Health Policy Program Requirements & Standards

Prerequisites for Admission

To be eligible for admission to any graduate program, you must hold at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited university or college, or be currently enrolled in an undergraduate/first-professional degree program at the University. If you have a background or strong interest in health policy, you are encouraged to apply. Students must have a working knowledge of basic statistics and of computer applications for some courses, and should be fluent in both spoken and written English.

Applications for the PhD program are reviewed for admission to fall semester only. Deadline for applications for the PhD program is March 1st.

Graduate Degrees in Health Policy

The health policy program trains students in the range of analytical skills and knowledge necessary to pursue health policy careers in private, governmental, and academic settings. Coursework and research opportunities cover health policy as it applies to the range of players in the system, including hospitals, health systems, pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, clinicians, insurance companies, managed care organizations, and entrepreneurial ventures. The depth of resources and expertise at the University related to pharmaceuticals makes this an area of special interest and provides unique opportunities to explore policy and management aspects of this industry. We have a wide variety of experts representing many academic disciplines. Faculty with degrees and expertise in health policy, public policy, public health, economics, sociology, environmental science, political science, pharmaceutical outcomes research, and epidemiology teach in the program. Because the field of health policy draws on contributions from many areas, the program is interdisciplinary by nature. It requires students to analyze issues creatively by combining different approaches to policy problems. In addition to a core of courses offered directly in health policy, students may take courses in several related fields, including pharmacy administration, pharmacoeconomics, biomedical writing, pharmaceutical business, and social sciences. Research opportunities similarly cut across disciplinary lines to draw on different kinds of expertise.

The Health Policy curriculum rests on a set of competencies that are organized into three domains: research skills; knowledge base; and policy analysis.

The graduate program in health policy will prepare students to:

I. Research Methods

a. Examine both qualitative and quantitative data to determine patterns and trends.

b. Understand and apply basic concepts of probability, random variation, and commonly used statistical probability distributions.

c. Generate testable hypotheses and apply appropriate methods and research designs to test these hypotheses.

d. Understand and apply the fundamental tenets of ethics as part of conducting research.


II. Knowledge Base

a. Apply knowledge gained in a specific substantive area related to health policy using expertise developed during coursework, through guidance from faculty, and independently.

b. Collect and synthesize literature in a specialty substantive area.

c. Complete a terminal research project that either applies knowledge (MS program) or develops new knowledge (PhD program) in a specialty area.


III. Policy Analysis

a. Explain how the structures, components and interactions of systems are involved with shaping health policy, public health directives, and health delivery in the US.

b. Apply theoretical and conceptual models to empirical data, events, and dynamics as the foundation of analyses of current health policy issues.

c. Analyze issues from different perspectives and use evidence based approaches for describing policy-related decisions.

d. Identify major stakeholders and their roles with relation to specific health policy issues.

e. Critically assess aspects of U.S. health policy from multidisciplinary perspectives including economics, law, sociology, epidemiology, and political science, and sociology.

We offer two degrees in health policy:

MS Degree

The goal of the MS degree is to train you to become a practitioner of health policy analysis. You will become skilled at analyzing issues and predicting outcomes for industry, government, trade associations, and consulting firms. You can pursue interests in substantive health care issue areas through electives.

The program also emphasizes practical training outside of the university environment through internships and team consulting projects for external organizations.

You must complete 36 credits of didactic coursework, including a field application project for an outside organization and a master's paper. You will also complete a part-time internship for a health care organization, unless you have concurrent or past work experience in a health care-related setting.

PhD Degree

The PhD degree track prepares students to conduct independent research that is either empirically or theoretically based. The training portion of the doctoral program prepares students to demonstrate their knowledge of the existing literature, whereas in the dissertation stage students conduct independent research under the guidance of a faculty committee. Graduating students can apply their skill sets to research in either the public or private sector.

The PhD degree program is designed to train researchers who will make original contributions to understanding the provision of health care and health status. Doctoral training is applicable in academic and health care settings.

You will take many of the same courses as master's students but will complete more advanced coursework in statistics and in research methodology, in addition to your dissertation.

The degree leading to the doctor of philosophy (PhD) degree in health policy covers the skills needed to conduct original research on issues affecting the provision of health care and health status. You are required to:

  • Complete 48 credits of didactic coursework
  • Achieve a satisfactory grade on a doctoral qualifying examination
  • Register for HP899 (Doctoral Research) for a minimum of 20 credits
  • Complete a dissertation.

The skills and substantive areas taught include:

  • Overall structure of the health care industry, including insurance reimbursement, managed care, hospital physician relationships, health system development, and pharmaceutical development
  • Health economics
  • Epidemiology
  • Information technology in health policy
  • Financial modeling
  • Public health research involving large-scale databases
  • Public policy analysis
  • Legal and regulatory analysis related to health care
  • Ethical issues in health care and public policy

Your research opportunities will cover a range of health policy topics. Several large databases that contain information on health care and pharmacy utilization are available for student projects. They represent unique resources for statistical analyses. Other kinds of research projects may involve outcomes analyses of medical interventions and case studies of health policy initiatives, or other prospectively designed research studies.