HERC: Hiring a Health Economist
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Hiring a Health Economist


The Health Economics Resource Center offers training and consulting services to VA health economists and VA researchers needing health economics expertise. Due to the great demand for health economics expertise, HERC economists do not ordinarily respond to requests for consulting assistance by becoming involved as co-investigators on projects.

To help build a community of health economists, HERC maintains a list of health economics experts listing their geographic locations and areas of expertise. Researchers who are planning a study can use this list to find a health economist to include in their funding proposal.

In general, health economists are difficult to recruit. Health economists may obtain their PhD from a university economics department, or from a public health school within a health services research program. Because health economists are recruited by the pharmaceutical industry, medical schools, and other professional schools, starting salaries tend to be higher than those for other health services researchers. Government research centers have had more success in hiring health economists when the position is associated with an academic appointment or the opportunity to conduct independent, peer-reviewed research with the possibility of publication in the academic literature. Experienced health economists can be difficult to recruit at current government salary levels.

The best place to advertise for economists is the "Job Opportunities for Economists", also known as JOE, a web site operated by the American Economic Association. This online employment site is free to job seekers, and supported by fees from employers advertising positions.  To find an economist with expertise in healthcare, the advertisement should be sure to identify the health as the economic specialty. The Journal of Economic Literature Classification is "I1-Health".

New PhD economists look for work beginning in October of the year prior to their graduation, and it important to submit an advertisement by October in order to receive applications to interview candidates in person in early January at the American Economics Association meeting. Details about the meeting may be found at the AEA web site. Many new PhD economists go to this meeting for job interviews. Employers then invite their selected candidates for an on-site visit to present a seminar and be more extensively interviewed; job offers are tendered in the early spring, and then the market closes until the next year.

The International Health Economics Association also lists job openings in the job listings page on the IHEA web site. Job listings e-mailed to IHEA at the address given on the job page will be listed at no charge.

Information about jobs for health services researchers with economics expertise may also be found from AcademyHealth. Employers may advertise open positions on career center page on the Academy web site. There is a small job market at the AcademyHealth's Annual Research Meeting in June Employers list jobs, and job candidates provide their resumes. Binders with job listings and resumes may be reviewed at the meeting. The complete binder may be purchased after the meeting is over.

Health economics jobs are occasionally listed in publications by the American Public Health Association, the American Journal of Public Health, and the Nations' Health. Ads are expensive, as these are widely circulated publications. APHA also operates a web based career service, which lists both employer and job candidate information. The International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research and the Society for Medical Decision Making also have web sites that may have  job listings.

Letters of Support

Helping researchers who are writing research proposals is one way HERC fulfills its mission of improving the quality of VA health economics research. HERC can provide information about cost data, methods, cost-effectiveness analysis, study design, and other issues. HERC does not actually design or perform analyses for this type of assistance.

HERC does not typically write letters of general endorsement for a proposed study or its methods. Short turn-around times provide little chance for us to review finished proposals in a timely manner. Moreover, HERC does not want to be perceived as the organization that evaluates the scientific quality of proposals with economics; that is the role of the peer review committee.

HERC can write letters that describe HERC products or services needed for a particular study. For example, we can describe the availability of the HERC average cost data set, and whether it will be useful in answering your study questions.

Individual HERC investigators who are directly involved in designing and carrying out a study may write a letter of support for their collaborator's proposal; however, in these cases, it is more likely that they will be listed as a funded co-investigator.