a list of programs that are part of the Association of MD/MBA Programs, click here (note that this list does not include all MD/MBA programs in the US.) For another list from the Association of American Medical Colleges, click here (scroll down to the second page of the document).

What it entails:

Joint MBA/MD programs typically comprise 4-5 years of coursework. For 4-year programs, some MBA coursework is typically conducted during the summers preceding the first and second year of medical school. In 5 year programs, the first three years are typically devoted to medical coursework, the forth to MBA coursework, and the fifth to a combination of the two.

Although specific schedules will obviously vary by program, check out Harvard’s MBA/MD plan for a glimpse at a sample setup:

For a first-hand perspective on the degree, check out this post about a Tuck MD/MBA student’s experience!

Getting in:

Application guidelines vary depending on the specific program. At most schools, candidates must apply separately to both the medical school and business school. Some programs will require students to apply concurrently, and indicate their interest in the joint degree program; others will allow medical students in their 1st, 2nd, or 3rd year to apply to the MBA program. GMAT requirements also vary depending on the school.

Who should consider it:

If you’re interested in a career that incorporates both medicine and business, an MD/MBA might be the right choice for you. Many people are drawn to joint MD/MBA degrees as a result of their dissatisfaction with the current state and practice of healthcare in this country. There are a number of potential career paths for which an MD/MBA can prepare students: examples include hospital management, HMO management, medical school administration, medical device entrepreneurship, or health policy. Many MD/MBAs become practicing physicians, perhaps using their MBA to start a business on the side or help manage their own medical practice.

Every MD/MBA program is different; be sure to ask questions of the admissions office, professors, and current students as you’re doing research. A common complaint from joint degree students is that the business curriculum is not as well integrated into the medical coursework as it could be — this is an important question to pose to current students.

Though there have not been many studies done of MD/MBA degree holders, two MD/MBA students recently completed a poll of 55 joint degree holders, asking them questions about their career satisfaction, salary, and professional path. Ninety-three percent of respondents reported that the MD/MBA had been “worthwhile,” and 89% said they had seen a significant ROI. For other survey results,  click here.