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Choosing a Health Informatics Career Path

January 08, 2020

Health informatics is the intersection between technology and healthcare, making health informatics an excellent career choice for anyone who enjoys analyzing systems, organizing information, and working with technology in a context that changes lives. Even though you wouldn't work directly with patients, as a health informatics professional you could have a significant impact on the healthcare industry and on peoples’ lives. Whether you're interested in health informatics because you come from a healthcare background or because you're looking to apply your analytical skills and technological knowledge in a meaningful way, a career in health informatics may be right for you.

But what exactly does a health informatics career path look like?

There's no single "health informatics career."

Some degrees are the entry point to a particular career path; for example, an education degree prepares you to teach, and a graphic design degree prepares you for a career in visual arts and/or design.

On the other hand, some degrees train students with a versatile skill set that can be used in many career paths. Students who go into these fields may need to put more effort into researching ways to use their degree and investigating which would be right for them, but they will be rewarded by having more varied opportunities and a chance to find exactly what career interests them the most.

Health informatics is among the latter.1 Health informatics professionals are not limited to pursuing a single career path. Instead, studying health informatics provides you with the tools to thrive in a range of positions, depending on what career you find most personally appealing.

Health informatics gives you a versatile toolbox of skills.

What defines a health informatics career is not the job title but rather the skills you need to succeed. Jobs that require a health informatics degree tend to have similar requirements, and a good health informatics program should give you opportunities to learn and master these skills. In some cases, these may build upon your existing personal strengths. Overall, they are broadly applicable and will serve you well in a wide range of related occupations.

The skills you need to succeed in a health informatics career include:2

  • Communication: being able to convey technical information clearly, even to people who don't understand the technical terminology
  • Technical skills: healthcare technology, coding, systems management
  • Analytical thinking: assessing health information technology, modeling optimal workflows
  • Leadership skills: taking responsibility, leading a team, training new employees
  • Integrity: following the usual professional standards for medical patient information

Health informatics degrees are useful at all levels.

The experience and education level you will need to pursue different health informatics careers depends on which career path you decide to follow. Depending on your specific goals or interests, you may be able to start a health informatics career with as little as an associate's degree in health informatics, or you may need a master's in health informatics or even a doctorate degree.

If you have already obtained licensure in nursing or a related field, you may be able to put that to use in some specialized health informatics professions.2 You may also benefit from getting certification in specific areas of technology. However, for many careers in health informatics, these qualifications are an added bonus rather than necessary for securing employment.

Here are just a few of the job titles you can pursue in health informatics, organized by educational requirements.

Associate's degree2

  • Health technician: Health technicians maintain databases of patient information and medical records to guarantee their accuracy, using medical data software.
  • Medical assistant: Medical assistants interact with patients to gather and record patient information, measure vitals and schedule appointments.
  • Information clerk: This position typically refers to individuals who ensure that bills and medical claims are in order and that medical services are communicated to patients.

Bachelor's degree

  • Health informatics specialist:1 These individuals communicate between clinicians and the IT department to determine IT needs, provide IT training to other employees and provide troubleshooting and administrative support.
  • Clinical informatics data analyst:1 Using a facility's existing IT system, these professionals assess and improve how data is acquired, documented, analyzed and stored. They also ensure all data management systems are HIPAA compliant.
  • Computer and information systems manager:2 IT managers install new computer systems, improve current computer systems and handle the computer needs of a practice or facility.
  • Medical and health services manager:2 These managers plan and coordinate the health services offered by a medical practice or facility.

Master's degree in health informatics

  • Health informatics manager:1 Health informatics managers oversee and manage health information data at specific facilities to improve efficiency and patient care. They must work well with other departments and be able to lead their own teams.
  • Pharmacy informatics coordinator:2 These individuals maintain pharmacy databases and may need to create their own software to manage the data. They must keep updated on changes to pharmaceutical laws and standards.
  • Clinical informatics specialist:2 Combining healthcare management and computer science, this position oversees the hardware and software needs for an entire medical facility and manages the technical system.
  • Clinical nurse leader:2 Clinical nurse leaders require a combination of nursing experience and informatics knowledge and they must be able to lead a team of nurses, communicate well with patients and understand the systems that support nursing in the facility.
  • IT consultant:2 IT consultants advise different facilities and healthcare practices about the best IT systems to serve their needs.
  • Information systems manager:2 Information system managers oversee IT departments and identify ways to improve computer systems and they can be found in many different fields. This position is particularly important in the healthcare field where computer systems can play an important role in patient safety and health.

If you're interested in pursuing a more advanced career in health informatics, a graduate degree like the online Master of Science in Health Informatics or Postbaccalaureate Certificate from Kent State University can open a myriad of career possibilities in this unique field where healthcare and technology intersect. You'll cultivate necessary skills and study under expert faculty so that you can step into a leadership role, whether you want to focus on the patient experience, data management, technological systems or whatever career path you choose.