CAREER DEVELOPMENT / NOV. 21, 2014
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How to Become a Health Economist in the US

healthcare money

Health economics deals with the business aspects of running hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Health economists are the professionals behind the programs and policies that help to ensure healthcare facilities provide quality services at cost-effective prices. A master’s degree and superb analytical and problem-solving skills are the tools you need to enter this profession.

What Do Health Economists Do?

The primary duties of health economists include:

  • Conducting research on economic issues in healthcare, such as increasing healthcare costs
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of healthcare policies and government programs
  • Preparing reports detailing the findings of their research and evaluations, and presenting them to relevant users, such as policy makers
  • Advising health administrators on the best financial management practices
  • Helping private healthcare facilities find new markets for their services
  • Helping health insurance providers to develop policies that can meet the needs of various clients
  • Conducting public awareness campaigns to sensitize communities on their healthcare rights

Work Environment

Health economists are mainly based in their offices, where they work from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. Though not often, they travel to attend meetings, industry conferences or meet with doctors and other healthcare professionals.

Salary

The following table highlights the average annual salaries for health economists:

Occupation

Annual Average Wage

Health Economist

$82,000

Source: Indeed

Entry Requirements

The road to becoming a health economist begins in undergraduate school, where you must earn a bachelor’s degree. Although you can pursue a degree in any business or healthcare field, the following disciplines can give you the best preparation:

  • Health management
  • Business administration
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • Health education
  • Mathematics
  • Statistics
  • Public health

The next step is to pursue a master’s degree in health economics. Many universities generally prefer applicants with an undergraduate degree and an interest in public health. Popular universities offering this credential include:

  • John Hopkins University, Maryland
  • University of Southern California, California
  • Duke University, North Carolina

Upon graduation, you will be well placed to be hired as a health economist.

Important Qualities

To become a competent health economist, you will need:

  • Strong analytical skills
  • Strong research and problem-solving skills
  • A good knowledge of the U.S. health care industry
  • Good strategic-thinking skills
  • Good planning and organizing skills
  • The willingness to stay abreast of changes in national economic policies
  • Good communication skills
  • A high level of attention to detail

Career Development

In knowledge-intensive professions such as health economics, professional certifications and advanced qualifications are the best career advancement tools. Here are the best qualifications you can obtain:

The American Society of Health Economists also offers membership opportunities, which is an ideal way to connect with other economists.

Job Opportunities

The employers of health economists include:

  • Health agencies
  • Health insurance companies
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Large health care facilities
  • Publishers of health journals
  • Government departments

With experience, you can be hired as a senior or lead economist. A PhD will open doors for employment in colleges and universities, where you will be able to instruct future health economists.

Finally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a faster-than-average (14 percent) job growth for all economists between 2012 and 2022.

So if you are ready to influence the delivery of better healthcare services without being a primary care practitioner, then health economics could be the ideal profession for you.

 

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