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Ask a Nurse: As an NP, Do I Need an MBA to Own a Business?

Joelle Y. Jean, FNP-C, BSN, RN
Updated July 26, 2023
    Thinking about getting your MBA? If you are a nurse practitioner business owner or in a leadership position in a healthcare facility, learn more about the pros and cons of obtaining an MBA.
    Nurse smiling in hospital with text "Ask a Nurse"

    In our Ask a Nurse series, experienced nurses provide an insider look at the nursing profession by answering your questions about nursing careers, degrees, and resources.

    Question: As a nurse practitioner, do I need an MBA to own a business?

    As a nurse practitioner (NP), you don’t need a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) to own a business. With a great, organized team and a well-oiled system in place, you can manage your business successfully.

    • As a nurse practitioner, you don’t need an MBA to own a business.
    • Getting an MBA can help you with the knowledge and tools needed to be successful in healthcare and business administration.
    • Continuing education classes, conferences, and networking provide the education you need to own a successful practice and be a nursing leader without an MBA.

    With full NP practice authority on the rise, more NPs may consider opening their own practices. While a master’s in business administration (MBA) can benefit NPs interested in private practice, it may not be necessary.

    Dr. Peggy Roberts is a doctoral-prepared, board-certified New York licensed women’s health nurse practitioner. She is the owner of Trust Women’s Healthcare. Her practice has been open for over two years.

    Because Roberts obtained the highest degree in nursing, a doctor of nursing practice (DNP), she never considered pursuing an MBA.

    “We did discuss the financial aspect of healthcare while getting my doctoral degree,” Roberts says.

    She believes continuing education classes, conferences, and networking provide her with the education she needs to own a successful practice.

    But some nurses and NPs choose to obtain an MBA for many reasons. Learn more about the pros and cons of obtaining an MBA and if it’s right for you.

    The Purpose of an MBA Program

    An MBA program provides a formal education in all areas of business. It also offers the opportunity to network with faculty members, alums, and classmates.

    The business graduate degree prepares you with skills and knowledge in:

    • Finance
    • Marketing
    • Management

    Tammy K. Stafford is an assistant clinical professor and graduate program coordinator at Angelo State University. She decided to obtain her MBA after working as a director for a corporation. Stafford was responsible for looking over the finances and managing her team.

    Although Stafford was in the role for several years, she believed she could be a better director, leader, and nurse if she had more education. “I needed a deeper understanding of the financial and economic business world,” Stafford says.

    As a nurse, she wanted to advocate for patients, and as a leader, she wanted to advocate for her employees. “I needed to have the knowledge behind me to be a successful advocate,” she says.

    Stafford knew obtaining an MBA would provide her with a stronger voice as a business leader.

    The Pros and Cons of Pursuing an MBA Degree

    For any nurse or nurse practitioner opening their own business — or wanting to be an executive-level employee — it may be worthwhile to obtain an MBA, Katie Boston-Leary, the director of nursing programs at the American Nurses Association (ANA), advises.

    If you choose to pursue an MBA, Stafford and Boston-Leary recommend finding a program with a concentration in healthcare.

    “This helps to ensure the courses taken are tailored to the healthcare aspect, thus allowing the nurse to relate the information better,” Stafford says.

    “The knowledge and understanding of healthcare, nursing, and business go beyond on-the-job training and exposure,” Boston-Leary points out.

    She further explains that an MBA program gives great foundational and didactic knowledge about the principles of finance and the value of money.

    The Pros of Obtaining an MBA

    There are many benefits to obtaining an MBA. For nurses in nursing administration, healthcare finance, or human resources, obtaining an MBA helps familiarize them with the knowledge and tools for success.

    “As nurses, we enter the profession of nursing to provide care for patients. However, it can be frustrating to not be able to obtain what is needed for nursing care,” Stafford says.

    Nurses often don’t have resources or lack staffing due to the nursing shortage. They are often told it’s not in the budget to supply these resources.

    [In business school,] nurses learn to read financial reports and analyze the budget,” Stafford points out.

    They can create budgets that include the resources nurses need to work at the top of their license while saving money for facilities.

    “One thing I tell my students at the end of the day, healthcare is a business, and all nurses have a responsibility to ensure good stewardship of the dollars and resources within the organization,” Stafford says.

    Boston-Leary says getting her MBA was one of the best decisions ever. “I wanted in-depth learning on the business of healthcare and how resources impact how we deliver care. It’s a necessary part of what we do and what leaders need to understand.”

    She believes her business degree added to her knowledge base. It gave her an advantage in being an effective leader.

    “Today’s leaders must be well-rounded to include financial acumen to be successful,” Boston-Leary says. “Nurse leaders don’t only manage the budget, they also know how to strategize and create business plans to build the portfolios and financial strength of their organizations.”

    It can take a lot of work to get your MBA. But if you decide to get one, you will build a sound knowledge base of finance, ethical issues, and the legal aspects of a business. This knowledge can help you promote the Quadruple Aim at your facility and run a healthcare business. T

    The Quadruple Aim is an approach created to improve health systems’ productivity. It involves enhancing patient experience, improving population health, reducing costs, and improving the work life of healthcare providers.

    “It improves population health, reduces the cost of care, enhances the patient experience, and improves provider satisfaction,” Stafford says.

    Other pros to getting your MBA include:

    • Facilitating career growth and visibility with prospective employers
    • Offering foundational and didactic knowledge about the principles of finance and the value of money
    • Providing nurses and NPs with more confidence to advocate for patients, patient care, and staff

    Getting an MBA can be great for business, but some drawbacks may exist.

    The Cons of Obtaining an MBA

    The biggest con to getting an MBA is that it can be a huge financial investment. The average cost for an MBA program varies but can range from $55,000 to over $120,000, depending on where you go and if it’s in-person or online.

    The program may also be different from what you thought it would be. It’s important to do your research.

    “Not every program is the same. For example, some are better than others,” Boston-Leary says.

    Other cons to obtaining an MBA include:

    • Time commitment
    • Missing out on other opportunities
    • Return on investment
    • Does not guarantee success or a higher-paying job

    Fortunately, some institutions provide tuition assistance or reimbursement for nurses and nurse practitioners who want to return to school. Some of the best hospitals to work for offer tuition reimbursement and scholarships. Research if your facility provides reimbursement to obtain an MBA.

    Running a Business Without an MBA

    You don’t have to invest in a business degree to run a successful practice. If your plans include becoming your own boss and being self-employed, you probably don’t need an MBA, Boston-Leary says.

    Boston-Leary and Roberts agree that continuing to network and educate yourself is important.

    “You can take classes to obtain insights on how to manage your own expenses and become an entrepreneur,” Boston-Leary advises.

    “Having a mentor and business health consultants is crucial,” Roberts says.

    Stafford changed careers and is now in academia. She says her business degree continues to enhance her career so much that she developed a course for graduate nursing students to learn about the financial aspects of business from the perspective of a nurse educator.

    The most important thing in deciding if you should get an MBA is understanding why you are getting a business degree in the first place. Ask yourself how the degree will improve your future aspirations and goals, Boston-Leary suggests. Once you can answer that question, you are on your way to understanding if an MBA is right for you.

    Meet Our Contributors

    Portrait of Peggy Roberts, DNP, WHNP-BC

    Peggy Roberts, DNP, WHNP-BC

    Peggy Roberts, DNP, WHNP-BC, is a doctoral-prepared, board-certified New York licensed women’s health nurse practitioner. She has extensive experience in preventative medicine for women, high-risk pregnancies, and sexual medicine. Roberts’ passion and dedication to providing the utmost care to women have led her to her own practice, Trust Women’s Healthcare, which provides comprehensive and holistic care to women of all ages.

    Portrait of Tammy K. Stafford, DNP, MSN, MBA, RN, NEA-BC

    Tammy K. Stafford, DNP, MSN, MBA, RN, NEA-BC

    Tammy Stafford has 29 years of experience in both inpatient and outpatient settings caring for end-stage renal disease patients and 18 years of leadership experience. In fall 2018, Stafford joined the Department of Nursing at Angelo State University as an assistant clinical professor and graduate program coordinator. Stafford is proud to have the opportunity to teach nurses and prepare them for advanced practice.

    Portrait of Katie Boston-Leary, Ph.D., MBA, MHA, RN, NEA-BC

    Katie Boston-Leary, Ph.D., MBA, MHA, RN, NEA-BC

    Katie Boston-Leary is the director of nursing programs at the American Nurses Association. She oversees the Nursing Practice and Work Environment Division and Healthy Nurse Healthy Nation. She is also the co-lead for Project Firstline, a multi-million-dollar grant collaborative with the CDC for infection prevention and control training. She is a board-certified nurse executive and obtained a nurse executive leadership certificate from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.