Doctoral (Ph.D.) Degree


The Ph.D. program 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 with interests in demography can earn a dual-title Ph.D. or a graduate minor in demography from Penn State’s top-ranked Demograpy program.

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.

HPA students may complete graduate minors in gerontology or demography. An option to complete a dual-title Ph.D. in HPA and Demography is also available.


Students entering the doctoral program are funded through graduate assistantships. Our assistantships provide roughly $20,000 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_Information.pdffor more detailed information.


Our students have obtained tenure-track faculty positions at the University of Alabama, Baylor University, the University of Kentucky, the Medical University of South Carolina, the University of Memphis, the University of Nebraska, and the University of Pittsburgh. Others have opted for private research organizations such as RAND and RTI, or for research positions at the University of California at Berkeley, Duke University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Virginia Commonwealth University. Still others find employment at government agencies such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Congressional Research Service, and the Department of Health and Human Services, or with private-sector firms such as the Henry Ford Health System and Merck, Sharp & Dohme.

Apply to the Ph.D. Program

Application Materials

  1. Three letters of reference
  2. A statement of purpose
  3. Current resume
  4. Standardized test scores (GRE)
    • Institution Code and Name: 2660 Pennsylvania ST U University Park
    • Department Code and Name: 0607 Health Science Administration
  5. One unofficial transcript from each institution attended
  6. Application for a US Visa (international students only)
  7. Official TOEFL score (international students only)

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

Additional Information about the Ph.D. Program

HPA Ph.D. Degree Handbook

Recent Graduates

Current Students

Listing of Current Ph.D. Students

Penn State Student Chapter Of Academy Health News

Penn State Student Chapter Of Academy Health — Fall 2013 Newsletter