Health economist

Health economists use their knowledge of economics and healthcare to evaluate how resources are used within the health service. By analysing statistics and using data models, they influence public health policy to help improve patient care.

Starting your career

Choosing subjects at school

To get on a college or university course that could lead to a career in health economics, useful subjects include:

  • Economics
  • Accounts
  • Statistics
  • Business Management
  • Sociology
  • English
  • Maths
  • Administration and IT

Work placements and volunteering

You’ll find it helpful to get some experience of working in healthcare by doing a work placement. There may also be opportunities to volunteer. This could help you when applying to university, college or a new job with NHSScotland. 

Apprenticeships

Foundation Apprenticeships

A Foundation Apprenticeship could help you gain new skills and valuable work experience.

Learn more about the Foundation Apprenticeship in Business Skills.

Find out more about apprenticeships at apprenticeships.scot.

College and university

Most universities accept a wide range of qualifications, giving you the option of applying directly from school or going to college first.

At college, you could do an HND in Business, Business Management or Social Sciences. With an HND, some universities may let you start your undergraduate degree in year 2.

Widening participation supports adult learners who want to go to university. If you’re an adult with few or no qualifications, you could get into higher education through the Scottish Widening Access Programme (SWAP).

Many universities also provide access programmes to help you get the degree entry qualifications you need.

To become a health economist, you’re likely to need a degree in:

  • Economics
  • Medical or Health Sciences
  • Public Health
  • Mathematics
  • Statistics
  • Actuarial Studies

For most health economist jobs in the NHS, you’ll also need a postgraduate qualification in Health Economics or a Health Technology Assessment (HTA). For some roles, a PhD in Health Economics may be required.

For related further and higher education courses, search on My World of Work. You should check specific entry requirements before applying.

The role

Health economists analyse data, make assessments and provide advice on the cost-effectiveness of medicines, medical devices and diagnostic tests for the NHS. They also evaluate the benefits of new or proposed public health policies to the health service and the public.

What you'll do

Tasks include:

  • work with Health Boards to support their decision-making by developing economic models and using statistical analysis
  • work alongside clinicians, pharmacists, and researchers to assess the uncertainty around clinical evidence
  • research information from different sources, including websites, databases, focus groups, journals and other publications
  • write reports and delivering presentations
  • provide quality assurance and validate the work of other health economists in the team

Top skills

You’ll need these skills:

  • problem-solving
  • critical thinking
  • data analysis
  • communication
  • risk assessment
  • decision-making

Who you'll work with

Health economists usually work with a broad range of healthcare professionals, including:

  • information scientists
  • clinicians
  • pharmacists
  • health care managers or service planners
  • health service researchers
  • statisticians
  • medical writers
  • project managers
  • administrative assistants

Working environment

Health economists normally work in an office but may need to travel to meetings, workshops and conferences in other locations.

Learning and development

During your career as a health economist, you’ll need to make sure your specialist economic knowledge is kept up to date by:

  • being aware of developments in the field of health economics
  • attending training courses
  • taking part in knowledge-sharing events or networks

Gaining additional qualifications could lead to more senior roles, such as senior health economist. Some health economists move on to senior management or planner roles in the NHS or market access roles within the pharmaceutical industry.