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Educational Degrees and Programs for Health Informatics

Interested in technology and computers? Consider pursuing a degree in health informatics.

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Home » Health Informatics » Education

Health informatics jobs are a combination of technology and healthcare. Professionals in this field help collect, analyze, and manage the data that healthcare organizations need to care for their patients.

The field is growing fast and multiple career options are available under the health informatics umbrella. You’ll need at least an associate degree to get started in a technical role such as health information technician, while advanced leadership roles such as health systems manager often look for candidates who have earned a master’s degree.

“The key is to come out of your health informatics degree program with skills in both healthcare and computers,” says John Richey, MBA, RHIA, FAHIMA, the director of academic education services for the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). He says it’s important to make sure that any program you choose covers the knowledge you’ll need to work in the field. “Whether you are looking at an associate, a bachelor’s, or a master’s program, they all should have some common courses as the base. You need to have a basic understanding of medical terminology, medical coding, medical informatics, and community-based health information.”

Your health informatics education should include classes in medical terminology, medical coding, medical informatics, and community-based health information.

Earning your degree is the first step toward a career in health informatics. You can complete an associate degree in as little as two years, and online options are available. If you have more time to dedicate to your education, advanced degrees may help you boost your career and your salary.

Associate in Health Information Technology

An associate degree in health information technology is a great way to get started in the field. You’ll gain the foundational knowledge and skills you need to succeed in health informatics and be prepared for entry-level and technical roles. The exact details of your courses and degree will depend on the school you select. 

What to Look For:

Your associate degree should be from a school with an accredited health information program. Accreditation will allow you to earn certification. Additionally, it can make it easier to transfer your credits and earn an advanced degree faster if you decide to return to school.

Prerequisites:

You’ll need a high school diploma or GED before you can begin an associate degree program. You might need to take prerequisite courses in advanced math or biology, especially if you didn’t take these classes in high school.

Curriculum:

Your coursework can teach you the basics of working in health informatics. Courses will vary but often include medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, statistics, healthcare law, data processing, data analysis, and healthcare technology.

Time to Complete:

Most associate degree programs can be completed in two to three years.

Extracurricular Requirements:

Requirements can vary widely by program. Some programs will require fieldwork or an internship.

Types of Jobs:

You can apply for roles such as health information technician after earning your associate degree.

Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management

Many roles in health informatics require a bachelor’s degree. Earning a bachelor’s can help you gain a broad understanding of vital topics in health informatics and prepare you to take on high-level roles in a variety of healthcare settings. You’ll study medical topics such as anatomy or pharmacology and technical topics such as data management or program implementation.

What to Look For:

Bachelor’s programs can prepare you for a variety of health informatics roles. Look for a program with a focus that aligns with your career goals and interests. It can be helpful to inquire about the jobs held by graduates of the program and the expertise of the faculty.

Prerequisites:

You’ll need a high school diploma before you can enter a bachelor’s program. Most programs will look for students who earned a high GPA in high school and who have strong scores on the SAT or ACT exams.

Curriculum:

Your coursework may include general education courses as well as courses specific to health informatics. Exact courses can vary by school, but often include medical terminology, pathophysiology, anatomy, pharmacology, healthcare management, information management, data management, statistics and analytics, healthcare laws and ethics, program implementation, and information technology.

Time to Complete:

Most bachelor’s programs can be completed in four years.

Extracurricular Requirements:

Additional requirements will depend on your school but might include internships or fieldwork.

Types of Jobs:

You can apply for roles such as clinical informatics analyst or healthcare systems manager with your bachelor’s degree.

Master of Science in Health Informatics

A master’s degree is a smart move for people who are interested in leadership roles in healthcare informatics. A master’s will give you the in-depth knowledge you’ll need to take on tasks such as creating and overseeing programs used by a healthcare facility.

“Advanced degrees will also provide you with core classes that give you the skills to create and develop databases as well as manage large-scale projects from start to finish,” Richey says.

You’ll learn to analyze data to determine what’s working and what’s not. You’ll use that information to help healthcare organizations meet regulations while delivering exceptional patient care. If you know you want to take on the challenge of a leadership role, a master’s degree is the right move.

What to Look For:

Your master’s degree program should align with your goals and interests. Look for programs that are specific to the type of work you’re most interested in. For example, you might look for a program with a focus on systems creation if you’re interested in managing data and technology in a healthcare facility. You can seek out programs with faculty members who’ve done the type of health informatics work that aligns with your career goals.

Prerequisites:

You’ll need a bachelor’s degree before you can begin your master’s program. A bachelor’s in health informatics specifically isn’t always required, but you might need to take a few undergraduate-level courses in healthcare technology if you’re coming from a different field. No matter what bachelor’s degree you hold, you’ll need to have earned a solid GPA. Not all programs will ask that you’ve taken the GRE, but ones that do will look for applicants with high scores.

Curriculum:

A master’s program gives you an advanced understanding of health informatics topics. Exact courses will vary but often include healthcare law and ethics, systems design and implementation, health information management, healthcare administration, healthcare analytics, data, and information security, organizational management, and healthcare leadership.

Time to Complete:

Most master’s programs take two to three years to complete.

Extracurricular Requirements:

Additional requirements depend on your school and program. Some master’s level programs will require fieldwork in a clinical setting.

Types of Jobs:

You can apply for jobs such as healthcare IT project manager with your master’s degree.

Post-Master’s Certificates

A post-master’s certificate is a great way to transition to the field of health informatics. These certificates are designed for professionals who have a master’s degree or higher in another area and want to pursue health informatics.

For example, someone with a master’s degree in healthcare administration could add a post-master’s certificate in health informatics to expand their knowledge. They’re a smart choice for people who want to use their previous knowledge and experience as a base for a health informatics career.

What to Look For:

It’s important to select an accredited post-master’s certificate program that aligns with your goals. Look into the career outcomes of program graduates to get a sense of what a post-master’s certificate can do for your career.

Prerequisites:

You’ll need at least a master’s degree before you can apply to a post-master’s certificate program. Most programs will look for applicants who’ve earned their masters in a closely related discipline such as healthcare administration, social services, computer programing, or data management. Depending on your educational background, you might need to take a few healthcare courses, such as medical terminology, before beginning your certificate program.

Curriculum:

A certificate program can give you a high-level overview of health informatics. Courses vary but often include health systems management, healthcare data, health data privacy and safety, healthcare ethics, and healthcare analytics.

Time to Complete:

Most certificate programs can be completed in a year or less.

Extracurricular Requirements:

Additional requirements may depend on your program. Some might require clinical fieldwork.

Types of Jobs:

The jobs you’re able to earn with your post-master’s certificate might vary depending on your education and professional background but can include advanced roles such as health information manager or healthcare IT project manager.

What About Certification?


Earning a specialty certification isn’t a requirement for those seeking a job in health informatics but is highly recommended. Most employers will look for professionals who’ve earned one. A certification can help show your knowledge, expertise, and dedication to your informatics career. It also may boost your earnings and help you advance your career.

The right certification for you depends on your education and specific career goals. Both the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society  (HIMSS) offer certifications for informatics professionals.

When you’re looking into your health informatics education, you’ll likely see both “certification” and “certificates” mentioned. It’s easy to confuse certificates and certification, but they are very different. You can earn a certificate by completing an education program, such as a post-master’s certificate program. You can earn certification by meeting educational and experience requirements and passing a certification exam.

Accreditation

Whether you’re pursuing a bachelor’s or master’s degree, you may qualify for programs that reduce the amount of time and m

School and program accreditation is important no matter the degree path you choose. Health informatics programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM).

Earning your degree from an accredited program will allow you to take the exams you need to become certified in health informatics. Completing an accredited program also ensures that you can apply for financial aid and that your credits will transfer to other programs.

Can I Get a Health Informatics Degree Online?

Several colleges and universities offer online health informatics degrees. You can find programs that are entirely online as well as hybrid programs that mix online and on-campus courses. Richey says that online and hybrid programs are a great option as long as they’re accredited and cover all the essentials.

“Basic medical courses can be fully online or a hybrid of online and in-person courses that you take on a college campus,” he says. “In addition to the medical courses, you also need a variety of data analytics and information technology courses that provide a balanced curriculum that will prepare you to step into this new and emerging field of health informatics.”

Salary and Job Outlook

Health informatics jobs are in demand. As technology’s role in healthcare continues to grow, the need for educated professionals to organize, analyze and manage that data will increase. Earning a degree in health informatics is a great opportunity to jump into this exciting and expanding field.

Medical Dosimetrists, Medical Records Specialists, and Health Technologists and Technicians, All Other

National data

Median Salary: $44,090

Bottom 10%: $28,800

Top 10%: $73,370

Projected job growth: 8.5%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alabama $36,390 $24,160 $62,920
Alaska $54,710 $35,640 $86,100
Arizona $41,310 $27,640 $67,600
Arkansas $36,560 $25,480 $60,670
California $49,820 $33,090 $84,490
Colorado $47,450 $32,700 $74,530
Connecticut $49,000 $34,440 $82,440
Delaware $47,520 $31,690 $67,800
District of Columbia $57,490 $35,820 $87,900
Florida $39,080 $27,220 $65,810
Georgia $40,950 $27,700 $76,340
Hawaii $50,590 $35,790 $81,580
Idaho $43,000 $28,520 $63,620
Illinois $46,510 $30,000 $77,810
Indiana $41,430 $28,580 $71,330
Iowa $43,110 $29,210 $64,130
Kansas $40,370 $27,610 $62,350
Kentucky $40,020 $27,340 $64,980
Louisiana $35,880 $23,460 $63,410
Maine $41,590 $29,620 $64,540
Maryland $48,120 $29,110 $78,120
Massachusetts $52,000 $34,300 $84,580
Michigan $42,910 $28,940 $69,100
Minnesota $52,010 $36,920 $79,440
Mississippi $35,300 $21,170 $58,940
Missouri $44,860 $28,310 $69,230
Montana $42,020 $28,060 $64,130
Nebraska $43,540 $29,170 $64,770
Nevada $43,430 $30,260 $68,030
New Hampshire $43,400 $31,960 $69,330
New Jersey $48,080 $34,000 $83,250
New Mexico $42,240 $26,760 $71,110
New York $50,220 $33,060 $83,880
North Carolina $38,490 $27,200 $62,650
North Dakota $50,710 $33,540 $72,660
Ohio $42,620 $28,350 $65,950
Oklahoma $41,130 $26,750 $65,490
Oregon $50,590 $34,500 $79,530
Pennsylvania $42,330 $29,660 $66,430
Rhode Island $49,110 $33,840 $78,470
South Carolina $38,340 $26,360 $63,020
South Dakota $41,500 $28,430 $64,480
Tennessee $40,360 $27,070 $68,780
Texas $39,990 $26,790 $67,570
Utah $42,090 $28,990 $66,200
Vermont $43,080 $31,940 $65,150
Virginia $44,810 $29,220 $71,160
Washington $53,150 $34,890 $84,070
West Virginia $38,950 $26,610 $63,890
Wisconsin $44,260 $32,010 $63,420
Wyoming $45,250 $30,310 $68,600

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2020 median salary; projected job growth through 2030. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

Earnings will vary depending on your degree and specialty. As is true in many fields, an advanced degree can boost your earning potential. Informatics professionals with an associate degree working as health information technicians earn a median salary of $44,090, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, while professionals with bachelor’s degrees or higher and employed as health information managers earn a median salary of $104,280.

“The pay scale increases with more education,” Richey says.

stephanie behring

Written and reported by:
Stephanie Behring
Contributing writer

john richey

With professional insight from:
John Richey, MBA, RHIA, FAHIMA
Director of Academic Education Services, American Health Information Management Association