Earning a Master’s in Health Informatics Online

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Healthcare facilities store and exchange information electronically, which provides an ongoing need for information security. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects medical records and health information technician positions to grow 13% between 2016 and 2026, a rate faster than average. This statistic indicates ample professional opportunities for candidates who study healthcare and technology.

Health informatics programs combine technology and healthcare to educate students about data management, information exchange, and analytics for the field. Students learn about and gain hands-on experience with technology used in medical offices, especially with regards to sensitive patient data. Health informatics programs address concerns in policy, health insurance, and law. Students develop interpersonal and leadership skills, traits that apply to healthcare, but that also relate to external data administration and computer networking positions.

Student Profile: Who Earns an Online Master’s Degree in Health Informatics?

Students who choose a master's in health informatics online may have a background in healthcare, technology, or nursing. Individuals from other disciplines can also enter the health informatics field with this degree. Typically, students pursue a master's in health informatics to advance or change their career path. A master's can also qualify learners for high-level positions or jobs as postsecondary educators at certain schools.

Candidates may enroll in specializations that relate to particular careers, licenses, and certifications. Learners may also consider a master's while pursuing a graduate certificate, since coursework overlaps between the two options.

Why Get a Master’s Degree in Health Informatics?

Pursuing Specialization

A health informatics online degree may offer concentrations such as health technology, clinical informatics, health administration, public health, and health policy. These concentrations deliver specialized preparation for specific health informatics careers. For instance, health administration coursework prepares learners for medical and health services management positions. Specializations may also relate to non-healthcare careers, such as a health technology focus that educates learners about computer systems analyst concepts.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Students who earn an online master's of health informatics may qualify for advanced field positions. These higher positions typically deliver higher pay, but come with more responsibilities. Certain companies also prefer candidates with graduate degrees. For example, medical and health services managers may only need a bachelor's, but organizations often lean toward applicants with a master's, such as an online master's in health informatics.

Online Learning Technology

Obtaining an online degree in health informatics introduces learners to basic software and technology. For instance, learners become familiar with Microsoft Office, which is widely used in office environments. Online students also explore virtual communication and electronic information delivery by posting on forums, virtually submitting assignments, taking online assessments, and performing online research. These elements can help prepare degree seekers for electronic data management positions.

Prerequisites for Online Health Informatics Programs

Admission requirements vary between health informatics programs. Students should check with their desired schools to determine exact needs. Common requirements, however, include the following elements.

    • Work Experience: Some online degrees in health informatics require at least one year of work experience. This experience, however, proves valuable even if programs do not require it. As an example, some departments award credit for prior work and life accomplishments. Candidates working in the field also build professional relationships for recommendation letters and references.
    • Exams and Test Scores: Schools may require Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores earned within the last five years. Score expectations vary by institution. Colleges and universities may offer GRE waivers for certain accomplishments, such as a high GPA. Other required exams may include the Graduate Management Admission Test.
    • Coursework: Admission to an online health informatics degree program typically requires a bachelor's. Some programs do not specify a discipline, while others insist on degrees in related fields, such as information systems or healthcare management. Departments may also require a minimum GPA, often 2.75-3.2. Applicants may need prerequisite coursework in certain areas, including medical terminology.
    • Recommendations: For an MS in health informatics online, candidates may need two to three recommendation letters or references from employers, professors, or community leaders. Departments may specify topics to address in these letters, such as work ethic and strength of character. Applicants should give letter-writers at least two weeks to construct these documents.
    • Essays: Admissions departments may require essays on personal accomplishments, field interests, or career goals. Applications often specify word or page counts. Schools may also require statements of purpose, letters of intent, or previous assignments for writing samples. These works provide schools with insight on applicants' professional potential and writing abilities.
    • Interviews: Schools may interview candidates in person, online, or over the phone after an initial screening of applicants. Some institutions may only interview degree seekers who are pursuing scholarships. Many online master's in health informatics programs do not require this step. Together, these factors mean a high percentage of applicants do not undergo interviews.
    • International Students International students may need to take an English proficiency exam, such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language or the International English Language Testing System exam. Schools may also require an evaluation of international credits from an organization such as the Educational Credit Evaluators. Additional requirements may include eligibility for a visa and proof of financial ability to pay tuition.

How Much Can I Make with a Master’s Degree in Health Informatics?

Salaries for health informatics professionals vary by career. For example, computer and information systems managers earn more than twice as much as health informatics specialists, based on median salary. Annual earnings also vary based on location. Medical and health services managers, for instance, earn more in the District of Columbia than in any U.S. state. Overall, medical and health service managers in the 10th percentile obtain a median of $58,350 per year, while candidates in the 90th percentile earn $176,130.

Candidates should consider earning a master's to increase their earning potential, help with career advancement, and move into nontraditional careers.

Traditional Careers for Master's in Health Informatics Graduates

Careers Stats Description

Medical and Health Services Managers

Median Pay: $98,350

Job Growth: 20%

These managers oversee health services, with consideration given to legal regulations, organizational goals, and economics. Responsibilities include training employees, recordkeeping, and building schedules. These management professionals include nursing home administrators, clinical managers, and health information managers. Ideal candidates boast communication and technological skills, as well as strong attention to detail.

Health Informatics Specialists

Median Pay: $60,217

Job Growth: N/A

Health informatics specialists research, select, and oversee technological systems for companies. These professionals must consider laws and policy, troubleshoot technological problems, and train employees for improved practice. Candidates should think creatively, understand computer networks, work well with others, and boast strong communication skills.

Computer Systems Analysts

Median Pay: $88,270

Job Growth: 9%

Computer systems analysts help organizations meet their goals and improve their operations by implementing and updating technology. This process involves exploring new technologies, considering costs, and selecting applicable software and hardware. Analysts may work in software quality assurance or programming. Candidates should communicate well, think creatively, stay up-to-date on new technology, and excel at problem-solving.

Computer and Information Systems Managers

Median Pay: $139,220

Job Growth: 12%

These managers help create companies' technological objectives, and then take steps to accomplish those goals. Career responsibilities include managing software and hardware, maintaining network privacy, and considering system costs. Managers may oversee other professionals, such as software developers and computer systems analysts. Candidates should boast competency with technology, communication skills, and leadership abilities.

Source:Bureau of Labor Statistics/PayScale

Nontraditional Careers for Health Informatics Graduates

The skills gained while earning a health informatics online degree can also apply to careers in other fields. In particular, information exchange and data management concepts relate to positions in network architecture and computer systems analysis. Candidates also develop leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills helpful for careers as executives and administrators.

Career Stats Description

Top Executives

Median Pay: $104,700

Job Growth: 8%

Top executives determine company policies and make choices on organizational budgets. Responsibilities involve selecting department leaders, attending board meetings, and pursuing contracts. These positions include chief executive officers, operations managers, and executive directors. Online degrees in health informatics prepare for these positions by training learners on administration and information exchange, especially in the technology and healthcare sectors.

Skills Overlapped: Candidates should have communication, technological, and problem-solving skills.

Database Administrators

Median Pay: $87,020

Job Growth: 11%

These professionals oversee databases that contain private information and backup files. These administrators consider technological needs and help companies modernize databases by integrating new information. Additional tasks may include approving network users. Health informatics programs cover the same data administration topics necessary for these positions.

Skills Overlapped: Necessary skills include database languages, technological knowledge, analytical ability, and communication.

Computer and Information Research Scientists

Median Pay: $114,520

Job Growth: 19%

Computer and information research scientists create new technology and discover new ways to utilize existing software and hardware. Candidates may develop new tools and computing strategies in areas such as robotics, programming, and data science. Concepts covered in health informatics programs, such as information exchange, apply to these careers.

Skills Overlapped: These scientists need problem-solving skills and strong knowledge of existing information technologies. They must also pay attention to detail.

Environmental Scientists and Specialists

Median Pay: $69,400

Job Growth: 11%

These specialists investigate issues, such as air pollution, to find solutions that benefit people and the environment. This process includes conducting surveys, gathering samples, making policy suggestions, and planning solutions. Coursework on data management and information exchange can prepare students for research-based careers such as this.

Skills Overlapped: Candidates should think analytically, hold strong research skills, effectively collect and assess data, and propose innovative solutions to problems.

Source:Bureau of Labor Statistics

Paying for an Online Master’s in Health Informatics

Tuition rates differ among programs, but often follow certain guidelines. Public schools, for example, frequently charge less in tuition than private institutions. At public schools, in-state students typically pay less in tuition. Degree path also impacts costs. For instance, part-time learners require more semesters to complete an online health informatics degree, and consequently pay more in fees. If colleges do not offer a tuition guarantee, tuition can rise each year, which leads to a more expensive degree. To help manage tuition costs, candidates can explore field-specific financial aid.

Scholarships for Online Health Informatics Master's Students

Students pursuing an online master's in health informatics must pay for tuition, fees, and textbooks. However, they usually avoid commuting costs and living expenses that on-campus students must pay. Financial aid, including scholarships that do not require repayment, can help learners cover these costs. Students receive these funds based on merit, financial need, location, and discipline. Health informatics majors can explore the following scholarships.

What to Expect from a Master’s Level Online Health Informatics Program

Often, health informatics master's programs require 40-52 credits. Students can complete these requirements in two to three years through synchronous or asynchronous coursework. Synchronous classes meet at set times, while asynchronous classes allow learners to complete coursework on their own schedule. Departments commonly require internships and practicums, along with capstones or theses. These elements, however, vary by institution, so students should explore multiple programs to find options that complement their scheduling and academic needs.

Major Milestones

  1. Capstone

    Just before graduation

    Capstones can take several forms. For instance, students may complete presentations on preapproved topics or submit portfolios of previous coursework. Departments may also administer comprehensive examinations.

  2. Thesis

    Just before graduation

    To complete a thesis, learners must submit a topic for approval, conduct research, and write a paper that often exceeds 50 pages. Some programs may require students to orally defend their work in front of a committee.

  3. Internship/Practicum

    Late in program

    Departments assign or approve locations for fieldwork and may require candidates to submit reports after completing the experiences. Learners pursuing a master's in health informatics online often fulfill these requirements near their homes.

  4. Research Licensure/Certification

    Throughout the program

    Students should research licenses and certifications that relate to their intended careers and work toward those credentials as soon as possible. For instance, a student interested in a bachelor's-level license can pursue fieldwork while earning an online master's in health informatics.

  5. Apply for Doctorate Program

    Last year in program

    Some careers mandate a doctorate. For instance, many universities require doctorates for teaching positions. Candidates should apply early for these programs since departments keep strict deadlines, and applications may take weeks to complete.

  6. Apply to Graduate

    Last year of program

    Students should fill out graduation applications during the final program year. Schools may require a graduation fee, which is typically under $100. Departments may also require surveys or portfolios for an online master's in health informatics.

Coursework

Curricula for a master's in health informatics online varies among programs. However, common courses, such as the following options, address policy, administration, legality, and technology in relation to healthcare.

American Healthcare System

Candidates explore policy, economics, and structure for American healthcare systems and compare these details with international healthcare structures. Coursework may address healthcare issues, such as public health and payment options, to prepare learners for health informatics careers in the U.S.

Introduction to Health Informatics

These courses address the relationship between technology and healthcare during treatment. Covered topics may include information organization, electronic data management, treatment choices, and information exchange. This diverse array of topics prepares students for may different health informatics careers.

Health Information Exchange

Students explore information exchange between different healthcare institutions, including acute care and long-term care organizations. Courses may address handling information such as health records, financial information, and prescriptions. Computer systems analysts in healthcare may benefit from this course.

Legal, Ethical, and Social Issues

Coursework prepares learners to notice and rectify legal, ethical, and social problems in healthcare. Degree seekers study healthcare regulations that relate to informatics, along with privacy, intellectual property, and antitrust laws. Learners may examine case studies to explore these issues and learn about problem-solving strategies.

Information Systems and Technology Management

These courses address computer networks, software, and programming concepts as they relate to health informatics. Students may explore network architecture and information systems to prepare for careers as computer systems analysts or computer network architects in healthcare.

Degree Timelines

Students should pursue programs that meet their scheduling needs. For instance, a full-time worker with a family can enroll in a part-time program, while candidates with more free time can choose full-time or accelerated opportunities.

Enrollment Status Time to Complete Description

Part-Time

3-5 years

Part-time students take six or fewer credits per semester. Since health informatics master's programs often require 40-52 credits, enrolling in six credits per term leads to six to nine semesters. Taking three-credit terms extends this time frame. Candidates who need flexible scheduling or lower per-semester tuition may choose these programs, provided they can commit additional years to obtaining a health informatics online degree.

Full-Time

2 years

Full-time candidates for an online master's in health informatics take at least nine credits per semester. Programs that call for 40-52 credits require four or five semesters at nine credits per term. Ideal full-time students can commit significant time to academia. These learners need a strong work ethic to balance full-time coursework with other responsibilities, such as work and family commitments.

Accelerated

1 year

Accelerated health informatics master's programs often follow a 4+1 format, allowing candidates to pursue a combined bachelor's and master's in five years. This amounts to one year for the master's. Ideal learners for these programs should boast a strong work ethic and time management skills to handle an advanced course load.

Licenses and Certifications

Licenses and certifications verify candidates' knowledge and skills within the field. These certifications often require field experience and passing scores on exams. Employers do not always mandate these credentials, but may show preference to applicants who earn them. Some careers, however, may require certifications connected to products. For instance, database administrators may need software certifications based on software the company uses. Licenses and certifications may also help professionals advance into higher positions.

    • Certified Professional in Health Informatics: This certification for health informatics professionals requires a bachelor's or master's, and may also call for one to two years of experience. Candidates must pass a multiple choice exam on concepts such as data reporting, data analysis, and project management. Applicants pay $246-$311 to take this exam.
    • Certified Health Informatics Systems Professional: This credential from the American Society of Health Informatics Managers verifies candidates can help medical facilities transition to electronic data management. Applicants must complete the group's Health IT Professional training or possess three years of related experience. Applicants must also pass a multiple-choice exam that includes150 questions on topics such as computer science and healthcare regulations.
    • Certified Associate in Healthcare Information and Management Systems: The Certified Associate in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CAHIMS) requires a high school diploma. Applicants must pass theCAHIMS exam, which includes over 100 multiple-choice questions. This certification verifies candidates can function well in technical health informatics positions.

Professional Organizations & Resources

Organizations host conferences and events where candidates can explore health informatics concepts and network with professionals. These groups publish journals that address field topics, and also provide training and courses that fulfill continuing education requirements for licenses and certifications. Organizations can also provide their own certifications and licenses. Through these organizations, candidates gain information on available positions and build relationships that lead to recommendation letters. For these reasons, graduates with an online master's in health informatics should consider membership with related organizations, including the following opportunities.

  • American Medical Informatics Association: Candidates can network with professionals and gain field insights through the association's events, including the Informatics Summit and the Clinical Informatics Conference. The group also publishes the Applied Clinical Informatics journal, which addresses field concepts.
  • American Nursing Informatics Association: ANIA publishes the Journal of Informatics Nursing and hosts webinars on topics such as information security. ANIA also hosts a yearly conference, symposiums, and other gatherings that explore informatics.
  • Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society: This society provides healthcare information and management systems certifications at professional and associate levels. The group hosts lunch-and-learn events, global conferences, and webinars, and connects site viewers with resources about topics such as health information exchange.
  • Alliance for Nursing Informatics: This group focuses on nursing informatics. The Emerging Leaders program allows candidates to explore planning, networking, and adaptation in the field. Members may obtain the group's nursing journal at a reduced price.
  • National Environmental Health Association: Candidates interested in environmental health can explore relevant certificates through this association, including bottled water processor and food handler credentials. The group's journal provides insights on air pollution, toxic chemicals, and occupational health that may prove useful for informatics professionals.
  • American Health Information Management Association: This association provides multiple certification opportunities, including the registered health information technician credential. The group also provides a virtual lab and delivers webinars, including the clinical documentation improvement series.
  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: AHRQ delivers funding for training and research. Candidates can explore online toolkits through AHRQ's website and explore information related to informaticians' duties.
  • Public Health Online: Public Health Online explores career opportunities, programs, internships, and certifications for different categories of healthcare, including health informatics. The site also links viewers to state public health departments.
  • Public Health Informatics Institute: Site users can browse resources on concepts such as electronic health records and clinical data related to certain illnesses. The group also delivers a blog that reports on field professionals and communication in healthcare settings.
  • Centers for Disease Control: This governmental public health institute offers the Public Health Informatics Fellowship Program for field employees. Candidates can also use the CDC's website to explore health statistics in areas such as diabetes and oral health, as well as data based on region.