Earning a degree in health informatics opens up a variety of career possibilities, many of which offer higher-than-average pay. In addition to learning about new technologies involved with healthcare information management, students also learn about healthcare business and administration, gaining a multifaceted understanding of the industry. Students graduate with a firm understanding of how to improve healthcare information systems. They also gain the background necessary to pursue a graduate degree in the field.
To meet the medical needs of the aging baby boomer population, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the healthcare industry will grow by 2.4 million jobs between 2016 and 2026. A portion of this demand requires workers who can organize, manage, and analyze the influx of healthcare data and information created as a result of this rapidly growing patient base. As more healthcare facilities adopt electronic health records (EHRs), they will need employees who understand how to manage this technology. The BLS projects medical records and health information technicians jobs to increase by 13% between 2016 and 2026, which is almost double the rate of growth for all occupations.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Health Informatics?
Deciding whether you should pursue a health informatics degree depends on your personal interests and career goals. For those interested in information technology or the healthcare industry, pursuing a health informatics degree might serve as an important stepping stone toward your future career goals.
Depending on a student's individual needs and lifestyle, on-campus and online bachelor's programs offer different benefits. An on-campus program may suit students who already possess an associate degree in a field related to computer science or who recently graduated from high school and know that they want to pursue a career that requires a bachelor's degree. An online health informatics degree might better serve working professional looking to change careers. While on-campus programs provide a more traditional college experience that may suit the lifestyle of younger students, online courses provide greater scheduling flexibility, allowing nontraditional students to continue fulfilling professional or family obligations.
In a health informatics degree program, students learn how to develop IT systems that process and store data specifically related to healthcare organizations that rely on electronic health records. In this way, the degree blends skills relating to computer science and healthcare administration, allowing students the freedom to pursue various career paths in IT and healthcare. Whatever career path students decide to pursue, a health informatics degree helps applicants stand out in their field. While in school, students may also make important professional connections through their peers or professors. Some programs may also help students find internships or job opportunities upon graduation.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Health Informatics?
Because a health informatics degree covers both technology management and healthcare administration, graduates are prepared for many careers. Students can enter careers designed specifically for healthcare informatics graduates, like working as a health information technician, but they can also explore other areas of the healthcare industry, such as healthcare administration. While most healthcare informatics graduates end up working in the healthcare industry, their place of employment may vary depending on the job. Some graduates work in hospitals or private clinics. Others work for nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, or health insurance companies.
- Medical and Health Services Managers
Also called healthcare administrators or healthcare executives, medical and health services managers manage, direct, and streamline healthcare services, staying up to date with changes in healthcare regulations, policies, and laws. The scope of their responsibilities can vary from an entire medical facility to a single department within a hospital. Most hold a bachelor's degree and some professional experience working in healthcare.
Median Annual Salary: $98,350*
- Medical Records and Health Information Technicians
Medical records and health information technicians oversee healthcare information and data, maintaining databases and registries of patient information. They make sure data remains secure, organized, accessible, and accurate for use in insurance reimbursements and medical histories.
Median Annual Salary: $39,180*
- Computer Systems Analysts
Computer systems analysts help companies use their technology more effectively and efficiently. They often review a business' or organization's current computer systems and determine how to implement a higher quality system. They blend business knowledge with a background in IT to meet their clients' needs. Most analysts possess a bachelor's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $88,270*
- Computer and Information Systems Managers
Also called IT managers, computer and information systems managers help identify the technological needs of an organization, such as a healthcare facility, and work with a team to implement systems that effectively address these needs. Most hold a bachelor's degree and several years of professional experience.
Median Annual Salary: $139,220*
- Information Security Analysts
To address a rise in cyberattacks that threaten data security, information security analysts make ensure that an organization's data remains secure. They use software to protect information and investigate security breaches when they occur. Most information security analysts enter their career with a bachelor's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $95,510*
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Health Informatics Program
Students should consider several factors when deciding which health informatics program best suits their personality, lifestyle, and academic goals. Learners should decide whether they want to earn their degree on campus or online. A variety of quality online health informatics programs allow students to earn their degree for less money, without relocating or sacrificing their current lifestyle. Online programs allow working professions to keep their job or fulfill family obligations. They also occasionally offer accelerated courses that help students earn their degree in less time than a traditional on-campus program.
In contrast, face-to-face programs may better serve students who prefer a classroom setting or who want a more traditional college experience. When considering on-campus programs, students should research the school's location, a factor that can also affect the cost of tuition and opportunities like internships or post-graduate employment. Students should also make sure their school's location meets their lifestyle preferences.
Students should also choose a program that meets their academic needs. It is important to research course offerings and make sure that a prospective program offers the classes you want to take. Learners should also look into whether the program features internship, practicum, or thesis requirements.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's in Health Informatics Programs
When it comes to selecting bachelor's in health informatics programs, students should check whether their curriculum boasts programmatic accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). When a program holds programmatic accreditation, it means an outside accrediting agency reviewed the program and determined that it meets a high standard of quality. This helps students know that their program provides a certain quality of education for the cost of their tuition, protecting them from fraudulent or underperforming programs. Attending a CAHIIM-accredited program not only ensures that students receive a high-quality education, it also signals to employers that a student learned the core fundamentals of the field and can enter a job equipped with the skills necessary to succeed.
Bachelor's in Health Informatics Program Admissions
While the admissions process may vary slightly from school to school, students can expect a few common requirements no matter where they apply. For instance, most schools require learners to submit high school transcripts, SAT or ACT scores, at least one letter of recommendation, an essay or personal statement, and an application fee. Many schools also enforce a minimum GPA requirement.
Students should apply to at least five schools, including at least one "dream school" and two "safety" schools. Most schools feature an application deadline in the winter, around December or January, meaning students typically start working on their applications in the fall. Most students typically take their SAT or ACT test their junior year of high school.
- Minimum GPA: Most undergraduate schools require that applicants possess a minimum GPA between 2.5 and 3.0. However, some schools look beyond a low GPA if a student exhibits high test scores, an impressive history of volunteer activity, or other distinguishing achievements.
- Application: The time it takes to complete an application varies depending on the school or program. However, students should start organizing their application materials as early as possible, ideally a few months before their application due date. Luckily, many schools now use The Common Application, a management system that allows students to send their completed applications to multiple colleges at the same time.
- Transcripts: Colleges require that students submit their high school transcripts. To figure out how to access and send transcripts, contact your high school counselor or student services office. If you graduated in the recent past, you can access your transcript from your school district. You can also access your transcript through your state's department of education.
- Letters of Recommendation: Most schools require at least one letter of recommendation. Recommendation letters should come from teachers, advisers, coaches, volunteer supervisors, or employers who can attest to your character and academic ability. You should ask recommenders at least two months before you need to submit your letters.
- Test Scores: Most colleges require that students submit their SAT or ACT scores, although the minimum score for acceptance varies dramatically depending on the school. Most schools prefer students who earned at least a 21 on their ACT. Ivy league schools may only consider students with a 1400 or higher; other competitive public schools may prefer a minimum of 1300. The average for public schools hovers around 1000. Other schools only use standardized test scores for scholarship purposes or as part of a holistic review of a student's academic potential.
- Application Fee: Application fees can range anywhere from $40 to $90. Students who exhibit financial need can typically apply for a fee waiver. Students who received a fee waiver for their SAT automatically qualify for four college fee waivers.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Health Informatics Program?
This section explores the course options, time frames, and costs typically associated with earning a health informatics bachelor's degree. It also outlines the professional certifications students can pursue upon graduating.
Courses in a Bachelor's in Health Informatics Program
Although every program offers its own unique courses, students can expect certain foundational courses to appear in most health informatics curriculums. The courses listed below constitute a sampling of such courses.
- Health Data Management
In this course, students learn how to manage, analyze, and create healthcare data management systems. They explore management policies and procedures, data mapping, documentation standards, and information governance. The course also delves into healthcare topics such as clinical terminology.
- Healthcare Legal Foundations
In this course, students explore the ethical and legal issues involved with healthcare information management and processing. Major topics include patient confidentiality, liability, and ethical and legal conflicts that may arise from legislative mandates relating to health informatics.
- Healthcare Computer Systems and Electronic Health Records
In this course, students learn about health information systems and the functions, issues, and limitations of electronic health records. They may also discuss the financial aspects of EHRs and how this relates to the national scope of health information management.
- Medical Terminology
This course familiarizes students with medical terminology commonly used in hospitals and healthcare settings. In addition to medical terms and the names of common lab tests and procedures, students may also study the prefixes, suffixes, and root words that serve as the building blocks for medical diction.
- Healthcare Reimbursement
This course explores the ins and outs of the healthcare reimbursement process, including methodologies, inpatient and outpatient reimbursement systems, and healthcare insurance plans. Students also learn about compliance, audit processes, and the revenue cycle.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Health Informatics?
Students typically earn their bachelor's degree in health informatics in four years, completing around 120 credit hours of coursework. However, two of these years typically consist of prerequisites or general studies courses, leaving only two years, or 60 credit hours, of coursework related directly to health informatics.
Students who already possess their associate degree in a related field, such as computer science, may earn their bachelor's in less time. Other characteristics may affect the time it takes to earn a degree. For instance, some programs offer accelerated courses that allow students to complete a course in less time. Doubling up on credits can also dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes to graduate. Students who wish to earn their degree at a slower pace, perhaps to leave time for work or family obligations, may take fewer credits per term and graduate in more time. This option may end up costing students more money in the long term, since many schools charge a minimal fee for each semester or quarter of enrollment.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Health Informatics?
Most students who earn their degree end up spending between $10,000 and $25,00 a year on tuition. With most programs requiring four years of study, this cost can easily add up to a large sum of money. However, a variety of factors can significantly reduce or increase this price tag. For instance, earning a health informatics degree online can greatly reduce the cost of tuition and the costs associated with housing and transportation. Students in online programs may also earn their degree in less time, saving additional money on per-semester fees.
Beyond the cost of tuition, students earning their degree at on-campus programs should consider peripheral costs, such as housing, dining, transportation, and campus fees. These fees also vary depending on the school. For instance, schools located in coastal states tend to cost more than schools located in inland states. The cost of living also tends to increase in coastal cities and urban areas, making it essential that students research their school's location. Other factors to consider when calculating the cost of a degree include in-state versus out-of-state tuition and financial aid opportunities.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Health Informatics Prepares For
- Registered Health Information Technician
When combined with a bachelor's degree, this certification, offered through the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), often qualifies graduates for higher-paying positions in healthcare management. Applicants must possess at least an associate degree from a CAHIIM-accredited program or a foreign program that participates in AHIMA's reciprocity agreement.
- CHISP Health IT Certification
This exam and resulting certification establishes that an employee boasts mastery of the skills necessary to fulfill the needs of healthcare facilities as they transition to electronic systems. Graduates who hold this certification appear more marketable to hiring managers and employers; prospective holders can register for the exam online through the American Society of Health Informatics Managers.
- Certified Professional in Health Informatics
Offered through AHIMA, this exam and resulting certification helps employees stand out as competent professionals in their field. Those who hold an undergraduate health informatics degree and two years of health informatics experience, or who hold a master's degree and at least one year of experience, can sit for the exam.
"Resources for Health Informatics Students
Offered through AHIMA, VLab allows students to access and gain experience working with the cutting-edge software used in the professional world. Students can also take advantage of lesson plans and learning activities.
Also offered through AHIMA, the Mentor Match program pairs students and recent health informatics management graduates with experienced professionals in the field. Mentors offer guidance, answer questions, and provide professional support.
The health informatics page on the U.S. National Library of Medicine's website offers a listing of news, data, tools, meetings, conferences, webcasts, organizations, and other resources of value to health informatics students and professionals.
The Journal of Medical Internet Research publishes new research and reviews relating to the design and evaluation of new technologies and innovations in healthcare, helping students and professionals stay current on advances in healthcare technology.
Professional Organizations in Health Informatics
Students and recent graduates alike may benefit from professional organizations. In addition to networking opportunities like conferences and symposiums, professional organizations also offer membership benefits such as online education opportunities, career services, job boards, resource libraries, publications, and discussion boards. Some also offer member discounts on books, software, or admission to conferences. Some health informatics professional organizations also offer credentialing services, helping graduates stand out in the field.
As the premier association for health informatics management professionals, AHIMA offers its members access to textbooks, credentialing services, online education opportunities, career tools, job boards, and newsletters. Members can connect through live meetings, conferences, and community events.
AMIA members enjoy benefits such as free webinars, an annual conference, career services, a mentorship program, a knowledge center, and a variety of publications. Members can also use the association's directory to connect with other professionals in their geographical area or field of expertise.
ANIA supports nursing informatics through education and research. It hosts conferences, webinars, and certification courses. Members enjoy publications, an online library of resources, and a digital career center.
A nonprofit organization, HIMSS helps improve healthcare across the globe through technology. Members enjoy discounts on conferences, webinars, a learning center, and members-only content. Local chapters help members connect to others in their area.
WEDI and its members work to make the country's healthcare system more efficient. Members enjoy access to educational materials, networking events, webinars, and discounts on conferences and advertising space.