Master of Science in Health Informatics (MSHI/MHI)
Master of Science in Health Informatics In Context

Health informatics harnesses the power of data to influence quality decisions in clinical health care. As defined by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, it is “the interdisciplinary study of the design, development, adoption, and application of IT-based innovations in health care services delivery, management and planning.” [31]

Technology implementation alone is not enough to improve the health care provided to patients, according to the National Library of Medicine. In fact, having too much data is sometimes worse than not having enough when making strategic health care decisions.

Health informatics methods allow health and management professionals to make sense of large amounts of data, and informaticists’ roles and importance will likely expand rapidly as the health care industry continues to evolve.

There is a chronic shortage of qualified professionals for health informatics posts. A 2014 survey of 3,400 health care organizations reported that 84% had hired at least one IT professional in the previous 12 months. Around 70% reported there was a lack of qualified staff for these posts, with clinical application support identified as an area of particular need. [1]

This issue is growing. According to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there’s a projected 15% increase in jobs expected between 2014 and 2024 for medical records and health information technicians. [2]

Your Master of Science in Health Informatics can help prepare you to fill the experience gap.

What is health informatics?

Health informatics uses advancements in health information technology, including the management of data, to drive innovation, improve access to information, and increase knowledge management in subjects like biomedical research, clinical care, and public health to improve patient outcomes.

Experts in this area “develop, introduce, and evaluate new biomedically motivated methods in areas as diverse as data mining (deriving new knowledge from large databases), natural language or text processing, cognitive science, human interface design, decision support, databases, and algorithms for analyzing large amounts of data generated in public health, clinical research, or genomics/proteomics,” according to the American Medical Informatics Association. [32]

What should a student who is pursuing this degree learn?

Qualifications and accreditation in health informatics are available at the master’s, baccalaureate, and associate level from the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). [7]

According to competencies defined by CAHIIM for the master’s level, graduates should have an understanding of: [8]

  • Terminology relevant to health information and the associated classification systems
  • Record structures, policies, and data integration, as well as proper methods for their integration
  • How to evaluate data and manage virtual network communications
  • Construction and implementation of intuitive, user-friendly, and secure information systems
  • Appropriate industry knowledge regarding business operations and practice
  • Leadership and project management skills
What are potential career outcomes of earning this degree?

Students looking to earn a master’s degree in health informatics may want to advance in their knowledge and to be more competitive within the job market. A majority of students come from the clinical side looking to move out of direct patient care.

People with IT backgrounds outside of the health care industry are increasingly coming to health informatics programs because they see a great opportunity within the growing health care industry.

Health informatics master’s programs provide opportunities for students to develop their leadership and project management skills and move up within the profession.

What are the differences between the different levels in this field?

At the baccalaureate level of health informatics, many of the competencies are the same as they are in the MHI, such as analyzing and evaluating data or applying legal concepts and policies/procedure. Study at this level incorporates elements of human resources and financial management but does not have the same focus on leadership seen in the MHI. [9]

Completion of a bachelor’s degree can lead to a basic professional credential and may meet the eligibility requirements for a coding certification. However, to qualify for the higher-level positions, you might need to earn a master’s-level credential.

What are the different areas of practice?

Informatics is inherently interdisciplinary. It borders and overlaps with a number of other fields such as nursing, organizational theory, information science, law, management, and cognitive science.

Nursing informatics is highly clinical and is a natural progression for those that have already completed nursing studies. Public health informatics looks at biosurveillance and tends to draw people with an interest in how we keep the population healthy. Applied informatics covers process, policy, and technological solutions to how medical information is stored, used, and retrieved.

Exploring the degree

When you enter an MHI program, you can expect to study topics like:

  • Information systems, including their design, implementation, management, and leadership
  • Informatics and the importance of structure, function, and transfer of information
  • Information technology and applications in computer networks, database and systems administration, security, and programming

Students can develop a wide range of skills, and, on completion of their studies, should be able to use appropriate language, examine and make recommendations on policies and ways of using information, support strategic business planning with data and statistics, and construct quality information systems that are suited for their users and their purpose.

Who might choose this degree program?

Study in the field of health informatics is suited to students who want a career that offers diverse opportunities and would like to work in health care but do not want to work directly with patients.

Health informatics has been shown to impact health care in a positive way, with its use correlating strongly to an increase in positive patient outcomes, partially due to the streamlining of information and decrease in operational error. [35]

Academic institutions, government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and consulting agencies consistently hire information management professionals. And as the use of health information technology surges, so will the demand for qualified entrants to the electronic health record (EHR) workforce.

Why earn an MHI?

The Master of Science in Health Informatics degree is intended for people who would like a health care career that can make a difference without patient contact.

Before entering the MHI program, students likely will have previously studied at the undergraduate level, often in nursing or STEM-related subjects. They also may have significant workplace experience.

When you enroll in an MHI program, you may find yourself working in health care environments, providing solutions to information management problems, or advising on how to implement high-quality systems. Paths into research are also possible.

Some students take on further certification in health information management to hone their skills and improve their value to employers.

Jobs in the health informatics sector for qualified individuals include project manager, informatics nurse, and business or clinical analyst. Professionals holding an MHI can progress through the ranks to take on roles such as director of clinical information, or chief technology officer.

Alongside the projected wide availability of jobs, health informatics professionals can claim salaries of between of $59,008 to $127,876 per year, with a clinical informatics manager earning an average of $92,819. [3]

How do I choose a master’s in health informatics program?

Your MHI program can support you in expanding on your previous knowledge and experience, or it can give you a broader understanding of all areas of health informatics. Many programs also give students the opportunity to develop specializations or focus their studies with electives and capstone courses.

When choosing your program, you might want to consider factors such as the makeup of the faculty and the reputation of the school within the industry. Accreditation is also worth considering, particularly if you would like to take further certification later in your career.

Another strong metric to check is the student outcomes section. Many programs will publish outcomes on career placements or reported salaries of alumni. This information can tell you what type of success previous students have found.

Health informatics programs are available in either on-campus or online formats. This flexibility allows students to build a schedule that suits their pace of study and personal circumstances. Hybrid formats are also available that offer a combination of online and on-campus courses.
Programs delivered full-time will usually be completed over about a two-year period, and part-time students will generally take longer, depending on the speed at which they complete the materials.

The number of credit hours required to graduate varies between colleges but is generally in the range of 40-60 credits. The costs per hour vary widely at between about $350 (at a reduced rate for in-state tuition) and more than $1,200.

Things to consider
  • Synchronous vs. asynchronous
    Online health informatics programs may be delivered either asynchronously or synchronously. Asynchronous learning means that you can work and study on your own time. Synchronous learning, on the other hand, refers to attending classes during set hours at the same time as your classmates.
  • Cohort vs. non-cohort
    Some programs will place you in a group (or cohort), in which you will remain with for the duration of the program. In other programs, you might have different classmates for every course.
  • Experiential learning/field placement
    There is great value in experiential learning, or on-the-job experience, for health informatics students. It allows active awareness and involvement on the part of the learner and promotes understanding of core issues, bringing meaning by linking theory and practice.
Master of Science in Health Informatics Career Advancement

Demand for qualified health informatics professionals is predicted to grow at twice the rate of overall employment, but anecdotal and statistical evidence shows there is already a dearth of suitable candidates for medical information posts. [2] Health informatics jobs already remain open longer than the national average, a clear sign that employers struggle to fill these positions. [18]

Typical careers in this field include:

  • Informatics nurse
  • Health informatics specialist
  • Clinical informatics specialist
  • Clinical analyst
  • Clinical informatics manager

Many of these positions require more than one set of skills. For example, clinical analysts will work with physicians on IT systems as well as interpreting data and managing patient records. In roles like this, you might be expected to use the skills of both a nurse and an IT professional. This unusual blend means these roles take 15% longer to recruit than the national average. [18]

Typically, individuals who are most likely to be interested in the Master of Science in Health Informatics are currently employed in medical or clinical fields or are working with information systems. However, more students with IT backgrounds are now entering the sector.

    • Salary information

The overall 2012-year-ending average salary across all AHIMA Salary Survey respondents came in at approximately $65,963, with those working in a consultative work setting earning the most at just over $105k. Directors earned an average of around $87,734. Professionals working on a lower level, such as technicians who are likely to hold qualifications below the postgraduate level, banked an average of $48,649. [19] regularly updates its salary figures and states the average salary for a health informatics specialist is $60,913, with a range of $35,397 to $84,080. [20]

    • Common career paths

According to the career mapping tools available through AHIMA, master’s-level graduates may follow career trajectories such as project manager to business analyst or director of clinical information, or health information manager to professor or director of risk management. Master’s-level education opens routes to many top-level posts, including chief technology officer, chief learning officer, and program director. [21]

    • How do the career opportunities vary?

Health care is the nation’s largest private-sector industry, and the share of total jobs in health care in many regions is higher than the national average, so MHI graduates are likely to have ample opportunity for employment regardless of where they live. Rhode Island (16.5%), West Virginia (16%) and Maine (15.6%) have the highest share of health care jobs. The most prominent need is in Pennsylvania (15.7%), New York (15.6%) and Massachusetts (15.3%). [22]

Master of Science in Health Informatics Curriculum

Students of health informatics at the master’s degree level often take core classes that cover the principles of data and information management from a variety of angles, including:

  • Database modeling and design
  • Project management
  • Structure and policy

All learning is usually presented from the viewpoint of quality health care, and so learning focuses specifically on social and organizational issues as they might present themselves in a hospital; health data management; or the legal, regulatory, and ethical issues regarding patient record data.

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) states that health informatics curricula should give graduates an understanding of topics like: [10]

  • Utilization of health data and tools to improve decision-making and patient health
  • Standards and procedures for collecting data, exchanging information, and cooperating across departments or organizations
  • Policies and procedures used to manage health data and systems
  • Design and implementation of management infrastructure and technologies
  • Project and resource management techniques
  • Workplace skills such as communication, collaboration, professionalism, ethics, and other competencies to help increase employability
  • Protection of data and privacy
  • Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects as they relate to the health informatics workplace
  • What should I look for when it comes to choosing a degree program?
    Academically, you should consider whether:

    • The school and program are properly accredited
    • The program’s core competencies and specializations match your abilities and interests
    • The faculty has the experience and resources to deliver the program content to a high standard
    • The coursework goes deep enough for you to develop your knowledge and will allow you to expand your areas of knowledge
    • The program will allow you to progress into your chosen career
    • There are opportunities to gain practical experience in your field

    From a practical view point, students should consider the reputation of the school and, if possible, talk to current students. Graduation rates, retention rates, and employment outcomes also are worth checking.

  • What is the standard set of core courses?
    CAHIIM, which accredits academic programs in health informatics, recommends three lenses through which to view health informatics: [11]

    • Information systems, covering “information systems analysis, design, implementation, management, and leadership.”
    • Informatics, covering subjects like “structure, function and transfer of information, socio-technical aspects of health computing, and human-computer interaction.”
    • Information technology, focusing on “computer networks, database and systems administration, security, and programming.”

    Combining these areas of knowledge means that graduates should understand the critical synergy within the discipline of health informatics. CAHIIM expects that graduates of an accredited program must have formal exposure to these ideas and show an understanding of how they are interconnected. [12] Within these areas, students may choose to emphasize one or more facets consistent with their mission, goals, and objectives.

  • Are there any variations to a program like this?
    Although health informatics has a natural focus on health care, programs are available with opportunities to specialize in biology, business, computer information technology, computer science, health science, and human-computer interactions. Students joining an MHI program often have a background in either information technology or nursing, but this isn’t always a requirement.
  • Elective opportunities
    Due to the diverse nature of jobs in health informatics, many programs offer electives that allow students to develop their particular interests. These will usually account for between three and 12 credit hours and will supplement the courses you are required to take.
  • Concentrations or specializations
    When you enroll in an MHI program, you may have the opportunity to focus your studies further with a concentration or specialization. These will often follow the career tracks for graduates and may include paths suited for programmers, information security specialists, or health analysts.
  • Similar degree programs
    Several degree or certificate programs are available that cover similar subject matter as the MHI. Some of these programs include:

    • MS in Nursing Informatics
    • Master of Public Health in Public Health Informatics (PHI)
    • Master of Science in PHI
    • Post-Master’s Certificate in Health Informatics
    • Master of Biomedical Informatics (MBI)

    These programs focus on individual specialist areas within health informatics, such as epidemiology and public health surveillance systems. The MHI provides a broader base of knowledge in the subject and develops skill sets that can be applied to all of these areas.

  • Is an online program the same as a campus-based program at most universities?
    Online degree programs are usually delivered by the same faculty as the on-campus programs and offer the same choice of classes and experiences. Internships, capstones, and research projects carry the same expectation whether or not the student physically attends.Health informatics programs also are available in hybrid formats. This means students can partake in a flexible program that has a combination of online and on-campus elements. Hybrid programs are only suitable for students that have easy access to the college’s campus, but they do provide a degree of freedom and flexibility.
  • Do programs of this nature require a thesis or capstone projects?
    The MHI usually requires a final project to complete the program. This may be academic research, an internship, a thesis, or a work-based capstone project. The goal is to bridge the gap between academia and the workplace. These usually last one semester, though some programs allow for two.
  • Do programs of this nature require an on-campus residency?
    Students choosing an entirely online MHI will not necessarily need an on-campus residency. Most course content and examinations can be directed and delivered remotely, although this requirement might vary by program or school.
  • Master of Health Informatics Electives/specializations
    Most MHI programs allow students to develop a particular area of academic or professional interest via electives or specializations. These will sometimes be quite broad, such as clinical informatics or health administration, or they may concentrate on competencies required for specific job roles, such as health care analyst.Program structure usually allows for students to develop a basic knowledge of all areas through their core courses and then develop their specializations through elective and capstone courses. This allows students to prepare for the world of work and develop a specialized portfolio to provide to potential employers on graduation.
  • Possible elective courses
    Elective courses are those chosen by the student rather than those that are mandatory. These can cover a wide range of areas of interest, such as mobile health applications, bioinformatics, information security, leadership development, or independent study. Students select courses according to their interests and career goals.
  • What are the most popular concentrations/specializations for MHI students?
    A review of health informatics master’s degree curricula shows common concentrations of clinical informatics, health administration informatics, and health technology informatics.Concentrations can sometimes prepare you for positions that are in particularly high demand. For example, popular concentrations can help you develop the skills necessary to enter high-demand roles such as information security analyst and database administrator. [13] [14]
  • Experiential learning, internships and field placement
    Experiential learning allows students to explore their academic and professional interests through first-hand experience. This allows for skills, knowledge, and experience to be acquired outside of traditional study settings and may include internships, independent field research, or other opportunities to put theory into practice.Health informatics is a highly practical area of study, and many colleges offer students opportunities to take on internships with partner organizations to expand and develop their skills, often as part of the program’s capstone project.Students that are interested in taking on further study, or that cannot complete work-based learning due to existing commitments, may sometimes instead choose a research or practical project. This allows students to apply their knowledge in practice and boost their employability.

    Most programs, even those delivered online, will have an element of experiential learning as an optional element of the curriculum or as a requirement for graduation.

    Internships or work-study jobs take place with a local employer and typically last at least one semester (around 13 weeks). Some programs may allow you to use your current or previous work experience in place of an internship requirement. Speak with an academic advisor from your program for clarification on this topic.

Master of Science in Health Informatics Program Length

The length of an online master’s degree program can depend on a number of variables, perhaps the most prominent of which is the pace at which you choose to study. You can finish a typical master’s degree program in about two to three years if you choose to study full-time, although some accelerated programs may be able to help you finish more quickly.

Online master’s degree programs tend to offer flexibility suitable for students who choose to study part-time. This option will likely extend your time to completion, but it can allow you to study while fulfilling your familial, social, and professional obligations.

You can find more information on this topic at our program length overview page.

How many courses are required?
Master of Science in Health Informatics programs will typically require between 10 and 12 courses, comprising about 30-36 semester credit hours. Your program’s composition will vary, but likely components of the curriculum include required or core courses, elective courses, and a capstone or experiential learning option.

Even within a particular school’s degree program, the number of courses required may vary based on the concentration you choose, your prior work experience, your number of transfer credits, or other such factors.

Do any programs offer self-paced options?
Most MHI online programs have multiple enrollment points throughout the year, allowing students flexibility in when they take specific courses. Accelerated or relaxed study is also possible, allowing students to complete in as little as a year or sometimes as many as seven years.

Not all colleges offer this level of flexibility, and you may be required to fulfill your requirements sequentially or in a shorter time frame. Programs delivered by this method usually allow students to remain part of a single cohort that moves through the program together.

How do I know whether one program is better than another?
The Department of Education recommends speaking to professionals in the industry and researching measures such as how many enrolled students go on to graduate and how many get a job in their preferred field after graduation. [23]

Master of Science in Health Informatics Admission Requirements

While each program will set its admission requirements based on its own criteria, many requirements are universal across all programs. No matter where you apply, you can expect to provide items like transcripts from previous degrees or coursework; standardized test scores; a personal statement or essay; letters of recommendation; and an overview of relevant work experience.

In certain cases, some of these requirements may be waived.

For more information about admissions, please visit our admission requirements page.

Master of Science in Health Informatics Alternative Degrees/Fields of Study Overview

Undertaking your master’s degree is a big commitment, both academically and financially. It’s important to do your research to make sure your educational plan is a good match for your desired outcome.

The following master’s degrees touch on the same topics and learning outcomes as the MHI, but they offer a different focus or specialization. As you do your research, consider learning more about these degrees to see whether they might be a better fit for your goals and interests.

These programs focus on individual specialist areas within health informatics such as epidemiology and public health surveillance systems. The MHI provides a broader base of knowledge and develops skill sets that can be applied to all of these areas.

Master of Science in Health Informatics Accreditation Overview

Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type of accreditation that an online or traditional college or university can receive. It is granted only after careful consideration by private, not-for-profit organizations tasked with evaluating educational quality.

Regional accreditation is particularly important if you anticipate that you might want to transfer credits from one online degree program to another or use those credits to pursue another degree. Most regionally accredited schools will only accept credits from other regionally accredited institutions of higher learning.

You can learn more on this topic at our regional accreditation page.

Accreditation in health informatics
The Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM) is a nonprofit organization that accredits health informatics degree programs in the United States and Puerto Rico. [27]

If a program holds CAHIIM accreditation, it has completed a voluntary review process of its content and been judged as meeting or exceeding the organization’s core standards. [28]

This accreditation offers reassurance to employers that a degree program provides the necessary training to do the job. It also gives students access to recruitment opportunities through the CAHIIM online accredited Program Directory. [29]

Those with CAHIIM credentials can also access scholarships and other financial support. This validation of their study can be particularly useful for individuals who wish to seek professional accreditation from the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) after graduation.

Master of Science in Health Informatics Licensure and Certification Overview

Certification shows that a professional has the knowledge and skills necessary to do his or her job at an optimal level. Thanks to this system, employers, peers, and the public can be sure the certified individual is well-versed and competent in the delivery of their duties.

Certification is not expressly required to work in the field of health informatics, but many hiring managers may look for these qualifications. AHIMA notes that certification can help improve earning potential, increase job mobility, and provide a foundation of broad and deep understanding. [15] There are also opportunities to connect with peer networks.

Common forms of professional certification in health informatics include: [16]

  • The Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA)
  • The Certified Associate in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CAHIMS)
  • The Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CPHIMS)

These widely recognized certifications can demonstrate to employers that you meet an international standard of professional knowledge. [16]
Do I have to graduate from an accredited program to obtain licensure or certification?
Professionals seeking certification from the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) will need to have successfully completed the academic requirements of a CAHIIM-accredited health informatics program. Alternately, they must have graduated from a program approved by a foreign association with which AHIMA has a reciprocity agreement.

What are the steps required to achieve certification?
Professionals may acquire AHIMA certification by submitting an application to take professional exams at a testing center. Their application should include details of the CAHIIM-accredited educational program they have completed and/or the work experience that makes them eligible. Candidates who pass the examination will receive the credentials. [17]

The History of the Degree

The Mayo Clinic in New York introduced dossier medical records systems in 1907, leading to the development of a coding index of more than 20,000 diseases and the first use of files with complete patient histories. This allowed physicians and researchers to locate all the information held about a particular disease or condition and served as the first clinical disease database. [4]

Computers first showed their value in medicine in the 1950s, led by the work of the dentist Robert Ledley, who was among the first to argue for the computerization of health records. As the technology continued to evolve throughout the 1960s and 70s, a number of new systems and programming languages were designed with the intent of improving reliability of and access to health records. [33]

The groundbreaking researcher and “father of medical informatics” Homer R. Warner took the discipline into mainstream academia by founding the Department of Medical Informatics in Utah in 1968. [5] He then set to work on a database that correlated information about drugs, symptoms, and diseases into a code which could be processed by a machine.

As progress quickened and standards emerged for health data content in the 1970s and 1980s, expert systems were the next developments, as well as programming languages for clinical applications. [5]

These allowed for the automation of many aspects of health checks and laid the foundation for larger medical databases. This has been one of the most visible contributions made by health informatics researchers, leading to commercial applications of their technologies, most often in electronic patient records systems. These allow multiple health care providers to share information on a patient and can support continuity of care and quality diagnostics.[6]

Today, prospects for the health information field are as broad as ever, even having been named as a priority for the U.S. federal government. In 2009, when the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was established as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the government affirmed a nationwide commitment to the adoption and utilization of electronic health records. [34]

Tuition and Fees Overview

There are a number of factors that can greatly affect how much your education will cost. These include whether you attend a public or private institution; whether you attend as an in-state or out-of-state student; and whether you qualify for financial aid like grants or scholarships.

For a more detailed breakdown of tuition, fees, and other financial issues, please visit our tuition and fees page.

Financial aid
AHIMA offers merit scholarships through its foundation of up to $2,000, [24] and other nonprofit funding streams are available. [25] The National Library of Medicine also offers fellowship programs for health informatics students.[26] Federal loan forgiveness programs may be available for professionals that enter public service or become educators.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Health informatics (HI) is an interdisciplinary field that includes management science, management engineering principles, health care delivery and public health, patient safety, information science, and computer technology. Health Informatics also provides students the opportunity to explore a practice or research focus. [36]

The health informatics degree combines health care, business, and IT courses, preparing you for a career in a revolutionary field. In this field, you explore how to use electronic data to improve the systems used in health care services. Health informatics contributes to reducing health care costs, increases access to patient care, and improves the diagnosis, treatment, and outcome of diseases.

Students pursue their master’s in health informatics looking to advance in their current field and to be more competitive in the job market. A large majority come from the clinical side looking to move out of direct patient care. People with IT backgrounds, outside of the health care industry, are coming to health informatics programs because they see great opportunity in the growing health care industry. [37]

One reason to consider a master’s program is if you’re considering pursuing a leadership role in your current field. [2] The MSHI degree can provide the gateway to many leadership roles in the field. In addition, there is an immediate need for graduates with a degree in health informatics, as it requires specialized skills and training not regularly found. Because of this shortage of skilled individuals to fill roles in health care settings, employees in this field have some of the highest starting salaries and increased potential for promotions. [37]

A master’s-level health informatics degree focuses on a multidisciplinary and well-balanced curriculum of health information technology (HIT), information science, analytics, and IT/IS training. Graduates of a health informatics program should be able to design, develop, and optimize IT-based health care systems to properly secure, manage, and deliver patient information and data.

In some cases, master’s-level health informatics degrees require industry experience and knowledge in one or more of the key areas critical to success in the health informatics field. [38] It is important to check with the school you are interested in attending, as not all Master of Health Informatics programs require experience.

Students who enroll in a Master of Science in Health Informatics program often come from either clinical or information technology backgrounds. However, the curriculum content provides substantive knowledge in both areas, so a lack of prior knowledge is not necessarily a barrier to entry.

The MSHI degree can provide the gateway to many leadership roles in the health care industry.

A key attribute of a well-fitting graduate program is to identify the foundational components that are essential for you as an individual to meet your needs and career goals. For example, if you are looking for a career change, there are health informatics programs that do not require an extensive background in health care to qualify. Another critical component that you should look for is for an interdisciplinary curriculum that will prepare you to be a well-rounded professional in the field.

Students in an online health informatics master’s degree program often take core classes that are focused on health care topics, business, and IT courses such as database modeling and design. Students can also benefit from topics covered in certifications such as the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, and the Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CPHIMS) certification.

CAHIIM assesses health informatics programs through three major aspects of their curriculum — focusing on topics such as computer networks, system analysis and design, human-computer interactions, and more. [39]

Every health informatics program can have different core courses, so it is important to determine if you want to move into a specific sector of the informatics field and make sure the program you are interested in aligns with your overall career goals.

Usually, master’s-level programs do not have prerequisite courses that need to be completed before entering the program. It is always important to check with the specific program to be sure.

Most public and private not-for-profit universities include the same curriculum and faculty in their online courses.

Programs with concentrations require students to take special classes. For example, students with security focuses will have more IT security-based classes. While the core, foundational courses and prerequisites will remain the same, concentrations will tweak your curriculum to fit your focus.

Look for an MHI online curriculum that suits your needs. Pick one that has a specialization that aligns with your career goals. Find a curriculum that also fits your schedule or helps you get closer to certification or career advancement. There are many online MHI programs available, so identify the one that works for you.

Asynchronous coursework can be completed on your own time — a big plus for many online graduate students. Synchronous coursework has to be completed within a set timeframe. This is typically done for group projects, seminars, presentations, and other learning initiatives that require multiple attendees. The elements of asynchronous and synchronous learning in your online program depend on the professor and class itself. Once you enroll, reach out to teachers for specifics, but remember that the curriculum may be divided into these two subsets.

A Master of Health Informatics degree with no extra concentrations or certifications takes about 2 years to complete.

Yes. Many institutions offer Master of Health Informatics degrees online.

Most institutions do not indicate on the degree that it was earned online.

Yes, typically schools follow the same curriculum for their online programs as they do for their campus-based programs.

Professionals with an online master’s in health informatics can seek positions such as health informatics specialists, health care IT project manager, chief medical information officer, medical informatics systems analyst, clinical informatics manager, etc. The average salary for these careers range from $60,000 to $151,331.

You do not need certification to pursue a career in health informatics.

There are a handful of certificates for individuals who have different career goals. Some examples of certificates in this field include certificates in: biomedical informatics, applied biomedical informatics, public health informatics, health information security, and more.

A certificate in health informatics is designed to complement your master’s or professional degree. Professional certifications are an effective way for candidates of various backgrounds and positions to illustrate skills and knowledge to future employers.

General HI programs provide students a comprehensive learning experience. You would touch on all of the concentrations in smaller doses, rounding off your education. On the other hand, picking a concentration will help give you an advantage in that specific career path, but you likely won’t have as much knowledge into other specific areas of health informatics.

An alternative degree is designed to further hone your skills toward a very specific career. Think pairing public health with a career as a hospital social worker, or law with a career as a social justice lobbyist. You need to know which career you want and be sure of that choice.

Health informatics focuses on health data, information, and knowledge, including its collection, processing, and analysis. Health IT is the technical discipline that focuses on information technology and how that technology is used in health care. The focus in health informatics is based on data and its use in decision-making, while the focus in health IT includes a wide spectrum of topics, from computer networks to algorithms.

Although some areas overlap, the HIM and HI fields are different. Health information management deals with patient records, while health informatics deals with applied IT. Health informatics basically builds the systems that health information managers use for the electronic health records gathered.

The MSHI degree positions you to be business facing, focusing on complying with regulations and improving hospital finances. Nursing informatics positions you to be patient-facing, with a focus on improving patient safety and the quality of care. MSHI combines computer science, information technology, and health care administration, while nursing informatics combines computer science, information technology, and nursing.

Public health informatics is the application of informatics in areas of public health, including surveillance, prevention, preparedness, and health promotion. Public health informatics and the related population informatics work on information and technology issues from the perspective of groups of individuals. [40]

Bioinformatics is about using computational methods in biology, as well as medicine. Bioinformatics focuses on processing genomic and proteomics data for basic research in biology.

Whether you will need to complete the GRE prior to applying for a program will largely depend on what school you have chosen. There are many programs that do not require a GRE. Check the admissions requirements for your school before applying.

University admissions committees put a hefty weight on statements of purpose, their structure, and their presentation. With an MSHI program, you will probably not have any personal interviews for the program, so a statement is the only chance you have at telling the admissions officers your purpose in pursuing this degree. This is important because they want to know if you can think for yourself and why you are taking such a life-changing step. A personal statement can mean the difference between getting into an MSHI program or not.

Industry experience and knowledge in one or more of the key areas is critical to success in the health informatics field, but not always required.

No. In fact, most students do not have formal health care or IT training.

While some MSHI programs do not require work experience, some do to determine the readiness of the potential student to complete a graduate-level program.

This is completely dependent of the program you are interested in. Some MSHI programs do not require work experience, while some do.

There are MHI programs that do not require work experience. Be sure to check with the universities you are interested in and compare multiple programs in addition to their admissions requirements.

Professional references come from people who are, or have been, in a position to evaluate your work in an academic or professional setting. Letters of recommendation should come from supervisors, current or former employers, professors or mentors. Professional or academic contacts should have known you for at least one year. Personal recommendations will not be accepted.

In most cases, you do not need a specific undergraduate degree to qualify for the MSHI program. It is when you begin looking at industry-specific informatics degrees that you have to have specific bachelor’s degrees (for example, nursing informatics requires you to have your BSN).

Usually, MSHI programs do not require you to have prerequisite work before getting started. An undergraduate degree is required, and depending on the specific institution, usually must have a GPA of 2.75 or above. Be sure to check with your program of interest what the admissions requirements are.

Some MSHI program courses introduce you to project management knowledge that could be a starting point for preparing for PMP certification. You will have the opportunity to apply PM knowledge and frameworks to health and health care scenarios specifically focusing on health information technology projects and programs. [41]

Legislation, such as the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, has created significant demand for trained, well-rounded individuals in the field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment of medical and health services managers will grow by 17% from 2014 to 2024, with a median wage of $94,500. [42]

The average salary in a sample of 1,900 respondents in the 2015 HIMSS Compensation survey is $111,387. The median salary is $90,000. Job titles in the industry include health care CIO (median $181,000), informaticist (median $92,000), and information security specialist (median $95,000). [43]

A large majority of graduates work in the health care industry, but in a variety of positions ranging from IT to C-suite level leadership positions to consulting.

A number of organizations beyond hospitals and clinics are seeking skilled health informatics professionals, including medical software companies, consulting firms, medical device and technology companies, medical libraries, research laboratories, universities, government agencies, private practices, pharmaceutical companies, and more. [44]

Employment of health informatics workers is expected to grow twice as fast as employment overall, according to a 2014 report on health informatics from Burning Glass Technologies, an organization that works to match people with jobs. [45]

The demand for health informatics workers is projected to grow at twice the rate of employment overall, but there is strong evidence that the nation already faces a shortage of qualified workers in this field. [46]

No — attaining management/senior positions is not guaranteed through the completion of a master’s degree. These positions often require many years of experience and a significant level of career achievement. However, an advanced degree can help you develop the necessary knowledge and skills required for these positions and also prove your dedication to the field.

CAHIIM is the acronym for the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education, an independent organization for the health information management and health informatics fields.

Accreditation helps to ensure academic quality, and can apply to the university as a whole or the specific program. A degree from an accredited institution allows students to receive federal financial aid, transfer credits to other accredited schools, and is more prestigious in the job market. Program accreditation is in addition to an institution’s overall accreditation.

Accreditations are a strong indication of quality, but are also required for students who plan to apply for federal financial aid. Accreditation ensures that your degree is recognized by employers, professional associations, and other accredited institutions of higher education.

Accreditation offers both students and potential employers some assurance that a degree program provides its graduates with the necessary training.

No. Program cost is not determined by whether or not it is CAHIIM-accredited.

SARA (State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement) applies only to distance education programs in the United States that cross state lines. This agreement is made between member states and establishes comparable postsecondary national standards for distance education courses. [47]

Not every state is a SARA member. Through SARA, member states only have to receive authorization in their home state. Without SARA, non-member states would have to receive authorization in their home state and the state of each of their online students. [47]

Every school has a department or team responsible for online education. This department will be able to answer questions regarding compliance for your home state. Additionally, you can locate the school through SARA (if it is a SARA institution) to confirm compliance. [47]