If you’ve been in the field of health informatics or have spent your time researching it, you have probably discovered that health informatics personnel are well-rounded professionals. While you can enter the health informatics field via certificate programs, associates degrees, or bachelors degrees, most professionals quickly discover that many jobs are hybrids, looking for a professional who has both clinical healthcare skills and health IT skills.
A strong graduate degree can aid you in becoming the “unicorn” that so many health informatics jobs want. Regardless of whether you entered the industry viaX a clinical track or an information science track, there are advanced degree programs available that can assist you in bringing it all together, giving you the knowledge and training to thrive in all aspects of upper level health informatics careers.
Graduate Degrees for the Health Informatics Field
There are a variety of advanced degrees that can assist you as you climb up the ladder in the health informatics field. Not unlike when you made your choice of bachelor’s programs, you again have a variety of advanced degree options available to you, including administration, clinical, or information science tracks. Though the specifics will be different program to program, plan on spending one to three years in post-baccalaureate education. Depending on the direction you choose to go, you will likely be able to find both online and on campus options.
Because there are different tracks to enter the health informatics world, it is difficult to say which advanced degree is best. Most professionals will find that they need an advanced degree that opens them up to what they haven’t previously studied or know, like an RN achieving a master’s in healthcare informatics (MHI) or a computer science analyst achieving a master’s in healthcare administration (MHA). As you do your research and choose a program, pay attention to the course work to ensure that you will be well-rounded in both technical and clinical skills when (all of) your education is complete.
Master’s of Health Care Informatics: Today, you have the option to achieve a MHI on campus or a MHI online. These programs are touted for healthcare professionals (like an RN) who want to move into advanced information management and those in IT roles (like a data analyst) that want to move into healthcare management or specialist positions. Degree requirements in these programs will include fundamentals of the current healthcare system, social and organizational issues in health informatics, foundations of information systems, and legal, regulatory and ethical issues in healthcare and informatics. Some programs will include an internship or practicum experience. Typical length of programs is two years.
Master’s of Healthcare Administration: MHA programs typically take between 18 months and three years to complete. MHA programs are also widely available online or on campus. Courses are focused on management and leadership; they will typically include healthcare finance, healthcare ethics, public health and policy, quality management, strategic planning, and healthcare marketing. It is not uncommon to choose a specialization in a MHA program. Common specializations include healthcare informatics, healthcare operations, quality care, health policy and financial management.
Master’s in Information Systems Management (MIS): Not surprisingly, this is also a degree you can achieve on campus or online. Common coursework for these programs will typically include java programming, data communications, systems development and analysis, computer hardware, databases for business and database systems, and business applications. Graduates of these programs will also display proficiencies in accounting, statistics, and computer programming. Typical length of program is 18 months to three years.
Master’s of Computer Information Systems (MCIS): MCIS programs typically desire candidates with an educational or professional IT or computer science (CS) background. Students of a MCIS program will learn about different information systems; degree requirements will include courses in legal and ethical issues in CS, computer network administration, database design and management, fundamentals of information systems, and information technology management. It is not uncommon for those pursuing a MCIS to also pursue an MBA, in an effort to gather both business and technical experience and acumen. Program length is usually two years.
Master of Business Administration (MBA): MBA programs usually take two years to complete. They are available both online and on campus. Prior professional experience and education are weighed heavily in most application and admittance processes. Common core courses of an MBA will include accounting, finance, marketing, human resources, organizational development, operations, business statistics, leadership and ethics and microeconomics. Typically, a health informatics professional is going to need to choose elective courses that focus on the informatics field, like information systems, computer applications, quantitative analysis, and intro to computing.
Careers for Advanced Degree Health Informatics Professionals
You are likely wondering what careers an advanced degree will open up for you. The following list (not all-inclusive) includes some common careers and the associated annual salaries of different advanced degree health informatics professionals:
- Clinical Applications Specialist: 72,000/year
- Nurse Informatics Specialist: $78,000/year
- Health Informatics Manager: $71,000/year
- IT Consultant: $78,000/year
- Clinical Informatics Manager: $92,000/year
- Chief Information Officer: $158,000/year
- Chief Technology Officer: $158,000/year
Currently, payscale.com reports an average median salary for all health informatics specialists of $62,000/year.
Is the Graduate Degree Worth It?
Though a graduate degree will cost you additional time and money, it is an investment you will be happy you made. U.S. News and World Report, according to the American Medical Informatics Association, states that today there are more than 70 programs that offer advanced degrees in health informatics. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an increase of 11% and 18% in health technician and health management careers (respectively) over the next 10 years (this is much faster than average). Clearly, this is a high demand industry with strong expected growth and expansion. If you are already in the field or are sure that this is the direction you’d like to move, there are many degree programs that will help you achieve your goals.
Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) | Sacred Heart University
Associate’s Degree of Nursing (ADN) | North Seattle Community College
Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.), Marketing, Sales | University of Washington (Seattle)
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