University of Nebraska Medical Center

Program Details

Academic Progress

Students must maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 for all courses completed for the PhD. Failure to maintain a 3.0 GPA will result in suspension or termination from the PhD program. In order to graduate, students must also pass a comprehensive exam and the final defense of their dissertation. The study period is expected to be four to five years if the student is admitted to the program with a related master’s degree (e.g., Master of Health Administration, Master of Public Health) and five to six years if the student is admitted to the program with a bachelor's degree. Students are also expected to fulfill the residency requirement (at least one-half of the course requirements, other than dissertation, must be completed within a consecutive eighteen-month period, with the further provision that the courses be taken after receipt of the Master’s degree or its equivalent)

Comprehensive Exam

Once students complete their course work, they must pass a comprehensive exam in order to move on to the dissertation research stage. The student’s Supervisory Committee will determine the contents and format of the comprehensive exam. The comprehensive exam will be designed to test students’ knowledge and skills related to the program curriculum as well as the core competencies of health services research, administration, and policy.

Degree Requirements

Students can enroll in the PhD program in Health Services and Policy Research program with or without a prior master's degree (Master of Public Health, Master of Science, Master of Arts, or equivalent degree in public health, policy, management, or related fields from a college of university that is accredited by a recognized accreditation authority). Enrolled students are required to complete the following curriculum.

Dissertation Research

After passing the comprehensive exam, students must conduct and successfully defend their dissertation research by working with their Supervisory Committee. Generally, students are expected to complete their dissertation research within two years. This PhD program is a research-oriented degree program; therefore, a high standard of dissertation research that complies with the core competencies of the health services research discipline is expected. Although not required, students studying in this program are encouraged to complete and/or publish some research products (e.g., peer-review journal articles, policy briefs, or reports to public health agencies) before their graduation from the program.


Graduate assistantships are awarded to doctoral students on a competitive basis. The intent of the graduate assistantship is to provide financial support and professional development. The decision to award a graduate assistantship is made by the Health Services Research and Administration Graduate Program Committee and is based on the student’s academic and prior work performance and available departmental funding for assistantships. Doctoral students in the HSRA Department who are awarded graduate assistantships are required to work 20 hours per week on assigned projects under the close supervision of a faculty supervisor. Assistantships are not guaranteed and are renewed annually based on student performance. The Health Services Research and Administration Graduate Program Committee, in consultation with the department chair and the student’s faculty supervisor and academic advisor, makes renewal decisions for graduate assistantships. Additional information about funding options can be found on the UNMC Graduate Studies website.

Program Competencies

Graduates of the PHD in Health Services and Policy Research program should be able to:

  • Compare and analyze alternative theoretical and conceptual models from a range of relevant disciplines to health services and policy research.
  • Design solutions for health policy problems based on knowledge of the structures, performance, quality, policy, and environmental context of health and health care.
  • Critically evaluate evidence, synthesize findings, and draw inferences from literature relevant to health services and policy research.
  • Create and evaluate appropriate interventional (experimental and quasi-experimental) or observational (qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods) study designs to address specific health services and policy research questions.
  • Appropriately interpret the results of data analysis and discuss their implications for policy and practice in order to support decision-making in health services and policy.
  • Produce manuscripts, reports, and oral presentations and develop other communication modalities to effectively communicate findings and implications of health services and policy research to technical and lay audiences.

Supervisory Committee

Each student is required to form a Supervisory Committee. The chair of the Supervisory Committee will serve as the student’s primary mentor during the study period. Students are expected to work together with the chair of their Supervisory Committee to identify other committee members. A Supervisory Committee will consist of at least four graduate faculty members (including the chair), with at least one faculty member coming from outside of the Department of Health Services Research and Administration. The main responsibility of the Supervisory Committee is to provide guidance and approval for the student’s doctoral study, including the course work plan and dissertation research. The Supervisory Committee is also responsible for developing, administering, and grading the student’s comprehensive examination.

Transfer Credit Hours

The Health Services Research and Administration Graduate Program Committee may approve transfer of elective courses from previous institutions. The decision on transfer credit hours is made after the student has matriculated into the PhD program and is reviewed by the committee by the end of the student’s first year in the program. Students who have completed a Masters in Public Health or Masters in Health Administration from an accredited (CEPH or CAHME) program in the U.S. are allowed to transfer credits up to a maximum of half of course work (ten courses), provided the course was taken no earlier than seven years before entry in to the program, and the student has earned a B or higher.