American Association for Physician Leadership

Master's Programs for Physician Leaders

For physicians seeking an advanced degree with a focus in healthcare leadership

Are you a physician seeking an MBA or graduate management degree?

In order to best serve you, we've created master’s degree prerequisite courses—and built partnerships with five prestigious universities across the United States—so you can earn a graduate degree with minimal disruption to your professional life.

Degree choices include (all with a medical management focus):

  • Master of Medical Management (MMM)
  • Master in Business Administration (MBA)
  • Master in Healthcare Quality and Safety Management (MS-HQSM)
  • Master of Science in the Science of Healthcare Delivery (MS-SHCD)
  • NEW:  Master of Science in Population Health (MS-POPH)
  • NEW: Master of Advanced Study in Health Informatics (MS-ASHI)
The programs offer you the ultimate in flexibility. For instance, depending upon which degree you pursue, you can take classes live or online. Sign up for courses when you want to—there are no registration deadlines.

Masters Credential

The American Association for Physician Leadership® has partnered with five top universities that recognize association courses as prerequisites and extend tuition savings to our students.

Who Should Enroll?

Any physician seeking an advanced degree with an emphasis on leadership development should consider enrolling.

Ultimately, the physician leader needs to focus on their goals and motivations to pursue an advanced medical degree.

Key reasons to seek an advanced degree often include:

  • Physicians looking to develop programs and affect the delivery of care through an administrative role
  • Physicians looking for personal economic impact and potential for raises and greater influence
  • Physicians who administer areas outside the clinical realm and want to increase their stature and influence with non-physicians

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the association’s master's program?

The association’s program is a flexible program that can help you earn an advanced degree related to medical management. The program has two parts: 130 contact hours (14 courses) of prerequisites followed by university curriculum. You choose the program with the focus and the setup that works for you.

When and where do you have the program’s courses?

The association’s prerequisites are offered three ways: live, facilitated, and self-study. Our facilitated and self-study courses are done online. We’ll even come to you if your organization chooses to book a seminar. Live sessions are conducted at conferences around the country four times a year. Facilitated classes combine interactive elements with self-study during a 4 to 6-week session. Self-study is on your own, whenever you choose.

How long does it take to complete the program?

Both sections can be completed in as few as two years or spread out up to 10 years. It’s totally up to you. To ensure content isn’t outdated, however, you must complete the prerequisites within five years. In the university part of the program, it will take a year to 18 months for the MMM, about 2½ years for the part-time online MBA (minimum 22 months, maximum four years), and about 16 to 18 months for the MS-HQSM (if you take two classes per term). The MS-SHCD is expected to take about one academic year, devoting 10-15 hours per week.

What are the program requirements?

The master's program is for MDs and DOs and does not require a GMAT. No application or enrollment is necessary to start taking the prerequisites and they are offered year round. Membership in the association isn't required, either, but big discounts on the prerequisite classes and other benefits make joining a great idea. Ready?

How do I start?

Start by browsing Master Courses to help pick your first course. Many physicians start with the Fundamentals of Physician Leadership: Series, but that’s not required.

Can I get credit for other management courses I’ve taken?

Content depth and breadth must be similar to our curriculum. Graduate-level coursework from other universities and executive training programs taken and graded within the last 10 years may be eligible for transfer. Acceptance is pending review of the content and candidate transcript. Transfer credit for the university part of the program is generally not available. To learn more, contact us at

What is the difference among the degrees offered?

The six master’s program options differ in content, format, cost, and credentials. In most cases, it matters less which degree you get than what you do with it afterward. Program alumni are a great resource to learn more about what you can do after earning your advanced degree - and we’re also here to help!

If I took courses a few years ago, can I still take the tests and get credit?

There’s a five-year expiration on courses, regardless of whether you took the test. Any course taken five or more years ago cannot count for credit and will not show up on the association’s prerequisite transcripts. You have to retake the course. This helps you, too, to assure you have the latest information when you transfer to the second half of the master’s program. We encourage participants to take the tests soon after completing the course, even if you’re not sure you can complete the program. It keeps your options open and you avoid having to catch up on areas you’ve already done. Remember, testing costs nothing.

What about the CPE?

The Certified Physician Executive credential opens doors to advance your career and enhance your credibility. If you have a Master's degree, completing just two additional courses can allow you to obtain the Certified Physician Executive designation. To become a CPE, you must be accepted into the Certifying Commission in Medical Management's CPE Capstone Program, which is the 3.5 day skill development and assessment session that ends with an oral presentation to a panel of healthcare leaders.

What kinds of positions will this degree help me get?

The top-five categories of job titles of our current advanced degree holders are:

  • Medical Director

  • Department Chief or Chair

  • Department or Program Director

  • President or Vice President for medical affairs

  • Chief Medical Officer
That said, you need to know your advanced degree will equip you with knowledge and skills but it won’t guarantee you a job in management. You’ll still need to get experience and build credibility for yourself. We’re here to help, though.

How do I get management experience while I’m getting my degree?

Physician leaders who have succeeded offer this advice:

  • View chaos as a chance to step up and prove yourself.

  • Offer to assume more responsibility in hard times, whether it’s a merger or new technology roll out or a change in leadership.

  • Take on unpaid leadership challenges to advance to paid management roles.

  • Serve on task forces, committees and ad hoc initiatives.

  • Participate enthusiastically and be vocal about your willingness to lead and serve in these roles.

  • Consistently attend and actively participate in meetings, even those others view negatively.

  • Be open and vocal about your interest in positions such as department chair, chief of service, etc.

  • Volunteer to take on tasks others avoid, including conflict resolution, scheduling, finances or compliance.

  • Look for ways to improve systems or start a team to collaborate on new methods.

  • Report on the financial and quality outcomes.

  • Seek ways to be involved in building projects and expanded lines of service.

  • Seek out and get involved with new initiatives. Let others see you manage people, information, and finances.

  • Be visible, energetic and efficient. People will notice and think of you when management tasks need to be done.

After spending so much time and money already in post-graduate education, will I regret the decision to go back to school for more?

It’s a big decision, no doubt. But 97% of graduate degree alumni survey respondents said they would recommend the association’s leadership education to their colleagues.

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American Association for Physician Leadership®

Your trusted source for physician leadership and education for over 40 years.

For over 45 years.

The American Association for Physician Leadership has helped physicians develop their leadership skills through education, career development, thought leadership and community building.

The American Association for Physician Leadership (AAPL) changed its name from the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE) in 2014. We may have changed our name, but we are the same organization that has been serving physician leaders since 1975.


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AAPL providers leadership development programs designed to retain valuable team members and improve patient outcomes.

American Association for Physician Leadership®

formerly known as the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE)