Although I have recently blogged about new masters programs in global health, as well as a post-doc in global health, I have not posted about doctoral programs. A reader recently asked me to make such a post, so here goes.
To answer the reader’s question, what doctoral program is best for you I think depends heavily on what you plan to do with the degree. I am currently in my final year of my doctoral studies and am “on the market” looking mainly for academic positions that would allow me to continue to teach and research my particular interests in global health. I have made a few observations:
First, I have been somewhat surprised at how few non-academic positions there are that are requiring doctoral qualifications. Most of the more interesting positions that I have thought about applying to seem to be happy with either a masters and a few years of experience or a doctorate, which does lead to the question, why did you do I do a doctorate in the first place? While there is a lot of activity ongoing in global health, so far there is not as many research as perhaps there should be. This could change, hopefully this will change, but I don’t see it yet. The only places that seem to require this are places like the World Bank and the IMF, so if this is where you want to go, then a doctorate is required. PhDs are long and painful, and not necessarily for everyone, so I would give this some careful thought.
Second, global health programs are hot. I can’t get over the number of schools now interested in having a course, or two, or more on global health. This is true at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Plus, there is interest in creating more doctoral type programs. The main shortage appears not to be a lack of interest among students, universities, or donors, but rather a lack of faculty to mentor and teach in this programs. The interest from students and universities is so great, and the lack of faculty is so pronounced that many of the programs don’t seem to care what discipline the professor is from. This might be a good thing in the sense that it means more interdisciplinary environments and more opportunities, but it could also represent a lack of focus. It could also be a sign that there are not enough doctoral programs producing enough qualified professors.
Third, I think it does matter what discipline you have, and that I think it is important that you do the best you can in the discipline you are interested in. If it is economics, you need to be taking very advanced economics courses in your program, and my own observation is that not all programs are currently offering this to their students. This is true for anthropology, sociology, history, and just about everything else as well. My own training has been very rigorous, painful at times, but in retrospect I am now very happy to have had this chance. So to some degree I would say if you really do want to do rigorous academic research in global health, choose a discipline and get a doctorate in the top school in that discipline even if there is no one else there doing global health. It would be great if there was someone at that place who could mentor you. Plus, it would help that if there is a global health related program at your university of choice, so that you can get connected to what is going on in the field through lectures and contacts.
Look to see where students from your program of interest go when they graduate. I find that is perhaps the best way to judge. Do most end up in quasi-research positions in international health organizations? Is that what you want? Do many end up in universities? Is that what you want? Chances are you’ll end up in a very similar position to other graduates in your program.Share on Facebook