MS in Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy

The USC graduate program in Health Economics offers a Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy. This MS program is offered jointly with the Department of Economics and the USC Price School of Public Policy . Master’s students are trained to use pharmacoeconomics and assessment techniques in practical decision-making environments such as managed-care pharmacies, third-party payers and government agencies.

A distinguishing characteristic of the USC Master’s Program in Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy is the degree to which students are actively engaged in publishable research, either as the lead author or as a secondary author in collaboration with a faculty member.


Admission Requirements

Graduates with PharmD, MD, MPH or bachelor’s degrees in economics, statistics, public health, health services research and other related fields are encouraged to apply for the MS program. Individuals with experience in the health care field are particularly welcome.

The department’s Graduate Review Committee for the master’s program considers applications based on the following conditions:

Preparatory Course Work

Students are encouraged to have completed upper-division courses in statistical methods, calculus and microeconomics prior to entering the program.

Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Score

A minimum combined GRE score of 300 (verbal and quantitative) is encouraged.

Overall Grade Point Average (GPA)

A minimum GPA of 3.0 (A=4.0) is required. Special attention may be given to the grades achieved most recently in courses relevant to our program (e.g., statistics, economic analysis, health economics and quantitative analysis).

Letters of Recommendation

Three reference letters from faculty or supervisors with knowledge of the applicant’s academic performance and intellectual capability are required. The letters should provide a clear assessment of the applicant’s experience in the health care field, analytical ability, motivation, creativity and potential for future advancement.

TOEFL Scores for International Students

A minimum of TOEFL score of 550 for the paper-based test, 213 for the computer-based test, 90 for the IBT test (with none of the four sections below 20) or a 6.5 on the IELTS (International English Language Test System), with no less than 6 on each band score, is required for admission. Higher scores are given priority for consideration of teaching and research assistantship should funds for this form of financial support become available.

Deadline for Submission of Application Materials

The admission application deadlines are January 1 for the fall semester. This program admits new graduate students on a two-year cycle with new classes admitted in even-numbered years.

Graduate Program Online Application

Financial Aid

Limited sources of support, including the department’s research funds, may be available depending upon external grants awarded.

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Jeffrey McCombs
Director of Graduate Studies
Titus Family Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Economics + Policy
University of Southern California
School of Pharmacy
Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics
3335 S. Figuerora Streeet, Unit A
Los Angeles, CA 90089-7273
Phone: (213) 821-7941
FAX: (213) 740-3462

Requirements for Degree Completion

Academic Content

The program requires basic coursework in economics, epidemiology, research design and data analysis, and policy analysis. Upon the completion of this foundation, candidates then continue with coursework in health economics, pharmaceutical economics and pharmaceutical policy. Courses in each of these areas encourage students to develop projects in which pharmaceutical economics and policy skills can be applied. In many cases, candidates will be expected to work closely with faculty by participating in collaborative research projects.

MS Requirements

The MS in Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy requires 36 units of graduate-level courses. This program has been designed to allow a full-time student to complete the degree within two years, although part-time students can take as long as five years. Normally, a full-time graduate student course load is three full courses or their equivalent per semester, with a four-course maximum.

Grade Requirements

A grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0 (on a scale of 4.0) must have been achieved on all graduate work, as required by the USC Graduate School.

Recommended Courses

The following courses are recommended for completion of the MS in Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy. In order to satisfy the econometrics requirement, students should pass ECON 414 or a more advanced course in econometrics, depending on their background in econometrics.


  • ECON 414 Introduction to Econometrics (4 units)
  • ECON 500 Microeconomics Analysis of Policy OR PPD 501 Public Sector Economics (4 units)


  • PM 512 (elective) Introduction to Epidemiology and Demographic Methods (4 units)

Research and Methods Policy Analysis:

  • PMEP 509 Research Design (4 units)
  • PM 511A Data Analysis (4 units)

Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy:

  • PMEP 519 Survey Research and Quality of Life (4 units)
  • PMEP 529 Probability and Preferences (4 units)
  • PMEP 538 Pharmaceutical Economics (4 units)
  • PMEP 539 Economic Assessment of Medical Care (4 units)

Total Credits Required: 36

Research Paper Preparation

The student is required to complete a research paper that demonstrates the candidate’s ability to apply pharmaceutical economics and policy analysis skills in a challenging topic area. The topic for the paper will be negotiated with the student’s faculty advisor during the first year of study.

Course Offerings

USC Course Catalogue

  • For Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy (PMEP) courses, see School of Pharmacy.
  • For Preventive Medicine (PM) courses, see Keck School of Medicine.
  • For Public Administration (PPD) courses, see the School of Policy, Planning and Development.
  • For Economics (ECON) courses, see the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Schedule of Classes

For course availability for the current year see the Schedule of Classes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I took the GRE exam some time ago. Are my scores still valid for admission to this program?
A: GRE scores are good for two years. Additional information about GRE scores can be obtained from the Graduate Student Affairs Office at

Q: I have not taken any economics before. Do I have to have microeconomics before I apply?
A: You are encouraged to have completed an upper-division course in microeconomics for admission to the program. You should also have taken calculus and have a research design background.

Q: Do you offer any fellowships or support to students in the master’s program?

A: No.

Q: Can the master’s program be used as stepping stone for the PhD program?
A: The master’s program can be used to start the PhD process; however if you are interested in the PhD program, it is recommended that you apply for it directly. The master’s program is oriented toward the application of pharmacoeconomic analytic methods, while the PhD program is oriented toward the development of new theory and empirical research in the field. Up to 20 units or credit from the MS program can be applied toward the doctoral degree.

Q: Are there a lot of PharmD students in the master’s program?
A: Many entering students have a PharmD or other clinical degree.

Q: What are the job prospects after graduation?
A: Most alumni work in either the pharmacy industry, consulting or managed care.

Q: I have a strong research background. Will that help me in the program and in my future career?
A: Your research background would provide you with some excellent credentials, which should help you both in the program and after graduation.

Q: Does the admissions committee accept both GRE and GMAT scores?
A: No, the committee only accepts GRE scores.

Q: Do students have opportunities for internships?
A: Students may be placed in internships with managed care and drug companies during their first summer.

Q: Do you have an extension program where I can just take one or two classes before taking my GRE to see if I really like the program?
A: Although the School does not have an extension program, students are welcome to take a couple of classes before officially enrolling. You would be able to transfer the credits (up to 12) into the MS program (as well as the PhD program).

Q: Would it be possible to use any of the MS classes toward a PhD?
A: Twenty courses in the MS program are transferable to the PhD in Pharmaceutical Economics.

Q: What is the difference between your MS and PhD programs?
A: The MS is more applied, while the PhD is more theoretical in orientation. The PhD takes four to six years to complete while the MS takes two years to complete as a full-time student.

Q: Do you have minors in the MS program (e.g., epidemiology, biostatistics?)
A: The program does not include any minors, but most students take additional coursework in biostatistics, which is taught in the same building.

Current Students and Graduates

The first cohort of graduate students was admitted into the master’s and doctoral degree programs in the Fall of 1994. Since that time, the program has graduated 70 MS and 25 PhD degree students with two ABD doctoral students working full time in the pharmaceutical industry. The majority of graduates work in the pharmaceutical industry (33), consulting (9), HMO/PBMs (23), academia (6) and government (6). The program currently has a cohort of 14 doctoral students and an incoming class of 12 doctoral students and 7 MS students starting Fall 2012.

A distinguishing characteristic of the graduate program is the degree to which our students, faculty and alumni are actively engaged in publishable research. A list of faculty, student and alumni abstracts for the ISPOR meeting in June 2012 follows. USC students have won at least one of the 6 ‘best student poster’ or ‘best student podium’ presentation for the last 11 years at the ISPOR annual meeting.

Current Students in Residence

MS Program starting in Fall 2012

  • Yuchen Ding, BS in biological pharmacy, Huazhong Univeristy, Wuhan, China and MS in biochemistry, USC
  • Xiayu Jiao, BA in business administration (pharmaceutical marketing), Pharmacy University of China, Nanjing, China
  • Darshan Mehta, B.Pharm and MBA in pharmacy technology, Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai, India
  • Leela Nagar, MS in biochemical engineering and biotechnology, Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi, India
  • Ning Ning, China Pharmaceutical University



  • Henry Lee, Kaiser Permanente
  • Yawen Jiang, PhD student


  • Sara Zolfaghari, PriceSpective
  • Karen Chu, VA Los Angeles
  • Jerry Chang, Pharmedquest


  • Phil Wiegand, Pharmerit
  • Danielle Colayco, Allergan
  • Nazia Rashid, Kaiser Permanente
  • Nhu (Josephine) Tran, VA Long Beach


  • I-Ning (Elaine) Cheng, MedPartners
  • Flavia Ejzykowicz, admitted to the PhD program
  • Hsing-Yen (Monica) Ho, Pharmaceutical manufacturer in Taiwan
  • Irwin Tran, Genentech
  • Jennifer Wang, Wellpoint
  • Zhengyi (Jenny) Zhou, admitted to the PhD program


  • Gustavo Aranda, MS, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, Inc
  • Lauren Lee, MS, Eli Lilly
  • Thomas Marshall, MS, Abbott Labs
  • Pamela Vo, MS, Abbott Laboratories
  • Sharon Wang, MS, MedImpact


  • Arie Barlev, MS, Amgen
  • Patrick Bonnet, MS, GE Healthcare
  • Sangeeta Narayan, MS, Baxter Bioscience
  • Vashali Patel, MS, Allergan
  • Juliana Setyawan, MS, Shire Pharmaceuticals
  • James Spalding, MS, Astellas
  • Ivy Mihara, MS, VA-Long Beach
  • Yanni Fan Yu, MS, Boehringer Ingelheim


  • Lida Etemad, MS, Ingenix
  • Pankaj Patel, MS, GE Healthcare
  • Bimal Patel, MS, Med Impact
  • Kimberly Sterling, MS, Eli Lilly


  • Morgan Bron, MS, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, Inc
  • Robert Charles, MS, Prescription Solutions
  • Kristina Chen, MS, Analysis Group
  • Jackie Wagner-Letourneau, MS, Sav-on Drugs
  • Elaine Yu, MS, Genentech


  • Michael Cattaneo, MS, Pfizer
  • Anna Purdum, MS, Genentech
  • Yongtae Oh, MS
  • Rebecca Cheng, MS, Private Consulting
  • Hung Du, MS, Mortgage Broker
  • Caroline Burk, MS, Consulting
  • Michelle Ping-Luo, MS, Baxter Bioscience


  • Ramon Lyu, MS, Merck-Shanghai PRC
  • Angelo Mathes, MS, Consulting
  • Annie Ogostalick, MS, Abbott Laboratories


  • Rita Hui, MS, Kaiser Permanente
  • Kevin Livengood, MS, Wellpoint
  • Rima Totah, MS, Synergy Med. Comm., Inc
  • T. Jeffrey White, MS, Wellpoint
  • Julie Hutchinson, MS, Kaiser-San Diego
  • Trisha Nguyen, MS, VA-West Los Angeles


  • Karl Barnum, MS, retired
  • Craig Cheetham, MS, Kaiser Permanente
  • Jennifer Sung, MS, Norvatis
  • Francesca Venturini, MS, University Hospital-Italy


  • Karen Bailey, MS, Centocor, Inc
  • Robert Gerber, MS, Pfizer
  • Robert Popovian, MS, Allergan