Preparing the Health Services Research Workforce

Master’s degree programs in health services research are emerging in schools that primarily train professionals in the allied health services.

When important health services research (HSR) projects arise, the HSR workforce absorbs professionals from clinical practice or those engaged in unrelated social inquiry activities. There are no standard training requirements, however, for health services researchers.

This paper is a qualitative review of HSR training programs for college graduates and working professionals. The paper is from a series that assessed whether the HSR workforce is adequate to meet the nation’s needs. The authors conducted informal telephone interviews with representatives from training programs listed by AcademyHealth, a professional organization of HSR researchers. The authors searched dissertations within the University of Michigan’s Proquest system using the keyword “health services.”

Key Findings:

  • The core curriculum of most HSR programs includes an orientation to research methods and theories of knowledge generation, measuring the quality and quantity of research, and comparative effectiveness reviews.
  • The Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program, operating in four schools, prepares physicians for careers in health policy and academic medicine.
  • Few HSR training curriculums have data management courses, creating a gap in the education of the HSR workforce; there will be a need for data management and analysis skills as new research produces larger, more complex datasets.

The first HSR training centers were started in the late 1960’s; from 2006 to 2007 the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ), a government agency, allocated approximately 18 million dollars to HSR training. This paper reviews HSR training programs and estimates the size of the current HSR workforce.