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School of Public Health
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PhD Program in Health Services

Frequently Asked Questions


We define health services research broadly, to encompass research into the social determinants of population health as well as research into cost, quality and policy aspects of the provision of medical services, prevention and health education. Health services research is the process of generating new knowledge and understanding through development of new theory and empirical evidence, as well as the original synthesis of existing theory and evidence, regarding one or more of the following areas:
  • the delivery, financing, management, and organization of health services
  • the social and economic factors that contribute to population health and health disparities
  • health promotion, prevention and health education.
Health services research is instrumental in the advancement of population health and in the improvement of policy, management, and practice within the health services domain.


Admission priority is given to applicants with high academic standing, generally with GRE scores in or above the 80th percentile (in all three categories), a graduate GPA of 3.7 or higher, and an undergraduate GPA of 3.5 or higher. GRE scores should be no older than 5 years. Applicants who have a bachelor, master, or professional degree in a field related to health services and public health (e.g. epidemiology, health services, biostatistics, health economics and other social behavioral sciences, etc.) are particularly competitive and given preference over applicants who do not have such experience. We consider all applicants who apply, however, those who meet the above qualifications are more competitive.

The UW requirements for TOEFL and other English language proficiency tests are available here.
In a typical year, we receive 70-90 applications, and admit 7-8 new students.
The program does not accept transfer credits. There is a possibility to waive out of certain courses in the program. However, a waiver is not guaranteed, and arrangements are coordinated once the student is enrolled in the program.

Otherwise, incoming students' coursework is determined by their past experience with statistics and epidemiology. If a student has already taken these courses (and did well in them), they start with the advanced courses. Sample schedules can be found on our website.

If you have received an MPH from the UW, that will put you in a good position to finish our PhD program more quickly than if you had not.
The PhD program in Health Services requires all applicants to submit GRE scores. We make no exceptions, even MDs and people with several degrees need to submit GRE scores. There is no established requirement for a minimum GRE score. However, the scores are heavily considered in granting admission and applicants in or above the 80% percentile are considered competitive.

Unfortunately, GRE scores submitted past the December 15 deadline will be too late for consideration. The admissions committee reviews applications soon after the deadline. If you were to apply without GRE scores, the competitiveness of your application would be significantly reduced and/or considered incomplete.

You may submit your application at any time up until the December 15 deadline. GRE scores are submitted to the University of Washington, code 4854, at which point they are matched with your electronic application. Therefore, you can submit your application first and your GRE scores later. However, please ensure that ETS sends your GRE scores as close to the deadline as possible. Otherwise, if your application goes to review without GRE scores, it will be considered less competitive.

If your GRE scores are going to expire soon, your best strategy is to ask ETS to submit your scores to the University of Washington. These stay in the UW system for at least a full year. They're saved in an electronic file called "unmatched test scores." Once you apply, the scores automatically match up with your application and we're able to have access to them. Once you actually submit your application to our program, it's likely that your GRE scores will link up with your application.

GRE scores are submitted to the University of Washington, code 4854. We do not have separate codes for departments or school. All scores are sent to the one code, and then matched with the applicant once the online application is complete. The scores are sent to the UW, and ETS provides students with the school code. The ETS website is If you don't see your scores on your online application in the next couple days after submitting them, try calling UW Graduate Admissions at 206-543-5929. They administer the online system and can help you with this matter.

The PhD program will not accept the GMAT in lieu of the GRE.

Admission Timeline

Applications are due December 15. Please see Admissions Process for more information.
All applicants will be notified of their status by early March. Some admissions decisions are made in early February.
No, our program does not offer admission deferrals. If you have received an offer of admission and are unable to attend, you will need to reapply for a future term. Please note that receiving an offer of admission one year does not guarantee admission in a later year, and we therefore encourage applicants to think carefully about their timing before submitting an application, and before deciding whether to accept or decline an offer of admission.


If spaces open up for students from the wait-list, applicants will be notified one by one, not all at once. All applicants will receive a final decision prior to April 15.
We will attempt to let you know your admission status as soon as possible, but please keep us posted if you have not heard from us in a timely fashion and need a faster response, and we can attempt to expedite the process.
Enrollment restrictions limit our ability to accept all qualified applicants. However, your application was favorably reviewed, and we would like to offer you admission to the program, if space permits.
No. The decision to make offers of admission from the waitlist will be determined by availability of space in the incoming class, as well as by program fit, mentor, and funding considerations.
You may send additional materials if you would like, and they will be shared with the Admissions Committee and added to your application file, although this will not necessarily increase your chances of receiving an offer.

If you are ultimately denied admission to the program and have additional questions about how to strengthen your application to re-apply the following year, please contact the Student Services Counselor (

International Applicants

We welcome applications from international students, but the small size of our program poses several limitations. One such limitation is that we do not have standard sources of funding for international students. International applicants who have completed graduate work in the U.S. are more competitive than those who have not. International applicants are encouraged to submit their applications by Nov 1.

Regrettably, we cannot guarantee support for international students. We sometimes have research assistant positions on faculty grants, and international students can be funded on these. But this is unpredictable and rarely can be arranged until the student is enrolled. Our other sources of funding are pre-doctoral fellowships, which are federally funded and open only to US citizens and permanent residents.

The UW Graduate School offers an extensive list of FAQ's for international students.

Financial aid information can be found via this link.

Additional information about funding for international students may be found on the fellowships page.

Undocumented Applicants

We accept applications from undocumented applicants. The Graduate Opportunities and Minority Achievement Program (GO-MAP) offers application guidance and resources.

Information about Leadership Without Borders can be found at this link.

Special Admission Cases

Most students in our doctoral program have a master's degree of some kind when they enter the program. Although we have admitted some students with only a bachelor degree in the past, this is relatively unusual for us. Successful applicants whose highest degree is a bachelor's generally have exceptionally strong applications, including significant research experience.

Sometimes students with a bachelor's degree apply to our PhD Program and tell us that, if not admitted, they would like to be considered for the Master of Science (MS) program.

Otherwise, you may consider applying to one of our master's programs as a backup, since you can apply to multiple programs at the same time (each application requires a separate application fee). Our master's programs are detailed on the website.
Any UW medical student can seek to do a PhD in Health Services concurrently at UW. The applicant would need to apply to the PhD Program and be competitive in all the usual ways. The admissions committee does not give preference for being enrolled at UW. It is recommended that someone relevant in your MD program supports your career goal in combining the two degrees concurrently. You would ultimately need to get the approval of the MD program (academic dean) to pursue this if found competitive. You should talk about your plans with relevant PhD faculty before applying. It's not easy to do this concurrently, so the admissions committee is usually only enthusiastic about admitting very strong candidates likely to do excellent research for which our program has mentors.
It may be possible to take certain courses as a non-matriculated student. Read the information on GNM/NM registration and contact the PhD Student Recruitment Specialist at to discuss your options.

Program Information

Most students will graduate in four years. Students who have completed the core courses at entry may be able to graduate in three years. Time to graduation is also dependent on the type of dissertation project the student pursues.
This program is full-time, and we do not have distance or partial-distance options. It is particularly important for students to live in Seattle during the first 2-3 years of the program to complete required courses. Afterward, students do have some flexibility in moving farther away, although this can prove challenging to their progress and may slow down the dissertation phase.
The content of the PhD program in Health Services focuses on the organization, financing, and delivery of health care in the U.S. Students engage in coursework in epidemiology, biostatistics and advanced methods in health systems research. There is relatively little content about health care in other countries. The program strives to produce graduates who are capable of independent research in the U.S., generally in academic, research, or federal institutions.

The required courses do not contain in-depth content on health care delivery in other countries. Most, if not all, of the financial support that we have for students come with the requirement that students focus their doctoral work on U.S. topics. We have admitted some students with global health interests into the program in the past, but finding financial support has always been challenging and this has limited our ability to admit students in this area.

The Department of Global Health offers a PhD program. Please visit their website, or feel free to contact Dane Boog to learn more, at

Financial Information

Most students finance their education through a combination of traineeships, research/teaching assistantships, loans, and grant support.

The goal of the Department of Health Services is for each PhD student to have sufficient financial aid to support their scholarship. The Admissions Committee matches incoming students with funding, and looking at these funding sources may help you determine your best funding match. We will work with each student to put together an aid or work package which meets their particular needs.

Our main sources of funding are predoctoral fellowships in the areas of Health Services Research, Biobehavioral Cancer Prevention and Control, and Occupational Health Services. You may learn more about these opportunities here. We have other sources of funding, too, including research assistant-ships (RAs), but these sources are not guaranteed and vary from year to year.


We would be delighted to have you visit the Department of Health Services PhD Program. Although we don't offer tours specific to Health Services, the University of Washington offers tours of the campus at large. If interested, please visit this link to view the options.

We encourage visitors to schedule appointments with faculty directly. One way you may determine faculty who share your research interests is by viewing the faculty bios on the web. Another way you may determine this is by reviewing our areas of emphasis. Each student must choose an area of emphasis after the first year of the program. In looking at these, you may see where your best fit is and contact the faculty lead to learn more about current research activities and opportunities for student involvement.

The PhD Program and the Department of Health Services are in the H-wing of the Magnuson Health Sciences Building. Please visit this link for a building map, directions to the nearest parking lot, and directions to the Department.
The protocol for sitting in on courses is to email the instructor beforehand to ask for permission. They generally are fine with having prospective students there, but do like to anticipate it.

Courses can be found on the time schedule via this link (be sure to indicate the correct quarter and year).