In part 1 of this post I shared a few thoughts on making the jump from clinician to the business world. In this post I’ll offer some perspective as to whether an MBA is worthwhile for the physician.

Similar to medical school, much of your business learning will occur on the job, not in the classroom. However, there is one distinct and fundamentally important difference between medical school and business school….classmates/alumni networks. Once you finished medical school your classmates spread hither and yon and have very little impact on your medical career in most cases. One could make a strong case that your classmates and the networking that occurs in business school is as much or more important to your business career as the course-work. Why? Business is highly collaborative and based on relationships. Bearing this in mind, you should weigh the strength of what would be your future classmates, professors (alumni networks weigh into this formula as well) in any given program.

Following are several business oriented career paths physicians are known to travel and the impact of an MBA on each.

  • Clinical Leadership (ex. hospital executive): An MBA will come in handy, especially if you are headed toward healthcare management. While not a pre-requisite (there are plenty of successful hospital physician CEOs without an MBA) it is an asset. Physicians tend to look at an MBA with more reverence than the rest of the business world. This is likely tied to the point in my previous post in which physicians invest a great of time in academia and have an acute appreciation for academic accomplishment and resultant degrees. With this in mind, a physician who has also added an MBA to their credentials will hold immediate added credibility from within a hospital’s physician ranks for their business acumen…warranted or not.
  • Investment Banking/Private Equity/Venture Capital: Like the clinical leadership route, finance is an industry with a reverence for the MBA. This is particularly true in quantitative and management environments. It’s worth noting, that depending on the type of finance direction you intend to go, you’ll want to steer your MBA education toward a program with those strengths. For example, Harvard is known for its management education while Wharton and Chicago are noted as strong quant programs. When it comes to joining the VC ranks, you’re MD will carry more weight than the MBA, but this is heavily dependent on the group. Realize that you are likely not getting invited to join their ranks because of your business acumen unless you have started and/or run a successful business, but rather for your perspective on medicine, devices etc….at least initially.
  • Consultant: As a consultant you are measured on the value you delivered to your clients…not your academic background. Does an MBA hurt? Of course not. Is it a pre-requisite? Almost always NO! Again, you will be judged on “what have you done for me lately.” This makes a strong case for jumping in and developing a track record versus sitting in a classroom learning macro concepts. In all likelihood, course-work in an MBA program will do little for your consulting career…other than help you wax poetic. (note: weigh this against the value of a strong MBA program alumni network as mentioned above)
  • Entrepreneur: In very few cases does an MBA amount to squat in the entrepreneurial world. It almost has the reverse affect because it trains you to think inside the box. The best advice I received in this respect was to jump in sooner than later…take your lumps and make it happen. There is very little in any MBA program (with all due respect to USCs Marshal School, Babson etc) that will prepare you for the entrepreneurial path in a way that justifies the time/money required to get the degree.
  • Media Maven: Dr. Oz, Brent Ridge (Fabulous Beekman Boys) and other physicians have become household names as a result of their media careers. In some cases the physicians are playing the role of doctor in the media and in cases like Brent Ridge, the physician background has become completely irrelevant. In either case, there is almost no justification for an MBA if moving down the media-centric path.

For those of you who are career coaches, feel free to add anything to this discussion. If you are a physician considering an MBA, what’s your reasoning?

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