PhD in Health Policy

Health policy is an interdisciplinary field that examines the organization and financing of health systems and services; the impact of health policies on population health; and the economic, social and behavioral determinants of health. It involves the investigation of all systems that affect population health, not just the medical care system. The purview of health policy is global.

The mission of our program is to prepare students for research careers in health policy and health services research; teaching; and public service in university, governmental and public policy settings. This program is distinguished by its interdisciplinary application of the social and behavioral science disciplines to real world health issues. Graduates are prepared to play lead scientific roles in addressing the many challenges facing health care and public health systems in the United States and countries around the world.


Students must successfully complete a health services research readings and methods seminar (two semesters), five specialty field courses, three research methods courses and three core courses in other health policy specialty fields (aside from the student’s designated specialty field).

The program includes three specialty fields:

  1. The health economics specialty field draws on economics, epidemiology and statistics to understand the causal relationship between different aspects of health and the health care sector. With an emphasis on quantifying relationships, health economics covers a broad range of study areas including health production, demand and supply of health services, health care financing, behavioral responses to institutional or policy incentives, policy evaluations and other efficiency, and equity issues surrounding health.
  2. The organizations and management specialty field trains scholars in organizational behavior and political behavior in regards to health. Theories and methods in organizational sociology, political science and social psychology are central to the study of health organizations. Specialty field courses in macro-organizational theory, micro-organizational theory and organizational analysis of the health sector are required. This specialty field emphasizes the management of health care and public health organizations and systems, the implementation and dissemination of policies and practices within and across organizations, and the role of policy-making institutions as platforms for the creation and modification of health policies.
  3. The population health sciences specialty field trains students for research careers in the social, behavioral and economic determinants of health and the study of interventions, policies and practices that impact the health of populations and vulnerable communities. This specialty field emphasizes addressing the social and behavioral determinants of health through quantitative and mixed methods research informed by theories and methods in economics, psychology, demography and social epidemiology.

Students have access to all of UC Berkeley’s disciplines and professional schools, in addition to UCSF faculty and research programs. This is a full-time program geared for careers in academia and research and students typically complete it in four to five years. Our program is administered by Berkley Public Health and the doctoral degree is granted by UC Berkeley’s Graduate Division.

Graduates can achieve and demonstrate expertise in the following major academic outcomes:

  • Develop domain expertise in core works in health policy and the selected specialty field.
  • Understand central social science theoretical frameworks and debates shaping health policy.
  • Demonstrate substantive knowledge of the specialty field sufficient to design and teach graduate-level courses in that field.
  • Demonstrate the ability to conduct rigorous quantitative research.
  • Plan and conduct independent research using advanced research methods.
  • Demonstrate the mastery of academic and grant writing, conference presentation, IRB procedures and ethics in research.
  • Foster cohesion and intellectual exchange among students and faculty across the university to enhance interdisciplinary research and training.


A master’s degree is not a requirement for this program, however, entering students should have completed introductory coursework in statistics, microeconomics and epidemiology. Students without master’s-level coursework in these areas are required to take relevant courses at UC Berkeley or otherwise demonstrate mastery of these areas.


Graduates are well-prepared to assume academic careers in research and teaching. Many of our graduates move directly to positions in academia, government or research organizations. Other graduates receive postdoctoral fellowships to continue specific training in their area of interest and research.

Admissions Statistics

7% 2017-2018 Admissions Ratio (8/107)
3.62 Average undergraduate GPA of admitted applicants
3.86 Average graduate GPA of admitted applicants
82% Average Verbal GRE scores of admitted applicants
88% Average Quantitative GRE scores of admitted applicants


Core Health Policy PhD Program Faculty

The core PhD program faculty members of the School of Public Health, the Haas School of Business, School of Social Welfare, the Goldman School of Public Policy, and the Departments of Economics, Sociology, and Political Science.

Emeriti Faculty

Emeritus faculty of the Health Policy Faculty Group are Professors of the Graduate School and may serve on dissertation committees as Chair, inside members, or as an Academic Senate Representative. Their availability to students, however, may be limited compared to core faculty group members.

Joan BloomJames Lincoln
Ralph CatalanoThomas Rundall
Lee FriedmanRichard Scheffler
Teh-Wei HuStephen Shortell
Todd LaPorteLonnie Snowden
Ronald Lee
UCSF Affiliated Faculty

Affiliated UCSF health policy faculty can serve as co-chairs and as additional members of dissertation committees.

Affiliated Faculty

Faculty who are affiliated with the doctoral program play a contributing role for PhD students. Many of the affiliated faculty teach courses that are part of the core curriculum and serve as graders of specialty field exams. Most importantly, they serve as Academic Senate Representatives of qualifying exam and dissertation committees.