McMaster University

McMaster University

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs for Prospective Applicants to the Health Policy PhD Program

Q) Where can I get information about the program?

Details on the focus of the program, curriculum, faculty members, admissions requirements, financial support, and more are available through the Health Policy PhD Program website. Essential information is published in the current McMaster Graduate Calendar. In addition, the Program's Handbook provides an overview of supplemental policies and procedures followed by the Health Policy PhD Program.

We recommend that you identify yourself as a prospective applicant by sending an email to so that we can send you additional information if necessary. After you have familiarized yourself with the basic features of the program as described on the website, you may address administrative questions to the Program Assistant and more specific questions about your background, interests, and course of study to your prospective faculty supervisor.

Q) Do I have the right type of Master's degree for this program?

This program is designed to accommodate students from diverse, multidisciplinary educational backgrounds. Your previous graduate training should have some relevance to the field of health policy and your planned area of study. You can explain this relevance in your statement of interest.

Q) Can someone in the Health Policy Program pre-review my qualifications for admission?

We can answer general questions about admissions criteria, but we regret that we are not able to provide you with a detailed assessment of your own particular case. If you apply to the program, the staff and faculty time required to make a careful assessment is part of what is covered by your application fee.

Q) I am a qualitative researcher — may I have the statistics course requirement for admission waived?

The Health Policy PhD curriculum requires breadth as well as depth training in methods and theory of the field. This prepares our graduates to understand diverse types of information and to collaborate productively on interdisciplinary research. As part of the curriculum, qualitative researchers must take some quantitative methods coursework, and vice versa. A graduate level statistics course is prerequisite for many doctoral level quantitative methods courses. Completion of at least one graduate level statistics course is a requirement in advance of this PhD program.

Q) Which Master's degree should I pursue if my ultimate goal is a Ph.D. in Health Policy?

The Health Policy Ph.D. is designed to accommodate Master's-trained individuals with diverse backgrounds. Potentially relevant Master's programs in Canada are too numerous to list. Students should compare the curriculum of their chosen Master's program with the curriculum and admission requirements of the Health Policy Ph.D.

At McMaster University, several potentially relevant Master's programs include, but are not limited to: Economic Policy, Health Research Methodology, Globalization Studies, Geography, Engineering and Public Policy, and many disciplinary Master's degrees (Economics, Political Science, Sociology, Anthropology, History, Philosophy, etc.).

Q) May I enroll in the Health Policy PhD program on a part-time basis?

No. Full time students may work up to 10 hours per week in paid employment, but are expected to spend the balance of their time on their doctoral studies.

Q) Must I identify a faculty supervisor before applying to the program?

Yes. It is highly recommended that you identify at least one prospective supervisor before you apply to the program. It is also helpful to identify alternative supervisors in case your first choice is not available. If you are admitted, your prospective supervisor will be involved in developing your offer of admission, including arrangements for funding, teaching, research and course waivers.

Q) How should I approach a faculty supervisor?

First, review the faculty members' biographies and read some of their publications to determine whose work is compatible with your interests. Second, send your chosen faculty member(s) an email or letter introducing yourself, stating your interests (a paragraph or two), and highlighting the potential fit between your interests and the faculty members' research area. It is helpful to attach your CV.

Q) Am I limited to the faculty supervisors listed in my chosen specialty field (health economics, political studies, or social organization)?

No. Your primary supervisor should be a faculty member in the Health Policy PhD program, but many of our faculty members are appropriate supervisors for more than one specialty field. Please contact the supervisor of your choice to discuss the fit between your specialty field, your interests, and your supervisor's area of expertise.

Q) Will I be able to study my specific topic area of interest?

The Health Policy PhD curriculum focuses on general theory and methods that can be applied to a wide range of problems in the health policy field. Students work with their supervisors to apply these tools to the topics of their choice in dissertation research and coursework. Topics for example might include but are not limited to: public participation, professions, knowledge transfer, global health, environment, resource allocation, health system reform, clinical policy, population health, public health, health research policy, technology assessment, health policy ethics, provider institutions, etc. The student's dissertation topic must be approved by his or her faculty supervisor and supervisory committee. Prospective students should review the research programs of participating faculty members and find possible supervisors whose interests are compatible with their own.

Q) Does the Health Policy PhD program accept international students?

We welcome applications from international students. However, due to funding constraints at this time, we are able to accept only a very limited number. Most of our sources of student financial support are limited to Canadian students, so we encourage international applicants to arrange their own funding for tuition, fees, and living expenses if possible.

Q) I am an international student, and cannot tell whether my graduate marks meet the A- grade average requirement. Can you help?

Translating foreign transcripts into Canadian grade equivalents can be complicated. McMaster's School of Graduate Studies has expert staff and systems for doing so, but these are available only for processing paid applications. If you would like to assess your own transcripts, we recommend you contact the registrar of your former university (or a university in the relevant country) for their guidance on translating their marks into Canadian equivalents.

Q) Must I write the GRE or other exam to apply?

No. However, if English is your second language, your TOEFL score will be required as part of your application.

Q) What can I do to enhance my chances of acceptance to the program?

Admission to the Health Policy PhD program is competitive, and qualified applicants may be turned away due to limited space in the program. Provided that you meet the academic qualifications for admission, you may improve your chances of acceptance if you also do the following:

  • Approach prospective supervisors prior to applying, establish that you share common research interests, and determine whether there is a faculty member interested in supervising and supporting you as a doctoral student.
  • When you approach faculty members, demonstrate high competence in all your informal interactions. To make a positive impression, your emails and other correspondence should demonstrate that you are able to gather and understand relevant information from available sources (such as the program and university websites), are able to follow instructions, and can communicate well and write excellent English. These are all essential qualities in a prospective graduate student.
  • Spend plenty of time writing your statement on interest. In particular, articulate a vision for the kind of work you hope to do with your Ph.D. in Health Policy. You are encouraged to demonstrate your innovative and resourceful attributes.

Q) For what kinds of careers does a Ph.D. in Health Policy prepare me?

Graduates can expect to be qualified for relevant academic appointments in fields such as: Public Health, Health Studies, Management, Health Administration, Business Administration, Public Administration, Community Health, Clinical Epidemiology, Public Policy, Health Services Research, Faculties of Health Sciences, Schools of Medicine, and others.

Outside of academia, graduates holding a Ph.D. in Health Policy will find leadership and research opportunities in nongovernmental organizations, industry, governments (federal, provincial, regional, or local), professional associations, research institutes, consulting agencies, healthcare organizations, postdoctoral & research fellowships, foundations, and more. The specific career paths appropriate for specific students will depend, of course, on the students' topics and methods foci, dissertation research, interests, etc.

Q) How does the online application work?

Once you have completed your online application through Mosaic, uploaded all your supporting document, and submitted your application fee the system should provide you with a confirmation receipt. An automated email will be sent advising you to forward all your official transcripts to the program by the deadline date. Please note: In addition to the two letters of reference, a Confidential Report on Applicant for Admission is required and must accompany each letter. You can access the "Confidential Report" found on the "How To Apply" page of the web.

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