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Health Policy Doctoral Program Summary

The Ph.D. in Health Policy is designed for students who are interested in pursuing research careers in both academic and non-academic settings. The core curriculum familiarizes students with the organization and financing of health services, as well as the statistical methods required to do state-of-the-art empirical work in health policy, health administration, and related disciplines. Beginning in the second year of the program, students obtain specialized training in one of three tracks: health economics; healthcare management and organizations; or population health and demography. Students may complete graduate minors in gerontology or demography. An option to complete a dual-title Ph.D. in Demography is also available.

We typically admit three to six students per year. Keeping our program small ensures students have easy access to faculty and allows us to fund virtually all students for three or more years. We also regularly provide financial support to students presenting their research at conferences.

Faculty in the department have a variety of interests. Recent areas of emphasis include large-scale quality-improvement initiatives, financing and insurance, the relationship between organizational structure and performance, and health disparities based on race, ethnicity, and income. There is also a large contingent of researchers at Penn State, both at the main campus and at the medical school, studying cancer control, prevention, treatment, and survivorship. While we expect these topics to remain strong foci of the department in coming years, opportunities are likely to arise in other areas as the department expands from approximately 10 to 16 tenure-track faculty members.


Students entering the Health Policy doctoral program are funded through graduate assistantships. Our assistantships provide roughly $22,000 per year in support, along with a tuition waiver and access to health insurance. Those making adequate progress in the program can expect to receive three years of funding at this level. In subsequent years, financial support is available through faculty research grants or teaching opportunities within the department. Applicants with exceptional credentials are nominated for university-wide fellowships that provide additional funding.

The department has additional financial support available for a qualified Ph.D. student interested in tobacco policy research. Access the Predoctoral_Research_Fellowships_Informationfor more detailed information.


Our students have obtained tenure-track faculty positions at major research universities such as Auburn University, Boston University, the University of Alabama, University of Chile, the University of Kentucky, the University of Nebraska, the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of South Carolina and non-tenure-track research positions at Columbia University, Duke University, Harvard University, the University of California-Berkeley, the University of California-Los Angeles, University of Miami, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, the University of Pennsylvania, and Virginia Commonwealth University. Others have opted for private research organizations, such as RAND and RTI, while still others have found employment at government agencies, such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Department of Health and Human Services, or with private sector firms such as Merck and the Henry Ford Health System.

Jillian Harvey

“The Health Policy PhD Program at Penn State has prepared me with numerous opportunities to develop my skills as a health services researcher. The coursework and research experience has been outstanding, and I am confident this program has prepared me for the next phase in my career.”
-- Jill Harvey, Assistant Professor, Medical University of South Carolina, Department of Healthcare Leadership & Management

Apply to the Health Policy PhD Program

Application Materials

  1. Three letters of reference
  2. A statement of purpose
  3. Current resume
  4. Standardized test scores (GRE) - Note: Applicants must request that GRE, IELTS, and TOEFL scores be sent to Graduate Enrollment Services (GES) at Penn State electronically using school code 2660 Penn State University. GMAT scores are available in hard copy, and can be sent postal mail directly from Pearson to The Pennsylvania State University, Graduate Enrollment Services, 114 Kern Building, University Park, PA 16802.
    • Process for submitting GMAT scores electronically: Select Penn State University, your program location, and your program of study
  5. One unofficial transcript from each institution attended
  6. Application for a US Visa (international students only)
  7. Official TOEFL score (international students only) - Note: Applicants must request that TOEFL scores be sent to Penn State electronically using school code 2660 Penn State University.

Penn State has a standardized online application system available here: Penn State Graduate School

Application Deadline: January 15

Other Related Program at Penn State

DrPH – Department of Public Health Sciences, Penn State College of Medicine

The Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) degree is the terminal professional degree in Public Health, and the DrPH degree program in the Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey is designed to provide advanced public health education and training. Graduates are prepared for evidence-based practice and translational science leadership. DrPH graduates pursue career opportunities in federal, state, and local government, as well as in non-profit, academic, and private sectors.

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