What Is a Health Informatics Master's Degree?
Health care informatics refers to the intersection of the health care industry with computer science and data science. A master’s degree in health care informatics helps students develop the skills they need to pursue data-centric careers in health care and health management, such as researchers, analysts, and information specialists. Health care informatics is an interdisciplinary field that draws on a range of disciplines, including medicine, software engineering, bioinformatics, data science, information technology, business, and more.
Master’s degrees in health informatics typically take around two years of full-time study to complete. Students who choose to pursue a master’s degree at a part-time pace may take longer to complete the program. Applicants with any academic background may apply for this degree, but familiarity with statistics or computer science can be helpful. Some programs may require entrance exams, like the GRE, or a certain minimum GPA.
What Are the Branches of Health Informatics?
Health informatics is a larger umbrella discipline that includes many subdisciplines. Some branches of health informatics include the following:
- Clinical informatics
- Consumer health informatics
- Dental informatics
- Nursing informatics
- Pharmacy informatics
- Public health informatics
Students may choose to focus on one or more of these branches during their studies, and depending on their chosen school, they may be able to take a concentration in that field. The skills involved in these branches are similar, but students may develop familiarity with and competency in different areas of health care that will prepare them for careers in this area of specialization.
Is Clinical Informatics the Same as Health Informatics?
Clinical informatics and health informatics are similar — and sometimes the terms are even used interchangeably — but there are a few important differences between these two terms. You can think of health informatics as a broader umbrella term, which encompasses clinical informatics as well as other types of health informatics, such as nursing informatics or pharmacy informatics. Clinical informatics, on the other hand, refers specifically to using data in order to support the clinical decision-making process.
Can You Get a Health Informatics Degree Online?
It’s possible to get a health informatics master’s degree online. Pursuing an online degree can be a good fit for students who have other family or career responsibilities, those who don’t live near a school that offers degrees in this field, and those who prefer the convenience of online learning.
Students interested in an online degree in health informatics should make sure that the school they enroll in is accredited. Accredited schools are reviewed by an independent third party to ensure that they meet certain educational standards. Students should also review information including cost, scholarship and funding opportunities, and student satisfaction ratings.
Financial Aid for Online Master's Students
Most students applying for an online master’s degree in health informatics from accredited schools will be eligible for financial aid. This aid may take the form of grants, student loans, scholarships, and more.
In order to apply for financial aid, students should fill out the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.
Health informatics is an interdisciplinary field that draws on disciplines including medicine, computer science, data science, and more. The study of health informatics includes both theoretical and practical knowledge concerning how health care and information technology intersect.
Introduction to Health Informatics
As the name suggests, this course introduces students to the field of health informatics, along with foundational concepts and ideas related to the discipline. Students learn about the intersection of data and health care, the history of data in medicine, the design and implementation of information technology in health care, and current trends in health informatics. Students may be asked to use the skills they develop throughout this course in a variety of real-world applications.
Electronic Health Records
Electronic health records are an important component of health informatics; in this course, students learn how computer-based health records systems work. They also learn about health information privacy and confidentiality, data modeling and visualization, relevant legal issues, and more. Students are also often exposed to current research regarding the efficacy and benefits of implementing electronic health records in a clinical setting.
Faculty expose students to concepts surrounding databases and data science in this course, especially as they relate to medicine and health care. Students learn about the management and analysis of data in a health care setting, knowledge modeling, and SQL queries while also gaining some practical experience in creating, analyzing, and maintaining databases.
Designing Consumer Health Technologies
Based on current theories and best practices in health informatics, human behavior, and data science, students learn how to create new consumer health technologies. Designing Consumer Health Technologies is an advanced course designed to give students experience generating and implementing design ideas for health care technology.
Introduction to Biostatistics
This course provides students with a foundational understanding of biostatistics, which refers to the intersection of statistics with life sciences. In particular, students explore the statistical methods and principles used to collect and analyze health-related data — including sampling, correlation, and regression.
What Can I Do With a Master’s in Health Informatics?
Students wondering if health informatics is a good career choice can rest assured by the fact that it's a growing field with a variety of different specializations available. Those who graduate with a master’s degree in health informatics can pursue careers at the intersection of health care and data science. Below are some common career options in this field, but it's important to note that none of these jobs require a master's degree:
Annual Median Salary: $98,860
Database administrators are responsible for creating and maintaining databases. In the health care industry, database administrators may oversee databases of medical records and health care information. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for jobs in this field is projected to grow by 8% over the next decade, which is on par with the growth rate for all occupations.
Annual Median Salary: $101,340
Medical and health services managers oversee and coordinate operations within a health care facility or department. This role typically includes both management and administrative duties, and it requires familiarity with the latest developments in health care technology and business practices. According to the BLS, these jobs are expected to increase by 32% over the next decade, which is significantly faster than average. It means that approximately 51,800 new job openings are projected each year through 2030.
Annual Median Salary: $100,910
Data scientists are responsible for analyzing and interpreting data to provide meaningful information. In the health care field, data scientists work with health care-related data, including patient records, medical information, and insurance claims.
Annual Median Salary: $55,560
Health information technologists design, develop, and modify health care information systems. Similar to medical records and health administration specialists, they ensure that records are accurate, secure, and easily accessed by other medical professionals.
Is Health Care Informatics in Demand?
As health care and data become more and more intertwined, health care informatics workers are increasingly in demand over the next decade. Demand for most jobs in this field are expected to increase at either an average or higher-than-average rate. For example, the jobs of medical and health services managers are projected to increase by 32% over the next ten years, as indicated above.
Benefits of a Master's in Health Informatics
There are a variety of benefits to pursuing a master’s degree in health informatics. First and foremost, this degree helps prepare students for well-paying positions in an in-demand industry. Jobs in the health care informatics field are especially well-suited to students with aptitudes for data science and computer programming who are also interested in working in the health care field but may not want to study medicine or work with patients directly.
A master’s degree in health informatics may not be the best fit for students who are uncomfortable working with data or interested in a career with more face-to-face interactions with patients or customers. While online degree programs in health informatics can satisfactorily prepare students for jobs in this field, some students may benefit more from an in-person learning environment. That said, for most students interested in pursuing jobs in the field of health care informatics, an online master’s degree in this discipline is a great way to learn practical skills in order to advance their careers.
Which Is Better Health Informatics or Bioinformatics?
Health informatics and bioinformatics are two different but related disciplines:
Health informatics refers to the intersection of health care and data science more broadly, and it includes a variety of different branches, including bioinformatics as well as clinical informatics, nursing informatics, pharmacy informatics, and more.
Bioinformatics specifically refers to the intersection of data science and biological data, which can be used, for example, to develop new drugs.
Determining which course of study is right for you depends on your interests and what career paths you want to pursue. A degree in health informatics is broader and will prepare students for careers in a variety of different health care adjacent disciplines. Bioinformatics, on the other hand, is a more specific degree that has a stronger emphasis on biology, chemistry, and genomics.
Students interested in health informatics may benefit from joining professional organizations during or after their studies. These organizations can help students expand their peer network, gain certifications, and stay up-to-date on current practices. You may consider joining the following organizations in this field:
A master’s degree in health informatics helps to prepare students for data-related careers in the health care industry. Health informatics jobs can span a variety of different subdisciplines, including nursing informatics, clinical informatics, pharmacy informatics, and public health informatics, to name a few.
Pursuing a graduate degree in this field is one way that students can make themselves more competitive and obtain advanced positions in this industry. With the demand for jobs in health informatics expected to grow over the next decade, students with an online master’s in health informatics will be well-positioned to take advantage of this burgeoning field.