Economics - General

Becoming a health economist

2010 American Society of Health Economists (ASHE) newsletter provides some interesting perspectives on becoming a health economist.  There are a number of interesting perspectives on non-academic careers for health economists.  Some excerpts are below:

  • On working for the American Medical Association: “…if freedom is desired to choose one’s research independently,then this would not be a good match…[however] there is no need to obtain external funds to pay one’s salary, and there is no “publish or perish” phenomena. In fact, publishing is neither encouraged nor discouraged. However, if the AMA is interested in a question that is amenable to research, then I can conduct it subject to other demands for my time.
  • On working in litigation consulting: “The projects that economic consultants like myself work upon are often very high profile, and very high stakes. This means that our work rarely involves the application of off-the-shelf models or theories. Rather, each model or theory is typically modified or refined to fit the particular facts of the case…In academics, the audience is principally your students and, through your participation in conferences and your publications, your academic colleagues. My audience consists of business people and lawyers, as well as government officials, courts and juries.”
  • On working at the CDC: “Public health economics…addresses the economic impacts of disease, injury, and disability, the economics of providing public health services, and the economic evaluation of health programs and policies….Unlike academia, there are no teaching obligations, no grant proposals to write, and no tenure review. On the other hand, flexibility and responsiveness are a must because analysts have to address agency priorities….The opportunity to contribute to analyses that can affect public health policies and programs is one of the major motivators for researchers at the CDC.”
  • On working in a think tank.  “The work environment at a think tank is very much like an academic research center without the students and the teaching…In this predominently soft-money environment, senior researchers are responsible for fund-raising for themselves and junior members of the research staff…Individual projects may be researcher initiated or come out of a response to a request for proposals (RFPs).  As a health economist at a think tank, you can expect to present papers at national conferences and submit articles based on your research to peer-reviewed journals.”
  • On working for Pharma. “If you love research, the policy division or market analytics teams conduct data analyses that support products, account managers (for health plans or employers) or lobbying activities and may be the most directly similar to what you know. But they lack independence (topics are limited and ultimately you are expected to support the arguments senior management want to make), and they’re also several steps removed from the core business function. The best learning opportunities are in the business units supporting products (especially pipeline if you want to understand R&D decision-making)– Pfizer’s Market Access teams are a great starting point in that respect.”

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