An In-Depth Guide to PhD Scholarship in Health Economics

Health economics is a dynamic, multidisciplinary field that applies economic principles to understand how individuals and society make choices about health. A PhD in health economics can open up many career opportunities in healthcare research, policymaking, and global health.

What is Health Economics?

Health economics is the application of economic principles to the study of health and healthcare sectors. Some key aspects of health economics include:

Demand for healthcare

Health economists analyze factors that influence demand for healthcare services and products. This includes studying how much people are willing to pay for healthcare, and how demand changes with income, education, availability of insurance, etc.

Supply of healthcare

Analyzing how healthcare providers – from hospitals to clinicians to pharmaceutical companies – supply healthcare services and products. This includes studying costs of production and delivery, pricing strategies, competition in markets.

Healthcare systems

Comparing different healthcare systems – from single-payer nationalized systems to privatized insurance-based models. Evaluating efficiency, accessibility, costs and outcomes of alternative systems.

Healthcare policy

Informing policymaking through cost-benefit analyses of programs and interventions. Some examples include analyses of optimal insurance benefits, pricing of prescription drugs, priorities in healthcare spending, regulation of providers and insurers.

Global health

Applying economic principles to diverse global health challenges like infectious diseases, maternal and child health, non-communicable diseases, and health systems in developing countries.

So in summary, health economics applies tools from microeconomics, econometrics, operations research to study how individuals and societies use scarce healthcare resources. A PhD prepares researchers to conduct rigorous analysis and research to help policymakers and stakeholders make well-informed decisions.

PhD Program Structure

Most PhD programs in health economics are full-time research programs that take 4-5 years to complete on average. Key stages and requirements of a typical program include:


The initial 1-2 years involve coursework in core subjects like microeconomics, econometrics, statistics as applied to health data. Some programs also require coursework specific to health systems, policy, global health burdens of disease.

Comprehensive exams

After coursework, students take comprehensive exams testing their knowledge across the breadth of health economics theory and methods. This confirms their readiness to conduct independent research.

Dissertation proposal

Students develop a research proposal for their dissertation project under faculty guidance. This involves refining the research question, reviewing relevant literature and finalizing the research design, methodology and timeline.

Original research

The bulk of the PhD involves 2-3 years of intensive original research and analysis as outlined in the approved dissertation proposal. This could involve quantitative data analysis, experimental or quasi-experimental evaluations.

Dissertation defense

Once the research is completed, students submit their dissertation and defend it orally in front of a committee. Successful defense leads to the award of a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Health Economics.

Throughout the PhD, students also present their ongoing work at conferences to get feedback and hone their research and presentation skills. Many top PhD programs in health economics are multidisciplinary and allow coursework from public health, healthcare management as well.

Career Prospects

A PhD in health economics opens up many exciting career opportunities both within and outside academia. Here are some of the most common career paths:

Academic research

Most PhD graduates pursue careers in academic research and teaching. Some may join the faculties of universities as assistant/associate professors. Others take positions at think tanks, research institutes and government agencies.

Healthcare industry

Opportunities in pharmaceutical, biotech and medical technology companies for outcomes research, comparative effectiveness research, health technology assessment and policy research roles.

Government and non-profits

Roles in ministry of health, healthcare regulatory bodies, disease control agencies, multilateral organizations like WHO, World Bank for health policy analysis, program evaluation, priority-setting.

Management consulting

Firms specialized in healthcare consulting hire health economists for strategic pricing analysis, market entry strategies, new service line evaluation, performance benchmarking for providers.

Data analytics

Roles in electronic health records, clinical registry companies, health information exchanges involving analysis of large health datasets using advanced methods.

Medical writing

Positions at scientific publishing, communications and medical education companies for technical writing on health economics topics.

The quantitative, problem-solving and communication skills of PhD trained health economists are highly transferable. Many also have successful entrepreneurial ventures especially in developing countries. The career prospects are very promising with steady growth projected in the healthcare sector.

Funding PhD Scholarships

Pursuing a PhD requires a substantial time commitment and comes with costs for tuition fees and living expenses. Funding is available through a variety of merit and need-based scholarships which can cover all or part of these costs. Some major sources of PhD funding include:

University/department scholarships

Top programs offer competitive graduate research/teaching assistantships with tuition waiver and stipend support. Prestigious named scholarships are also available from alumni endowments.

External fellowships

National and international public/private fellowship programs fund PhDs in priority global health topic areas. This includes scholarships from Wellcome Trust, Rhodes Trust, Ford Foundation, BMGF, NIH, CDC etc.

Research grants

Faculty actively seek research grants from government agencies, non-profits, pharmaceutical industry to support PhD students as junior investigators on ongoing projects.

Doctoral training programs

Multi-year funded programs exist in niche health economics topics like Global Health Delivery, Implementation Science jointly run by universities and development agencies.

Employer sponsorship

Some students obtain PhD sponsorship from current employers or get support to transition to health policy roles upon program completion.

Securing one of these merit-based PhD scholarships is highly competitive. Strong candidates showcase their research skills, leadership qualities and career aspirations through competitive applications. Timely planning is important to explore all funding options.

Choosing the Right Program

With the growing interest in health economics, accredited PhD programs exist across North America, Europe, Asia, Australia. Some factors to consider in shortlisting programs include:

  • Faculty expertise – Research interests aligned with your topic areas of interest
  • Funding availability – Past record and current opportunities relevant to your profile
  • Course curriculum – Strong foundation in key methods, flexibility for electives
  • Career services – Alumni network, internships, mentoring support
  • Location – Accessibility to research sites, conferences, wider opportunities
  • Rankings/reputation – Competitive programs attract top peers, resources

Reach out to current students/alumni for insights beyond brochures. Shortlist 3-5 best fit options based on fit and merit your chances with available funding. Then start early with applications at least 1 year in advance of intended start date.

Frequently Asked Questions

This section addresses some common queries related to pursuing PhD in health economics:

What is the expected duration of a PhD program?

A full-time PhD in health economics program takes 4-5 years on average to complete all requirements like coursework, comprehensive exams, dissertation research and defense. This may be extended if students take time off or switch advisors.

Is there funding available for international students?

While internal funding is prioritized for local/domestic students, select reputed programs do offer Full/Partial tuition waivers and stipends to highly meritorious international candidates through assistantships and scholarships. Pursuing external fellowships also increases chances.

What are the career prospects after PhD?

Careers are diverse including faculty positions in universities, research roles in industry, think tanks, multi laterals and various levels of government. Rigorous training prepares graduates for analytics, program evaluation, policymaking and advisory roles both within and outside core healthcare settings. Demand from aging populations and advancement in science will continue driving growth.

How to strengthen profiles for top program admits?

Strong quant/analytical skills, prior research experience through thesis/dissertation work, publications, internships enhances profiles. Leadership roles, teaching assistantships also impress. Letters from recommenders emphasizing aptitude, motivation adds credibility. Customized statement showcasing fit with faculty interests is key.

Should I pursue a PhD right after Masters?

While many pursue PhDs right after Master’s, others prefer gaining industry experience first to clarify research interests. Both paths have merits. Industry experience aids perspective but delays career progression. Early PhD has mentorship benefits but requires clarity of purpose and commitment seen through finishing. Consider pros and cons based on goals and opportunities.

Can I switch programs midway if unsatisfied?

Switching programs is difficult and not advised due to time delays. However, unmatched interests/fit with advisors or systemic issues can justify it on rare occasions. Thoroughly researching programs, confirming fit with potential advisors pre-admit can minimize risks. Many also explore changing advisors within programs before considering external transfers.

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