Employer Demand for Health Services Researchers in the Year 2020

Private sector growth may create opportunities for health services researchers.

Health services researchers can help control costs, improve quality and promote health. Four skills essential to health services research (HSR) are: 1) writing for diverse audiences, including funding agencies and policy-makers; 2) communicating complex information for lay audiences; 3) quantitative analysis (e.g. cost-effectiveness); and 4) broad knowledge of the health system.

This paper, from a series commissioned by the HSR association AcademyHealth, examined factors that are likely to affect future demand for health services researchers. The authors conducted their own study to assess the types of employers that hire doctoral-level researchers. The authors reviewed summaries of interviews, conducted by AcademyHealth, asking potential employers to evaluate the HSR labor market. In addition, the authors carried out interviews with employers who advertised on the AcademyHealth website in 2007. Other topics include demand for doctoral-level researchers and possibilities for increasing overall demand for health services researchers.

Key Findings:

  • Formal HSR training is valuable; however, employers are willing to hire researchers from other disciplines with relevant experience.
  • Universities and teaching hospitals employed nearly half of health services researchers in 2002, according to an AcademyHealth survey.
  • Federal funding for HSR declined from 2002 to 2007, adjusted for inflation.

This paper examined factors that affect demand for health services researchers. The authors conclude that employers have more flexibility in hiring when demand is stable. As demand increases, the supply of formally trained researchers will be smaller relative to the workforce as a whole.