Health informatics is a burgeoning professional field with career opportunities ranging from clinical informatics to health information management. Technology is transforming the modern concept of healthcare and the master’s in health informatics can give you access to advanced career options in healthcare. Whether it’s skill building in statistical modeling or health information security, a graduate degree in health informatics can lead to success throughout the healthcare industry.
To generate this year’s list of the best online master’s in health informatics programs, we examined data from the U.S. Department of Education, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and information from each individual academic program. Schools and universities on this list are all fully accredited.
Health informatics is an emerging interdisciplinary field integrating the study of analytics and information technology, clinical health practice and biomedical science. The master’s in health informatics emphasizes a multifaceted curriculum in health data analytics and research, security and privacy, information technology and administrative practices. This program builds student skills in areas ranging from natural language processing to consumer health informatics. Additional skills taught during an online master’s program in health informatics include:
In both degree options, students master all fundamentals of working in health informatics. Both degree options include coursework in information technology related to healthcare, healthcare management and planning. However, an MBA in health informatics also includes core business classes focusing on finance, accounting, statistics and business management. Individuals wishing to advance their careers in the technical or administrative side of healthcare may benefit from an MBA in health informatics.
Coursework varies by individual program, but graduate degrees in health informatics cover major concepts in health informatics applications, databases, data regulations and security practices. Below is a list of common coursework students may encounter in a Master of Science of Health Informatics program.
This course emphasizes the fundamentals of information security and examines strategic approaches and industry requirements for maintaining data privacy and restricting data access. Students learn about the latest in information security hardware and software, as well as using those tools to ensure data integrity.
This class covers database systems in healthcare settings, including their design, development and implementation. Instruction introduces students to regulations, data compliance and relational database use.
This course provides students with knowledge about basic research methodology in the field of health care and medicine. Major areas of study include bioinformatics, the proper collection and storage of health informatics data and regulated analysis and use of that information.
This course serves as a major overview of the health informatics field, including the study of computer and data use in medicine and healthcare. Students gain an understanding of healthcare data literacy, current data regulations and standards, software applications and health informatics research methodologies.
This class focuses on the principles and practices of public health surveillance, including epidemiology. Students gain practical skills in maintaining patient information through databases and using computer information systems to address issues in public health.
Through this class, students are exposed to health information system’s regulatory, legal and ethical issues. The course emphasizes ethical decision-making in terms of using computer technology for health care services delivery, as well as risk-management strategies to mitigate liability.
Depending on the health informatics program, you might be required to complete a capstone project, thesis or internship. Internships take place in your local community with a partner health organization where you participate in hands-on health informatics projects. Capstone courses are oriented around a research project in a personal or professional area of interest, while the thesis is a long-form research paper that investigates an issue or problem in the health informatics field.
Because of its relatively young age, health informatics is still taking shape as an industry. That means students have the opportunity to specialize their skill sets in a number of arenas, such as health technology or nursing. Before selecting a graduate program, students should consider their career paths to ensure the curriculum matches their academic and skill development needs. Below is a list of potential educational concentrations available in online master’s of health informatics programs.
This specialization covers the fundamental principles and practices of information technology use throughout healthcare, covering topics such as organizational systems, project management and vendor relationships.Health information administration
Students develop knowledge of health informatics administrative and management practices in healthcare service delivery and introduces subject such as information system acquisition processes and consumer e-health expectations.Nursing informatics
This specialization is designed for registered nurses seeking to build skills in information and knowledge management practices and improve the quality of clinical healthcare practices through the integration of technology.Health informatics cybersecurity
In this specialization, students explore the relationship between health information, privacy and computer security, developing knowledge of privacy regulations and security practices in areas such as telemedicine and electronic health records.
The transmission, security and use of information technology in medicine and healthcare has transformed patient care. That change has put a greater emphasis on using data to make clinical decisions and administer and manage healthcare service delivery. With a master’s in health informatics, graduates can make a difference in their chosen specialty, regardless if they have a background in medicine or information technology. Below is a list of potential career paths in health information and healthcare open to those with a health informatics master’s degree.
Clinical applications analysts are specialists that manage the transmission of information between healthcare providers and health information systems (e.g. electronic health records).Data scientist
Data scientists study and analyze large data sets from clinical trials, medical research and other sources to discover patterns and create data-driven analyses in areas such as genomics or disease modeling.Electronic medical record specialist
Electronic medical record specialists handle day-to-day health information, such as patient conditions and treatment, and enter that information into health informatics software for use in patient care or insurance billing.Health informatic director
A senior-level position responsible for managing a health organization’s information systems, handling technology issues and creating health information policies.Healthcare IT project manager
Health IT project managers handle the end-to-end information technology systems and services for healthcare organizations (e.g. hospitals, managed care networks), overseeing technology selection, installation and training.Health researcher
Health researchers conduct use data-driven approaches to technology use in health care in order to discover ways to improve patient care practices.Nursing informatics specialist
Nursing informatics specialists are registered nurses who have specialized skills in managing health information and data systems and work in cross-functional teams to leverage technology to improve patient care plans.
As students plot their career goals, they should also consider joining professional associations and organizations in health data and informatics. These associations manage industry certifications, host annual conferences, provide professional training and development programs, offer scholarships and grants and operate networking events via state, regional and local affiliates.
The AHIMA is a certification organization that provides multiple certification programs in health informatics, training and education platforms and mentoring programs.
The AMIA is a professional organization for individuals in the health information industry that offers educational programs, publishes a journal, hosts conferences and more.
The ANA is an association dedicated to advancing the practice of nursing informatics through education programs, research and policy.
HIMSS is a global nonprofit organization for information and technology professionals that offers multiple certification programs in health information and technology and provides scholarships.
Below are some of the careers that may be open to graduates with a master’s degree in health informatics. Students should note that some of these positions may require additional licensure, certification or experience, depending on the career, employer and job requirements.
|Career||Lowest 10% Earned Annually||Median Annual Salary||Highest 10% Earned Annually||Job Growth 2016-2026|
|Medical Records & Health Information Technicians||Less than $25,810||$39,180||More than $64,610||+13%|
|Medical & Health Services Manager||Less than $58,350||$98,350||More than $176,130||+20%|
|Computer & Information Research Scientist||Less than $65,540||$114,520||More than $176,780||+19%|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
During the past twenty years, health informatics has emerged as a new discipline as technology integration becomes more prevalent throughout healthcare. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was signed into law in 2009 and formalized the use of health information technology in the United States healthcare system. Since that time, the industry has started to mature and has launched a new category of careers that didn’t exist a decade ago. Because of the relatively young age of these roles, employment data is still emerging. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports health information technicians are expected to see 13 percent job growth between 2016 and 2026. Overall, anecdotal information from AHIMA and other health informatics associations points to a rapidly growing industry.
Along with career advancement, a master’s degree can also pave the way to higher career earnings. According to data from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, individuals with a bachelor’s degree in the space earn a median salary of $55,000 while those with a graduate degree earn 45% more annually ($80,000).
Accreditation is an indication of an academic program’s overall quality as it demonstrates the curriculum, instruction and faculty meet nationally recognized standards. It’s first important to distinguish between health information management (HIM) and health informatics (HI). Health information management deals with managing and processing personal health information in healthcare organizations. Health informatics (HI) deals with applied practices to develop information technology systems to advance medicine and medical care.
In health information management, the primary accrediting body is the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). For health information management (HIM) professionals, attending an accredited program is required to sit for certification examinations with the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and other groups. However, health informatics (HI) programs are not required to be accredited at the academic program level.
There is more than one way to pay for a master’s in health informatics degree. The list below shows some options available to master’s students:
Most colleges and health informatics departments/programs provide scholarship opportunities for students. For example, the University of San Francisco School of Nursing and Health Professions sponsors scholarships for health informatics students.
Health informatics associations offer a wide variety of health informatics to students in graduate school. For example, the Health Information and Management Systems Society provides multiple scholarships nationally and through local chapters.
If you’re pursuing clinical informatics, you may qualify for a clinical informatics fellowship sponsored by the American Medical Informatics Association.
You should submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see if you qualify for federal financial aid.