A Career in Health Policy

Health policy is a segment of the health care industry that works to influence and improve individual and public health through enacting specific goals or legislation. Professionals in health policy conduct research, evaluate laws, identify challenges and weigh the costs and benefits of proposed initiatives.

By pursuing a Master of Public Health (MPH), you can choose to focus your studies in health policy and address the need for expert problem solvers and critical thinkers who are dedicated to improving public health at the highest levels of the health care industry.

What Is Health Policy?

Health policy drives positive changes in health care through the decisions, plans and actions undertaken by public and private organizations. As health care continues to change and evolve due to the rampant innovation of technology, health policy continues to be one of the most important aspects of health care delivery.

Professionals in health policy typically perform these occupational functions:

  • Identify current or impending challenges and then work to improve, replace or create new policies that address the issue at hand.
  • Collect and leverage statistical data used to inform decision making, critical analysis and policy creation.
  • Forecast and anticipate political, economic and social trends that will affect the integrity of the health care industry.
  • Share and distribute critical information, research or data through publications or media outlets.
  • Consult or advise organizations and corporations to make decisions about policy law or procedures.

How Do I Become a Health Policy Professional?

Health policy professionals can begin their careers with an undergraduate education that includes courses in political science, economics, public policy, public health, government and related fields. Ideally, aspiring health policy professionals will have a sound understanding of political and clinical concepts.

There are various roles in the health policy field, the most common being a health policy analyst. Health policy analysts compile and review data, generate ideas and implement solutions to the greatest challenges facing the health care industry. They facilitate the progress and development of new public health initiatives to safeguard people from epidemics, political injustice and ineffective legislation.

Those who earn a public health degree with a focus in health policy may also be interested in other occupational capacities such as:

  • Political Scientist
  • Health Insurance Specialist
  • Senior Analyst
  • Health Policy Associate
  • Health Legislative Aide
  • Senior Policy Manager
  • Management Associate
  • Program Specialist
  • Social Scientist
  • Political Coordinator

The required educational background for health policy professionals depends on the employer and the analyst's work experience. Although a career in health policy does not technically require a graduate degree, a health policy analyst is generally expected to hold a master's degree, or even a Ph.D. Earning either of these degrees will provide aspiring health policy analysts with in-depth analytical skills such as evaluating legislation, gathering qualitative and quantitative data and creating evidence-based reports that are presented to internal or external stakeholders.

A master's in public health from an accredited school of public health, like the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University, will provide aspiring health policy analysts with an advanced skill set, internship experience and access to health care leaders in Washington, D.C. — the center of health care legislation and policy creation.

Where Do Health Policy Analysts Work?

Health policy analysts may work in both public and private organizations or institutions. Many professionals in the field research, analyze and solve health policy issues in:

  • Health care delivery systems
  • Legislative and executive branches of state and federal government
  • Health insurance companies
  • Trade associations
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Drug and device manufacturers
  • Think tanks
  • Private sector consulting firms

Why Become a Health Policy Analyst?

Aspiring health policy professionals fascinated by the idea of gathering data, analyzing future outcomes and making critical decisions in an effort to improve the health of populations around the world may be interested in pursuing a career as a health policy analyst.

Growth and Salary Outlook for Health Policy Analysts

For professionals looking to enter the health care industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), all health care occupations are projected to grow 14 percent from 2018 to 2028 much faster than the average for all occupations, adding about 1.9 million new jobs. 1

Depending on their research specialty, workers who analyze policy may be categorized as political scientists. Employment of political scientists is projected to grow 5 percent from 2018 to 2028, and their median annual wage was $117,570 in May 2018. 2 3

The BLS also reports that workers who analyze policy for the federal government usually must have a solid understanding of the different political factions, their interests and interactions. They should also have strong communication skills so that different political branches can find agreement. Many are at the GS-15 level, which currently pays about $106,595 to $138,572. 4

Learn More About MPH@GW

Located in Washington D.C., the nation's hub of health policy, the George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health (SPH) is the No. 12 public health school in the country. 5

MPH@GW offers students part-time or full-time completion tracks with an option to earn their degree online in as little as 12 months. Students also have the opportunity to tailor their curriculums and concentrate their electives in public health disciplines such as health policy and management.

Fully accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), MPH@GW enables students to advance their public health careers online from a top-ranked school without relocating.