The Health Services Research Workforce

The number of health services researchers has ballooned since the mid-nineties. Graduate programs are feeding the pipeline of young researchers; it is more common for someone to become a health services researcher early in their career.

Health services research (HSR) is a multidisciplinary field that studies social, economic and technological factors that influence health and well-being. The HSR workforce mixes trained health services researchers with professionals from other disciplines. In 2007, AcademyHealth, the largest professional HSR association, commissioned a series of papers to study the HSR workforce.

This paper assessed three components of the HSR workforce: 1) the number of potential HSR researchers and the proportion identifying as health services researchers (the “core” of the workforce); 2) demographic and employment characteristics; and 3) topics of research. The authors defined the core of the workforce as: AcademyHealth active and lapsed members since 2000, Annual Research Meeting presenters and Interest Group participants, and authors published in two HSR journals. The subset of workers analyzed for this paper was comprised of respondents to a 2007 AcademyHealth salary survey. In addition to salary information, the survey collected demographic, educational and employment data.

Key Findings:

  • The number of health services researchers is 11,596, more than twice the number estimated in 1995 by the Institute of Medicine.
  • The typical health services researcher is a middle-aged, white female.

This paper examined the current supply of health services researchers. The data presented leads the authors to conclude that HSR is a good field of work; they recommend continual data collection that monitors the size and composition of the HSR workforce.