Graduate degree programs in health informatics prepare graduates for careers as health service managers, operations analysts or consultants. Master's degree programs in this field take about a year to complete, but healthcare professionals with graduate degrees may be able to finish the program sooner. Master's students develop their research skills and learn about data collection and management. In a Ph.D. program, students engage in research and often can specialize in an area of study based on their research interests. A doctoral program requires 3 to 5 years of study. Common specializations include epidemiology and consumer behavior, among others and students are expected to have a bachelor's degree in a relevant field prior to admission.
Master of Science in Health Informatics
Graduate students usually earn their Master of Science degree to enter health services management positions. A typical health informatics program provides advanced mathematics, research, and computer skills. These are used to identify and resolve issues in how health data is managed.
Students without a background in medical records management learn about Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance, healthcare organizations, electronic records, and medical terminology. Students with a healthcare background enroll in a graduate program to learn about statistical analysis and health services management. All graduates understand how information technology and various health professions interact, and they can use this understanding to streamline healthcare processes and informational awareness.
Foundational courses explore management, advanced mathematics, informatics concepts, and health information. Other study covers patient records, telemedicine, public health, epidemiology, and programming. Generally, health informatics class topics include:
- Medical decisions
- Database management
- Environmental health
- Healthcare administration
- Event simulation
Doctor of Philosophy in Health Informatics
Enrollment in many Ph.D. programs in health informatics requires a master's degree; however, some accept students with only a four-year degree and allow them to complete prerequisites at the beginning of their doctoral study. Doctoral students can specialize in health systems, epidemiology, clinical healthcare, or consumer behavior. Research experience develops an advanced understanding of decision-making frameworks, informational awareness, and healthcare delivery evaluation. Skills acquired in a Ph.D. program can be applied in research analysis careers.
After an introduction to health informatics and different research methods, coursework provides an advanced understanding of how healthcare organizations function, share information, and make decisions. Students also explore how different health professions interact. Typical Ph.D. informatics courses include:
- Data storage
- Health consumer studies
- Organizational informatics
- Knowledge management
- Quantitative mathematics
- Healthcare economics
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Most medical and health services managers hold a master's degree, but some positions only require a four-year degree. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) reports that demand for this field will increase by 17% between 2014 and 2024, and the median income for medical and health service managers was $94,500 in May 2015.
Most medical services managers work in hospitals on the transition toward electronic health records and regulatory compliance. Demand will also be related to health employee retention or recruiting.
The BLS reports that most positions as an operations research analyst require a graduate degree. According to BLS research, demand for analysts should grow by 30% between 2014 and 2024. The BLS also reports that the median salary in the field was $78,630 in 2015, and those working in scientific, technical and management consulting services earned an average of $86,690 during the same year.
Graduate programs in health informatics are available at the master's and doctoral degree levels. Courses in medical decisions and health consumer studies will prepare graduates for a career within the health informatics field.