The Berkeley Ph.D. Program

What is Health Policy and why study it?

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 investigation of all systems that affect population health, not just the medical care system. The purview of health policy is global.

Ph.D. Program Description

The mission of the Berkeley PhD 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. It is expected that through their research, teaching, and provision of expert advice, graduates of the PhD program will 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. The PhD Program is distinguished by its interdisciplinary application of the social science disciplines to real world health issues.  The Ph.D. program s is a small interdepartmental academic program which has 25-30 students at various stages of completion. This is a four-to-five year full-time program of study with a residency requirement (no online or distance courses available). Students who complete all requirements receive a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the Graduate Division of the University of California, Berkeley.


The reputation of the HSPA program at UC Berkeley has become well-established as one of the leading doctoral training programs for health policy and health services research.  From its inception over 20 years ago, one of its distinguishing features has been its interdisciplinary nature. Students gain breadth in the social sciences as they relate to health and in research methods; furthermore, they gain depth in one of the disciplinary areas: health economics, organizations and management, politics and policy, or population health.

The program is administratively located in the School of Public Health. The Doctor of Philosophy degree is granted by the Graduate Division of the University of California, Berkeley.

Graduates of the PhD program will be able to 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 a specialty field sufficient to design and teach graduate level courses in that field.
  • Demonstrated ability to conduct rigorous quantitative research.
  • Plan and conduct independent research using advanced research methods.
  • 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.

Graduates of the Berkeley PhD program  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, while others receive post-doctorate fellowships to continue specific training in their area of interest and research.