Health informatics careers combine concepts and practices from healthcare, computer science, and information science. Professionals in this field can work as computer systems managers, health informationists, and clinical analysts. They can also pursue careers in higher education and applied research.
This guide provides information you need to start and grow a career in health informatics. You can learn about employment opportunities by degree level and professional development resources.
Why Pursue a Career in Health Informatics?
To build successful health informatics careers, professionals need extensive knowledge of technology infrastructures that support healthcare. They must understand the complex relationships between healthcare organizations as well as the roles of government agencies and accreditation bodies. The best informatics specialists are problem-solvers who can navigate regulations and implement the newest technologies.
Health informatics specialists must also develop interpersonal skills to collaborate with members of their IT team.
Health Informatics Career Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that healthcare occupations will grow by 15% between 2019 and 2029. The table below provides median annual salaries for four common health informatics careers based on experience level.
According to BLS projections, medical records and health information technicians should see 8% job growth between 2019 and 2029; these workers earn a median annual salary of $42,630. The BLS also projects medical and health services management positions to grow by 32%. These healthcare leaders earn a median annual wage of $100,980.
|Job Title||Entry-Level (0-12 months)||Early Career (1-4 Years)||Midcareer (5-9 Years)||Experienced (10-19 Years)|
|Medical Records or Health Information Technician||$34,160||$35,890||$38,880||$39,090|
|Information Systems Manager||$58,550||$67,270||$78,730||$92,340|
|Clinical Informatics Specialist||$72,120||$75,520||$80,710||$83,640|
Skills Gained With a Health Informatics Degree
When choosing a health informatics program, make sure that the curriculum is built to improve skills related to communication, analytics, leadership, and integrity. Coursework should also build relevant technical skills. These abilities are essential in a health informatics career, and you may need to demonstrate these competencies when applying to positions.
Programs often explore and develop these skills through required courses and internships.
Most health informatics positions are highly technical, so professionals must understand and communicate technical terminology. They must be able to explain technical terms to various audiences, including clients and patients.
- Technical Skills
Technical skills, including coding and systems management, are typically required for a health informatics career. Most positions use electronic health records systems.
In addition to data analytics, healthcare professionals must learn to adapt to changes in laws and regulations. Students can explore how to navigate new laws as they come into effect and determine the best approaches moving forward. Analytical skills also include understanding diagnoses and medical records.
Most advanced positions with higher salaries require leadership skills. These skills take many forms, including problem-solving, motivating staff, training new hires, and taking professional responsibility when necessary.
While health informatics professionals do not work as closely with patients as other healthcare professionals, they must hold themselves to the same professional standards. Students learn how to maintain integrity with patient information.
Health Informatics Career Paths
A concentration is a good way to earn extra experience and prepare for a specific career path; however, most undergraduate health informatics programs offer limited or no concentrations. Concentration options are more common at the graduate level.
This concentration emphasizes business and leadership courses and may require an internship. Graduates are prepared for management careers in health informatics.
This concentration covers health information, data analysis, classification systems, and medical records. An administration concentration typically leads to certification as a registered health information administrator.
In this concentration, students learn to analyze data and existing patient records through computer programs. Graduates can pursue careers as data analysts in healthcare settings.
How to Start Your Career in Health Informatics
You can prepare for a health informatics career by completing an associate program, gaining the core information technology (IT) and administrative skills needed to work as a medical assistant or records technician.
You can also pursue a bachelor's in a healthcare field and then a graduate-level informatics degree. This option is popular for nurses who gain extensive work experience as RNs and then go on to prepare for roles as clinical nurse leaders and informaticists.
As you earn more advanced degrees, your health informatics career options tend to become more specialized and management-oriented. For example, with a master's, you can work in the pharmaceutical industry as a program coordinator or in an IT firm as a consultant. By earning a doctorate, you qualify for dedicated research positions and tenure-track professorships.
Associate Degree in Health Informatics
Colleges and universities offer associate programs in health information technology that teach students fundamental terminology in medicine, pharmacology, and anatomy/physiology. Students also explore IT tools like electronic health records systems and classification guidelines to assign valid diagnostic codes.
To earn an associate degree in health informatics, students must complete at least 60 credits of coursework, which takes full-time students approximately two years. The table below details three health informatics careers graduates can pursue with an associate degree.
What Can You Do With an Associate in Health Informatics?
- Medical Records or Health Informatics Technician
Also referred to as health information technicians, these professionals manage health databases to ensure they are current and accurate. These technicians also maintain patients' medical records. Most positions require knowledge of medical data software.
- Information Clerk
An information clerk ensures information, including bills and medical claims, is in order. These workers must also understand services offered by medical institutions and communicate them to patients. Information clerks can also work outside the medical field.
- Medical Assistant
Medical assistants work less with computers and more with patients than other health informatics graduates. These assistants may record patient information, measure vitals, prepare samples, schedule appointments, and input patient information into databases.
Bachelor's Degree in Health Informatics
For lucrative positions with more opportunities for career growth, students should consider earning a bachelor's degree in health informatics. These four-year programs cover the same basic information, although specific courses and specialization opportunities may vary. Degree-seekers who choose a top online bachelor's program can pursue a variety of career tracks.
Regardless of which program you choose, a bachelor's degree requires more computer science courses than an associate degree. Graduates with this degree also tend to have significantly higher earning potential than those with only an associate degree.
What Can You Do With a Bachelor's in Health Informatics?
- Medical and Health Services Manager
Also known as healthcare executives, health services managers take charge of planning and coordinating health services. The size and scope of this position can vary from a specific practice to an entire facility.
- Computer and Information Systems Manager
Also known as IT managers, these professionals install new computer systems, keep operating costs low, orchestrate IT functions, and find new ways to improve current computer systems.
Health Informatics Graduate Certificates
Sometimes, earning a degree is not enough to earn the position you want. To gain extra skills and set themselves apart, professionals should look into earning health informatics graduate certificates.
Certificates typically take 8-12 months to complete and cost less than a master's degree. Earning a top online health informatics graduate certificate can be a relatively quick, affordable way to specialize your education and boost your career.
Master's Degree in Health Informatics
Health informatics can be a lucrative field, especially for professionals with a master's degree in health informatics. While a bachelor's degree teaches basic skills, a master's degree lets you specialize your education, opening the door to more specialized careers.
Most health informatics master's students have a clear professional goal in mind and choose the best online master's program for their target career. Not all of the roles described in the following table explicitly require a master's degree, but a graduate-level education can help set professionals apart from their peers when applying for jobs.
What Can You Do With a Master's in Health Informatics?
- Clinical Informatics Specialist
This highly specialized position requires expertise in healthcare management and computer science. A clinical informatics specialist resolves software and hardware issues while planning facility-wide system changes.
- Pharmacy Informatics Coordinator
Pharmacy informatics coordinators must stay abreast of the latest standards and pharmaceutical laws. These experts maintain pharmacy databases and often implement or create relevant software.
- Clinical Nurse Leader
To become a clinical nurse leader, you need previous nursing experience and a master's in health informatics. These professionals lead nurses in completing tasks within a facility. Clinical nurse leaders also communicate with nurses, patients, and patients' families.
- IT Consultant
These professionals advise clients on how to best set up their IT systems. This position requires significant computer science knowledge.
Doctoral Degree in Health Informatics
Health informatics is a dynamic field that can lead to many exciting positions. To reach some of the most advanced positions in the field, candidates need significant experience and a doctoral degree.
A doctoral degree demonstrates advanced expertise and leadership skills that set graduates apart from master's degree-holders. As such, employers hiring workers for leadership positions often look for candidates with a doctoral degree.
What Can You Do With a Doctorate in Health Informatics?
- Chief Medical Officer
CMOs run the entire medical program within their organization, including overseeing budgets, making personnel changes, and changing work models.
- Postsecondary Teacher, Health
Professors teach college courses and perform their own research. They can become tenured, and many enjoy long, successful careers.
- Senior Research Scientist
Senior research scientists help train and oversee other scientists in their labs. This position also involves planning projects, implementing new technologies, and conducting research.
Sources: BLS and PayScale
How to Advance Your Career in Health Informatics
Because health informatics is a multidisciplinary and relatively new field, different opportunities emerge frequently. Rapid changes to healthcare legislation and standards, as well as new technologies, also drive growth in this industry.
This section examines the steps professionals can take to advance their health informatics careers, such as taking advantage of networking, certification, and continuing education opportunities.
Certifications and/or Licensure
The licenses that health informatics professionals must obtain depend on their specific field. To work in nursing as a clinical leader or informaticist, professionals must maintain an unencumbered RN license. They can further boost their credibility by earning an informatics nursing certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center.
Optional certification programs offer proof of skills and knowledge that align with industry standards and best practices. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) provides certifications for emerging practitioners and experienced specialists.
Health informatics professionals can earn additional certifications through the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), including specialized credentials for coding, data analysis, documentation improvement, and healthcare privacy and security. The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) is also developing a certification program for seasoned practitioners.
Professionals who complete a graduate program can qualify for a broader variety of health informatics careers. Informatics practitioners can also pursue less intensive forms of continuing education, such as massive open online courses (MOOCs) offered through platforms like edX and Coursera.
Professionals can also complete academic certificate programs, gaining specialized competencies. These credits can usually be transferred toward a master's or doctorate later on.
Fellowships through organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer paid opportunities for skill development. AHIMA provides fellowship training to master's degree-holders with at least 10 years of professional experience. Additionally, AMIA's website offers a list of additional fellowship programs.
To ensure that health informaticists stay current on new ideas, practices, and technologies in the industry, organizations require professionals to earn continuing education units (CEUs) to renew their certification. To recertify with AHIMA, practitioners need to accumulate 20-30 CEUs during each two-year renewal cycle by completing approved activities. HIMSS uses a three-year renewal cycle.
Expanding your professional circle is another crucial part of advancing your career in health informatics. You can connect with colleagues online through general networking websites like LinkedIn and occupation-specific platforms like the Health Informatics Forum. You can also attend national gatherings like the Public Health Informatics Conference and the AMIA Clinical Informatics Conference.
How to Switch Your Career to Health Informatics
Midcareer professionals can transition into health informatics careers to take advantage of competitive salaries and leadership opportunities. This switch is popular among RNs and pharmacy technicians, who can apply their experience with electronic health records to work as nurse informaticists and pharmacy informatics specialists.
Due to its focus on data analysis and application of technological tools, health informatics may also be a good fit for experienced IT administrators and developers. Similarly, professionals with undergraduate business degrees can enroll in master's programs in health informatics to expand their operations management knowledge and develop consulting skills.
Where Can You Work as a Health Informatics Professional?
- General Medical and Surgical Hospitals
Medical and surgical hospitals often provide general care and specialized practices. These organizations employ thousands of health informatics professionals
- Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories
These laboratories provide analytical and diagnostic services, usually to medical professionals. Examples include dental, blood analysis, and pathological labs. Lab careers require significant analytics skills.
- Physician Offices
Health informatics professionals can pursue several carers in physicians' offices, including roles in analytics and management. These offices are smaller than hospitals and are more likely to focus on a specific field.
- Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing
Health informatics professionals in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing focus on working with computer systems, database management, and analytics.
- Outpatient Care Centers
Outpatient care centers help patients who do not need to stay overnight at the hospital. Within these centers, health informatics professionals can work in roles that involve data analytics and systems management.
Interview With a Health Informatics Professional
Douglas Bittel, Ph.D.
Associate Professor Kansas City University
- Why did you decide to pursue a career in health informatics? Is it something that you were always interested in?
I have always been interested in genetics and the complexity of developmental regulation. So my interest in informatics stems from a fascination with biological information management. From this, health informatics is a logical extension.
- What did your career path look like after graduating? How did you end up where you are now?
I graduated with a Ph.D. in molecular biology. I eventually joined a genetics team at the University of Kansas Medical Center and from there was recruited to the genetics department at Children's Mercy Hospital. We explored the genetic contribution to many different developmental deficiencies experienced by children in our lab. This research required a great deal of information management and analysis, which led me to appreciate the expertise required for good data acquisition, storage, and analysis.
- What do you feel are the most important skills to be successful in health informatics?
The answer to this question is very dependent on specialization. My own experience is centered around genetic data. Computer skills are essential. Acquiring, safely storing, accessing, and analyzing big sets of data requires excellent knowledge of the computer programs needed for each of these processes.
- What does continuing education look like for you? How do you stay up to date with new research and developments in the field?
I read newly published research. I also experiment with and learn to use new computer programs.
- What is the most enjoyable aspect of your job? The most challenging?
Analyzing data and finding an answer to a new question is very rewarding. Keeping up with all of the vast information concerning data management and processing is very challenging.
- What advice would you give to students considering a degree and career in health informatics?
Get a solid education in biology and computer programming.
- Any final thoughts for us?
The field of Informatics is rapidly expanding and represents an excellent career choice.
Resources for Health Informatics Majors
The following section details professional and academic resources that can help you build a career with a health informatics degree. You can also learn about the funding and networking opportunities available to members of major industry organizations. This section also includes lists of free MOOCs and influential healthcare publications.
- Professional Organizations
The American Society of Health Informatics Managers: ASHIM provides IT certifications that can help aspiring professionals stand out, including the certified health informatics systems professional credential.
Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity: Professionals seeking management or administrative careers should consider joining ADHI. This professional organization maintains a job board and operates state and local chapters for in-person networking opportunities.
Association for Healthcare Administrative Professionals: AHCAP members receive access to a job board, webinars, and continuing education courses.
Business School Alliance for Health Management: BAHM connects current master's students with the resources they need to pursue health management careers. Members can talk to current professionals and learn more about potential opportunities. They can also learn tips to focus their education on specific jobs.
American Association of Medical Assistants: This organization offers educational opportunities, professional certifications, advocacy, and networking opportunities to its members.
American Medical Technologists: This professional association provides its members with continuing education and credentialing options. AMT also offers conferences and operates local chapters.
National Healthcareer Association: NHA offers professional certifications like the certified clinical medical assistant. Study guides and practice tests are available online. NHA also helps connect its members with potential employers and continuing education opportunities.
American Registry of Medical Assistants: ARMA offers certifications and continuing education opportunities to medical assistants. An online forum allows members to communicate with their peers.
American Academy of Professional Coders: AAPC offers professional certifications to physician-based medical coders. The academy also hosts local chapters and a job board, and members can access networking opportunities
American Health Information Management Association: The largest professional association in the medical coding industry, AHIMA boasts over 71,000 members in all 50 states. AHIMA offers several professional certifications, seminars, and continuing education classes. The association also publishes professional journals and industry newsletters.
American Medical Billing Association: The association offers introductory classes like online billing and coding, as well as startup tools for new businesses. The AMBA also hosts an annual conference.
Medical Association of Billers: MAB is approved by the U.S. Department of Education to offer postsecondary education in medical billing and coding. Members gain access to a bimonthly newsletter, discounted refresher programs, and discounted online classes.
American Association of Healthcare Administration Management: This organization assists healthcare professionals by providing education opportunities, advocacy, and certifications. Administrators working in the areas of medical records, admitting and registration, and data management and reimbursement may benefit from an AAHAM membership.
- Open Courseware
Bioinformatics Specialization - University of California, San Diego: One of the most popular series of MOOCs on Coursera, the bioinformatics specialization consists of four courses. Students learn about computational approaches and related software in science and healthcare. Covered topics include finding hidden messages in DNA; comparing genes, proteins, and genomes; and molecular evolution.
Computational Neuroscience - University of Washington: Students explore core computational methods for understanding how nervous systems work and how they govern memory, vision, learning, and sensory-motor control. Participants also gain skills in Python/Matlab/Octave, learning how to process and visualize information in neural networks.
Global Health Informatics to Improve Quality of Care - Massachusetts Institute of Technology: In this 13-week course, students examine how increased international travel and global warming fuel the spread of infectious diseases like the Ebola virus. They examine how IT innovations can combat disease in resource-constrained situations and settings. Additional topics include project management, multicultural leadership, and data-supported best practices in health informatics.
Leading Change in Health Informatics - Johns Hopkins University:This beginner course helps nurses, physicians, and other allied health professionals transition into the informatics field. Students learn about the role big data plays in extracting and applying actionable information. Participants also develop the skills needed to assess an organization's values and culture and develop strategic plans with regard to financial considerations.
BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making: This open-access journal contains peer-reviewed articles on the design and implementation of health information technologies. Recent topics include developments in kidney transplant clinical practice, a qualitative study of paediatric chemotherapy, and evaluating stakeholder involvement in organizational decision-making. Professionals can submit their work through a three-step process that includes paying a fee.
Health Informatics Journal: This open-access publication provides an international forum for practitioners, researchers, and students to discuss healthcare challenges related to areas like patient services and organizational management. Recent articles cover topics like machine learning approaches to predicting pulmonary disease, data work in healthcare, and coded nursing care/nursing intensity data.
International Journal of Medical Informatics: This journal is published through a joint effort between the European Federation for Medical Informatics and the International Medical Informatics Association. Articles cover topics like computational intelligence approaches to predicting autism and the effectiveness of telemedicine.
JMIR Medical Informatics: With a focus on applied and translational research, this journal boasts strong readership among engineers, physicians, and health informatics specialists. Articles cover topics like decision support for healthcare professionals and electronic health records. Readers can volunteer to critique and edit submissions from authors who do not opt out of the open, peer-review process.
Journal of Health Informatics & Management: Distributed by international publisher SciTechnol, this scholarly journal centers on technological applications to improve the quality of healthcare services. Readers can access peer-reviewed articles on topics like value-based healthcare in Saudi Arabia, big data analytics using machine learning, and modeling high blood pressure risk factors in women.
Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association: AMIA's official, peer-reviewed publication covers health and biomedical informatics, including clinical research, consumer health, and implementation science. Recent articles examine public health outbreak responses, teledentistry practices, and using an interactive online dashboard to track U.S. COVID-19 cases in real time.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is health informatics a good career?
Within the growing healthcare industry, health informatics specialists are in demand due to their ability to improve patient care and organizational effectiveness. The BLS projects that medical records and health information technician positions will grow by 8% between 2019 and 2029. The BLS projects 32% growth for medical and health services managers during the same period.
- What can you do with a health informatics degree?
By pursuing a bachelor's degree in the field, you can work as a health informatics specialist or data analyst. With a graduate degree, you may qualify for positions as a clinical nurse leader, information systems manager, or postsecondary teacher.
- What are the most helpful qualifications for health informatics careers?
Health informatics professionals can pursue certifications through organizations like HIMSS, which offers two credentials based on a worker's experience level. Additionally, AHIMA offers eight certifications in specialty areas like physician-based coding, information administration, and healthcare privacy and security.
- What is a health informatics professional's salary?
A worker's earning potential varies greatly based on their location, employer, and experience. According to the BLS, medical records and health information technicians earn a median annual salary of $42,630. As leaders in the field, medical and health services managers earn a median annual salary of $100,980.