What Does a Career in Health Informatics Entail?
Healthcare informatics, or also known as health informatics or biomedical and health informatics, deals with biomedical specific data and medical information, as well as its storage, such as in electronic health records, retrieval, and optimal use for scientific based analytical decision making and problem solving to improve healthcare outcomes. This field is at the intersection of biomedical science and modern information technology (IT), with an emphasis on the areas of computing and communication of that medically based data. Though no one can guarantee actual job growth in any field, healthcare organizations needs for health informatics continues to increase, requiring more and more health informatics professionals to track health data and maintain electronic health records.
Careers in health informatics can range from more IT based roles to positions that deal with qualitative and quantitative analysis (data analytics) of scientific and medical information, such as how to improve health outcomes using existing health data. For example, a more IT or computer science based role may involve maintaining databases for a large healthcare provider, while a scientific analysis career may involve using statistical analysis software for a major pharmaceutical company’s research into the American healthcare system, specific medical services, or public health issues.
In general, careers of health informatics professionals all involve working with information systems to support researchers, physicians, healthcare managers, and other health services and medical professionals in their education, communication, decision making, and other professional activities using health data. Health informatics positions exist anywhere medical and healthcare information is used including medical schools, medical facilities, university faculties, healthcare firms, research facilities, hospitals, and other various healthcare organizations and healthcare providers. A health informatics degree program may also be accessible through online programs offering fully online classes - even online master's in health informatics are available from some institutions. You may also be able to find your way into the health informatics field by completing degrees in health sciences and computer science.
Components of a Successful Career in Healthcare Informatics
A successful career in healthcare informatics could entail employment with a wide range of sectors, including public/governmental entities, private firms or not-for-profit organizations. Additional entrepreneurial career paths are possible by owning your own firm that provides informatics consultancy to outside organizations. Successful components of careers in this field will involve a higher education degree, including graduate and professional studies (if desired), experience working with information technology and its application to the medical and/or healthcare fields, along with a desire for continuing education of industry advancements, especially since IT is ever changing and the use of medical data is expanding exponentially on a regular basis. For careers in this field, an adequate and significant salary should be expected based on the education, experience and skillset required for these positions.
How to Earn a Degree in Health Informatics Online
Why Earn an Online Health Informatics Degree
There are many reasons to earn an online degree in this field. First, there is the benefit of earning a degree to enhance your own personal knowledge. Associate, bachelor and master/graduate degrees are available, with each degree offering an increasingly broad educational foundation. Health informatics educational studies also prepare graduates for employment in vital positions within the healthcare and insurance agencies. Due to its strong technical component, you may even be able to find employment outside the healthcare industry, controlling databases for some other large corporation that deals with medical information; a government agency, insurance agencies, or a genetics start-up.
Typical Online Health Informatics Degree Requirements
Online Associate Degree
Typically, an associate’s degree in health informatics requires sixty (60) credit hours of coursework and is generally completed in approximately two-year’s time. Also, admission into an associate degree program requires a high school diploma /GED certificate and up-to-date immunizations (if studying on campus).
Online Bachelor Degree
A bachelor’s degree is typically 120 credit hours and is usually segmented between general education courses and health informatics-specific, information technology, and/or medical terminology core courses. The goal of the online bachelor’s program is to provide a solid knowledge-base and experience to this field of study. Students can choose given courses from within the curriculum in order to develop concentrations in or focus on specific areas.
Online Master Degree
A master’s degree typically requires eighteen (18) months to two years of studies. Online and on-campus opportunities exist for study, depending on the school attending. For admittance to a master’s program, the requirement is completion of a bachelor’s degree (not necessarily in health informatics though). Courses in this tract will provide graduates with the skills necessary to work with information technology, the healthcare industry’s information, and balance it with patient privacy issues.
Typical Health Informatics Certifications Needed
In order to move into a career in this field, no certifications are needed, and any certifications obtained are voluntary. In part, with health informatics being a newer study discipline and area of employment, many companies are still determining what type of certifications would be applicable.
A certificate is offered both as a regular and a post-bachelor’s graduate certification program of study that is designed to enhance the knowledge, competencies, and/or skills of an individual who would like additional study in this discipline. The graduate certificate program is for an individual who has already completed their bachelor’s degree in health informatics. Additionally, health informatics certifications are available from various organizations based on evaluation (i.e., an exam) of an individual already possessing knowledge, competencies, and/or skills in this field. Additionally, the professional certification granted is a limited time credential. Some of the certifications are offered by: Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) (offering the both Certified Associate in Health Information and Management Systems (CAHIMS) and Certified Professional in Health Information and Management Systems (CPHIMS)); American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC); American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA); Certified Professional in Health Informatics (CPHI); and American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA). For more career enhancement opportunities, some students pursue a master’s degree instead of a certificate program or professional certification.
Academic Standards for Health Informatics Degrees
The academic standards for a health informatics degree are set by the accrediting body for the particular college or university where you are studying. In general, accreditation assures that core competencies and educational standards are met in support of academic learning so that health informatics programs are accurately and relevantly represented to students, faculty, and the broader healthcare industry. Accreditation bodies are usually comprised of subject matter experts with extensive experience and training in health informatics. Some examples of accrediting bodies for this program are the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM) and the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) for graduate level programs.
Exam/Experience Needed for Health Informatics Degrees
For a health informatics degree, no prior work experience is required. Also, no specific entry or exit exams are needed. However, depending on the school offering your online degree program, there may be some general admission exam requirements (the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or American College Test (ACT)). Check with the admission requirements for a specific school to determine what tests, if any, are required and the minimum scores.
With Health Informatics, degree offerings include associates, bachelors and master’s degrees. Additionally, post-baccalaureate certificate programs and industry-recognized certifications are available as further marks of an individual’s knowledge, skills, and competency within the field. The various certifications for Health Information have varying requirements, so check the individual certifications for their specific requirements.
Online Associate’s Degree
An online associate degree in health informatics, health information, or health information management teaches students health delivery systems and medical terminology, as well as how to develop, collect, and maintain electronic health information. Offering classroom time as well as laboratory instruction, students may also have the opportunity for internships and clinical practice. Admission to the associate’s program requires a high school diploma or GED certificate.
Coursework prepares students to professionally and ethically perform the management of a patient’s personal medical and financial information, while maintaining privacy and patient confidentiality.
The coursework includes general knowledge courses and major-specific courses. The general knowledge courses usually involve communications, mathematics, English composition, writing and verbal skills. The health informatics core courses often include introductions to the principles of health informatics and other coursework covering topics such as information technology (IT), statistical reporting, classification systems, security practices, and financial/insurance reimbursement.
- Retrieval Programming/ Statistical Reports
- Medical Terminology
- Medical Coding
- Healthcare Ethics and Law
- Human Anatomy and Physiology
Online Bachelor’s Degree
At the undergraduate level, health informatics study culminates in a Bachelor of Science in Health Information Administration (HIA). A bachelor's degree in HIA combines students classroom time, laboratory instruction, and opportunities for internships and clinical experience. Admission to the bachelor’s program requires a high school diploma or GED certificate. Some schools also require satisfactory ACT or SAT scores, along with basic computer science knowledge. (Check with the individual school for specific admission requirements.)
The baccalaureate courses include subject areas such as database design and management, healthcare statistics, business management, healthcare ethics and legal principles. Degree programs are available both on campus and online. This program also prepares students for the registered health information administrator (RHIA) examination.
- Quality Assurance and Management
- Research Methods
- Medical Terminology
- Medical coding and Classification
- Concepts of Information Management and Systems.
Concentrations within the online degree program are available as well. Students usually select from various electives in order to focus on a specific topical area. Some concentrations include: Information Management, Healthcare Statistics, and Medical Science.
Online Master’s Degree
An online master’s degree in health informatics prepares professionals to use technology in order to effectively and efficiently deliver health care, and thereby, provide improved patient care and medical outcomes. Many students are healthcare professionals seeking career advancement or information technology workers desiring to focus on the healthcare industry. For all students, the program offers the ability to gain advanced knowledge and skills relevant to the healthcare field. Admissions to the master’s program requires an accredited bachelor's degree. Some schools also require the GRE exam or work experience. (Check with the individual school for specific admission requirements.)
Master's degree programs are offered on-campus and online, and students typically take 18 months to two (2) years to complete the program. As part of the curriculum, most schools require a thesis, research, or capstone course/project to certify a student’s competence, skill and knowledge in this major.
Graduate studies in this field usually involves a combination of information technology and clinical knowledge coursework. The degrees awarded upon graduation are usually a master of health science/informatics. A general rule of thumb estimates that a master’s degree is the equivalent of approximately fifteen (15) years of work experience in this field.
- U.S. Healthcare System
- Healthcare Ethical and Legal Issues
- Medical Informatics
- Decision Support Systems
- Healthcare System Analysis and Design
Concentrations within the degree program are available as well. Students usually select from various electives in order to develop expertise in a specific topical area. Some concentrations include: Healthcare Information Technology, Data Management, and Healthcare Social and Organizational Issues.
Associates, Bachelors, Masters with Cost Range for Each
- Associate’s Degree: Per-credit costs typically range from $75 to $335. Total tuition to graduate ranges between $2,000 and $25,000.
- Bachelor’s Degree: Per-credit costs typically range from $180 to $470. Total tuition to graduate ranges between $22,000 and $56,000.
- Master’s Degree: Per-credit costs typically range from $700 to $4,000. Total tuition to graduate ranges between $20,000 and $50,000.
Earning Potential for Health Informatics Degree Fields and Occupations
Graduates in the health informatics field have strong employment prospects. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), approximately 189,930 medical records and health information technician jobs were available in the U.S. in 2015. Most healthcare informatics professionals were employed by general medical offices and surgical hospitals. Between 2014 and 2024, the BLS expects that associate’s degree level jobs in this field will grow by 15%. Workers in this field had a median annual salary between $37,110 and $40, 430 for medical records and health information technicians in 2015. Between 2016 and 2026, the BLS expects that bachelor’s degree level jobs associated with this field will grow by 13% (11% for database administrators), and in 2017, these same positions had a median annual salary of $39,180 (with over $70,000 for database administrators). The BLS expects that between and 2014 and 2024, positions associated with having a master’s degree in this field will grow by 17%. In 2015, healthcare mangers with a master’s had a median salary $94,500.
Impact of Your Degree on Your Pay
Within health informatics, as with most fields, earning successively higher degrees also opens greater possibility for larger salaries. The associate’s degree offers higher paying position than just having a high school diploma or GED, even with a healthcare informatics related certification. Likewise, a bachelor’s degree offers a greater chance for earnings on an annual basis than the associate’s, and the career opportunities with a master’s degree typically have higher salaries than those of bachelor’s degree requiring positions. This is true whether it is an entry-level position for that particular degree or a more experienced, mid-career position. The higher the degree, the greater the level of health informatics knowledge, skill, and competence is inferred.
Healthcare Informatics Fields of Study Median Salaries
These healthcare informatics fields of study are segmented by degree level:
This field of study focuses on maintaining important medical records for hospitals, doctors’ offices, or insurance companies.
Health Information technology:
This field is broader than the last. It might focus on the safe transfer of patient data and maintenance of the databases that contain patient records.
This field focuses on databases as a whole. Database administrators might help create a database, control permissions for security purposes, and help switch to a new system whenever one is implemented.
A degree in this field will give the graduate the skill to run a healthcare facility. They move out of the information realm, into dealing with staff and patient safety.
Field of Study Average Salary by Degree Level
|Field of Study||Fields of Study||Median Salaries|
|Associate’s degree||Medical Records, Health Information Technology||$37,110|
|Bachelor’s degree||Database Administration||$70,000|
|Master’s degree||Healthcare Management||$94,500|
Health Informatics Salaries by Occupation
The occupational outlook for careers in health informatics looks very strong over the next decade. According to the BLS, depending on the position and/or the degree level associated with that position, employment opportunities in this field will grow between 11% and 17%. In general, healthcare related industries are expected to expand over the next several years. Things like an aging population, greater access to health insurance, and the improving quality of healthcare provided all positively impact occupational opportunities for healthcare informatics.
Health Informatics Occupations
- Medical Assistant:
Medical assistants help patients and medical providers by providing information, medically related services, and other assistance. Other duties include maintaining medical records, managing medical supplies inventory, and planning preventive maintenance of medical equipment.
- Medical Records/Health Information Technician:
These workers maintain records of patient care by coding, compiling, reviewing, and filing documentation of patient's interaction with a healthcare provider, including the patient's appointments, condition, treatment plan, and health outcomes.
- Database Administrator:
Database administrators maintain databases that support users and overall organizational activities. Specific duties can include database planning, creation, and maintenance, as well as business analysis, user training, and documentation.
- Clinical Informatics Specialist:
This position works with and manages medical records. It is IT based and the specialist may design and build user interfaces based on a review of facility workflow. There may be some clinical staff training on these same data applications. A clinical information specialist also provides needed access to medical records, reporting, and manages data entry and evaluation of this information.
- Nursing Informatics Specialist:
These specialists combine their technical knowledge with clinical nursing skills in order to create health systems to improve patient care and quality. This position works with patient data and information technology. A nursing informatics specialist focuses more on patient care than administration. Many nursing informatics specialists act as a liaison between clinical nurses and the IT staff. Additional duties may involve tasks related to health-related quality control, medical systems development and clinical staff training.
- Clinical Informatics Manager:
These managers are primarily responsible for planning and managing an organization's clinical informatics data and program. This position involves transforming clinical data into relevant information for an organization's healthcare professionals. Clinical informatics managers are also involved in the planning, development, and implementation of data plans, systems, and programs to improve the informatics system's efficiency. They also work to ensure that optimal performance standards are met, data security/accuracy are maintained, and confidential medical information remains private. Typically, this position will have a bachelor’s degree along with significant work experience. However, a master’s degree is usually preferred.
Annual Salary by Occupation
|Clinical Informatics Specialist||$71,500||$80,500||$96,900|
|Clinical Informatics Manager||$85,800||$95,700||$96,900|
Important Questions to Ask (FAQ)
How long does it take to earn a Health Informatics bachelor's degree online?
Generally, a bachelor’s degree takes four years to complete the approximately 120 credits required to graduate. This timeframe may vary depending on a number of factors, such as whether you are planning to attend school full-time or part-time, your concentration, or whether you have previous, transferrable class experience that will allow you to reduce the number of credits required (associate’s).
How much does a online Health Informatics bachelor’s degree cost?
The cost per school will vary significantly. Typically, the per-credit costs for an online bachelor's degree in healthcare informatics can range from $180 to $470. For most schools, tuition can range between $22,000 and $56,000 for a bachelor’s degree. The total cost for a student, including tuition and non-tuition costs, can be offset with the addition of financial aid (grants, loans, scholarships, and work study), employer reimbursement, and family/personal contributions.
Does the online school have the major(s) you’re considering?
Wondering if your preferred school(s) have the major you are considering? Well, there are a wealth of resources at your disposal in order to determine which schools offer a degree in health informatics. Begin by going directly to the school’s website. There, you will find an abundance of information regarding the majors and degrees offered, as well as timelines and other pertinent information regarding the course of study at that school. In addition to exploring a specific school’s website, conducting an Internet search will yield many different facets of information to assist you in your educational pursuits. Also, use of general, post-secondary informational guides can prove helpful with detailed information about multiple schools, the majors and degrees offered, their admission requirements, application deadlines, student population demographics, admission statistics on the previous year’s entering class (SAT/ACT scores, number of full-time/part-time students, age ranges, gender, etc.), links to the various schools, etc.
How many students graduate “on time,” in four years?
Recent federal guidelines require some schools to report information regarding the statistics on the number of students who graduate “on time.” One online school reported only 4% of their students graduated “on time,” but added a footnote that 100% of the students completed the program in “normal time” (48 months). Statistics like these can be confusing. Generally speaking, the ability to complete an online program “on time” will vary per student. A number of personal factors determine the speed and pace of an individual student to be able to successfully matriculate through a program. Things such as whether the student is full-time or part-time throughout the course of their study, whether the student is working and a “non-traditional” student with a family versus a student entering the program directly after high school, or even, a frequent determiner of pace is that most employers only reimburse 100% of tuition for up to two classes per semester and this provides a free education for that person. A recent news article noted that 60% of students take an average of six years to earn a bachelor’s degree, and that in public schools, less than one-third of students graduate within four years.
What kind of accreditation does the online program hold? How is it regarded in the field?
Do your research. The best way to find out what type of accreditation a program or school holds is to go directly to that school’s website or informational catalog. Most schools will state in a prominent section what accreditation and affiliations they have. You can further research those accrediting bodies as well. Also, to determine how a school or their healthcare informatics program are regarded in the field, conduct searches to get specific information on how a school’s program is regarded in the industry. Additionally, the school itself often times provides information regarding their program’s standing, recognition, and rankings.
No specialized software or technology skills are needed to begin your studies in healthcare informatics. General computing knowledge is helpful though. As you progress along through the program, you will gain additional information technology skills through exposure to relevant software, computers, and other technology.
Scholarships for Health informatics Degrees
Alecia Graham Memorial Scholarship
Deadline: September 30
This scholarship, provided by the Alaskan Health Information Management Association is provided to students earning their RHIA or RHIT credentials. Eligibility requires that you have completed 12 hours in a program, maintained a 3.5 GPA, and lived in Alaska for at least a year.
Richard P. Covert, Ph.D., LFHIMSS Scholarship for Management Systems
Deadline: August 28
This scholarship, though the name is a little confusing, is available to undergraduates, as well as graduate and doctoral students. Eligibility requires you to be a member in good standing with the HIMSS, a first-term junior currently enrolled in an accredited program with a major related to healthcare management systems (including informatics), and not have previously received the award.
John Glaser Scholarships
CHIME members who are currently employed and wish to expand their leadership skills within the healthcare field are encouraged to apply to this scholarship for professionals.
Professional Associations in Health Informatics
Professional organizations can provide a wealth of resources and opportunities for health informatics students and recent graduates. These include online access to journals and trade publications, invitations to networking events, and job leads. Many professional organizations also offer reduced membership fees for students and young professionals. Three leading informatics organizations are outlined below.
Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society
Founded in 1961, HIMSS has grown to represent nearly 70,00 individual members and more than 450 non-profit organizations. In addition to two certifications, the society offers an online learning center with e-courses, digital publications, and recorded conference sessions.
American Health Information Management Association
Students and professionals seeking certification from AHIMA receive access to practice tests and study guides as well as invitations to online discussion groups and workshops. Current students may join for $49 per year and recent graduates for $79 per year.
American Nursing Informatics Association
The ANIA is home to the Journal of Informatics Nursing, a quarterly publication that premiered in 2016. The association represents 18 regional chapters across the country and holds an annual conference that is open to all members.
Choosing an Online Accredited College
Accreditation status is one of the most important considerations for prospective students. Colleges and universities in the U.S. receive accreditation from agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education; the accreditation process involves an extensive review of a school's educational programs and student services.
A school's accreditation impacts course credit transferability, as well as student eligibility for federal financial aid, so students should ensure the school offering the program has earned national or regional accreditation.
On-Line vs On-Campus vs Hybrid
These days, there are a number of ways students can attend school. The majority of students choose to follow a traditional route; moving onto a campus, making friends with fellow students, attending large lectures with face-to-face interactions with their professors. There are a lot of positive to be had in this type of school interaction. You can network, get hands-on experience, participate in the college community, and take part in campus work programs that can help you pay for school.
However, not everyone can afford the time required to drop everything in their lives for 4+ years to attain their degree. If you have family or work obligations that you are unable or unwilling to put a hold on, then online courses may be for you. Taking classes online allows you the flexibility to maintain a job or family obligation and then watch lectures, write papers, and take tests whenever you have the time. You might pack it all into a weekend or, on a slow week, complete multiple weeks of lessons.
However, if you want the benefits of both, that could be an option as well. Hybrid programs are custom programs in which the student chooses classes to attend on campus, maybe the ones with more hands-on requirements or ones in which they feel they will benefit from the teacher or fellow student interaction. The student then completes the rest of their courses online.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a degree in health informatics worth it?
Short answer? Yes, it likely will be. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is projecting that there will be a growth in healthcare as a whole of around 15% between 2020 and 2030. And much of this increase will be in support roles surrounding healthcare workers themselves. After all, nurses and doctors are important, but there must also be workers who make sure that databases function properly so that the newly digitalized electronic health files are accessible, sharable, and protected from outside actors. After all, the digitalization of these files is practically brand new, and not even completely finished across the country. On top of that, each state and hospital system has created their own database, with not much concern put toward standardization across states, much less the whole country. So, what happens when a patient travels across the country and gets in an accident? Will those files transfer from their home state/hospital to wherever they find themselves being treated? That’s just one of the issues that will need to be dealt with by those working in informatics in the coming years. And even if you don’t work on the ground floor of creating databases that can “talk” to each other while protecting their data from bad actors, you’ll be needed to enter, code, and maintain that data for years to come.
What skills will you need to succeed in a career in healthcare informatics?
While general IT and computer science skills will come in handy, as will any knowledge you have of databases, here are some more specific skills that you might want to focus on gaining before you graduate and start looking for a job in this field.
- A variety of analytical tools and methods that can be used in a healthcare setting
- Building and maintaining databases – this includes creating a database for a specific reason or goal, whether that is to support the basic storage of old info or to help with analysis of all hospital patient outcomes
- Clinical analytics and decision-making support – this might include triage assistance for overwhelmed hospital staff
- Clinical communication support – doctors may need to share information with otherwise unconnected professionals in order to gain insight into a patient, you should be able to help with this
- Moving data into a new system, such as those that are being introduced in healthcare systems all over the country and world
- Systems analysis and design techniques and tools that can help you keep your system in good shape
Does the College Have Post-Graduate Job Placement Help and Assistance?
Some of the best universities have Career Development offices and Career Services. These services exist to help you polish your resume and interviewing skills and introduce you to employers and job boards that will help you find a position once you graduate. Look for a university that sets up job fairs with possible future employers or helps you find internships. The mission of a good Career Services Center is to help you establish and advance your career.
Why you Need to Consider How Rating/Accreditation Can Affect Your Salary
Colleges have rankings you can easily find with a search. Some of this is based on how well-known they are, but some of it is based on student metrics like: graduation rate, attrition rates, success after graduation, accreditation, etc. Employers often use these ranking to make decisions when they are looking for new hires. So, it’s important to know where your prospective school sits in the rankings. You shouldn’t make a choice based purely on this ranking system, but, if all else seems equal, this might just give you a tie-breaker.
Healthcare Degree & Career Paths