It’s not one of the Big Three. But for the last 10 years, and especially the last five, healthcare has been growing significantly as a destination for business school graduates. And it just so happens that the top U.S. business schools responsible for graduating the most healthcare MBAs in 2021 are only about a 20-minute drive from each other.
Duke University Fuqua School of Business, with 32 MBAs reporting healthcare salaries according to U.S. News data, and UNC-Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School, with 31, are two points in what is known as North Carolina’s Research Triangle — a region of around 2.2 million that is home to dozens of hospitals and medical centers as well as major biomedical and pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, and Merck.
But while Duke and UNC are the top 25 B-schools that sent the most graduates into the healthcare industry last year, they didn’t graduate the highest-paid healthcare MBAs. That distinction goes to a trio of M7 schools that reported high salaries of a quarter million dollars or more, led by MIT Sloan School of Management, where one MBA reported starting base pay of $260K. Harvard Business School and Stanford Graduate School of Business had 2021 healthcare grads who reported $250K paydays; another top-10 business school, UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business, had a healthcare MBA who earned $240K. But it was Stanford that boasted the best stat of all: $162,900, the highest average starting pay for a healthcare MBA.
A BOOMING HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY IN THE HEART OF NC
Employment in healthcare occupations is projected to grow 15% from 2019 to 2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which means the addition of around 2.4 million new jobs, and North Carolina is poised to take full advantage. The state’s global health sector already supports more than 26,000 jobs each year, according to the Triangle Global Health Consortium. Billions in wages, salaries, and benefits are supported through the global health sector in North Carolina annually; the impact of global health on the state’s economy has been estimated to be $3.7 billion annually.
Sitting at one point in the Triangle, UNC-Chapel Hill is home to the UNC Medical Center campus, where a new 330,000-square-foot Surgical Tower is expected to be completed this year. Helping to meet the needs of the massive healthcare industry in Chapel Hill and regionally, Kenan-Flagler Business School offers a healthcare concentration in its MBA program that boasts a $125,687 mean base salary (much higher, it should be noted, than U.S. News lists as the average starting pay for a healthcare MBA from UNC: $108K, lowest of any top-25 school), and $29,751 average signing bonus for a total starting pay of $155,438. The range of career paths includes biotech, hospital administration, and consumer healthcare, and employers include Amgen, Blue Cross NC, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Kaiser Permanente, and UnitedHealth Group.
Meanwhile a short drive up to Durham, the Duke University Health System has around 24,000 full-time employees, and the academic Duke University Medical Center has more than 11,000. According to U.S. News, Duke University Hospital was ranked No. 1 in North Carolina and No. 1 in the Raleigh-Durham region. The Fuqua School of Business offers healthcare management as a certificate in conjunction with an MBA program: the Healthcare Sector Management MBA is a two-year program. The average starting salary for Duke’s 32 healthcare MBAs was $132,236, seventh-highest among top-25 schools (see next page for all the data).
And what about the other point in the Triangle? North Carolina State University, in Raleigh, is home to the Poole School of Management, ranked No. 67 by U.S. News and No. 72 by Poets&Quants. Poole graduated six healthcare MBAs in 2021, with an average salary of $83,700 and a high of $100K.
HIGHS & LOWS
U.S. News also reports low base salaries, and interestingly — in what may be a signal of the stiff competition for high-paying jobs in a flourishing market — UNC Kenan-Flagler also reported the lowest starting salary for any top-25 B-school: $31,200. The next lowest was at another school based in the heart of a thriving healthcare region: Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management in Nashville, Tennessee, which reported a low of $53,870. Wharton was next on the low salary list with $56,600.
The B-school with the highest low for healthcare MBA salary was USC Marshall School of Business, at $120,000 — but Marshall’s high salary was only a little more, $125K, making it the school with the lowest high.
While Stanford GSB had the highest average at $162K, four more schools boasted averages of $140K or more: MIT Sloan, Harvard, UC-Berkeley Haas, and Columbia Business School. On the flip side, while UNC had the lowest average salary for a healthcare MBA at just under $109K, five other schools were below $120K: Georgetown McDonough School of Business ($112,145), Vanderbilt Owen ($116,111), Yale School of Management ($116,800), Washington Foster School of Business ($117,982), and Indiana Kelley School of Business ($119,545).
COMPARE & CONTRAST
How much does a MBA in healthcare pay in comparison to consulting, finance, or tech — the big three? Glad you asked. Let’s look at the top five ranked schools — Chicago Booth School of Business, Stanford GSB, Harvard, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and Northwestern Kellogg School of Management — and what they reported.
For low scores, the top five consulting low average was $73,599; finance low average was $81,000; and tech low average was $78,808. For healthcare, the top 10 low average was $69,060, well below each of the other three industries; however, the healthcare low average for the 23 schools of the top 25 that provided enough data for inclusion was $81,550, higher than the top 5 average for either tech or finance.
For average scores, the top five consulting average was $159,622; finance average $162,147; and tech average $144,480. Compare that with the top 10 healthcare average: $136,982, well below all three. It gets even more lopsided if you look at the top 25, where the healthcare MBA average starting salary is $128,206.
And the highs? Hard to top the top five consulting high average of a whopping $190,200, or even more so the finance high average of $280,000 and tech high average of $225,600. Healthcare doesn’t come close. The top 10 healthcare high average is $198,000, and the top 25 high average is $169,304.
See the next page for a table of the high, low, and average 2021 salaries of healthcare MBAs at the top 25 US business schools.
AND DON’T MISS HIGH & LOW MBA SALARIES AT THE TOP B-SCHOOLS and MBA SALARIES & BONUSES AT THE TOP 25 B-SCHOOLS