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Is a Master’s in Health Informatics Worth It?

April 21, 2020
woman studying healthcare data charts on a laptop

If you're wondering if a health informatics degree is worth it, you're probably considering a career pivot into the HI field. Or perhaps you're hoping to earn a leadership role. With the prevalence of electronic health care records, patient-generated data from wearable health devices and the rise of healthcare analytics, the need for trained HI professionals is growing. We'll explore the opportunities that this field has to offer, as well as the education and experience you'll need to rise through the ranks successfully.

Health Informatics Jobs Are on the Rise

According to Healthcare IT News, the health informatics (HI) industry is in a bind, as there are currently more HI jobs open than there are workers to fill them.1 Not only that, but the industry is expected to grow at a rate well beyond the national average for all jobs over the next five years.2 With stats like this, it’s clear that now is a prime time to launch a health informatics career.

A New Discipline in Need of Workers

With the 2009 passage of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, hospitals and healthcare facilities have been incentivized to move from traditional record keeping to the adoption of electronic health records (EHRs). While many medical professionals understand their record keeping needs, and many IT professionals understand how to build databases and efficient digital intersection, the move to EHRs requires specialized knowledge involving both disciplines. This has caused the need for specialized health informatics professionals to skyrocket.

A Better-connected Future

As hospitals and clinics move to EHRs, so do pharmacies and other businesses in the healthcare field. So as individual providers struggle to adapt to digital record keeping, the industry on the whole is faced with a growing need for connectivity between the many different services that work together to deliver care. HI professionals work to ensure that this information exchange is seamless and conforms to all federal regulatory standards.

A High Degree of Specialization

Because of the unique combination of skills required for a career in HI, jobs tend to stay open twice as long as in other professional fields. The current dearth of trained HI professionals also means that median salaries for health IT professionals tend to be high—over $100,000 per year in all regions. Though not all HI jobs require a master’s degree, the most lucrative jobs, and those that provide the highest level of job satisfaction, tend to be the jobs that require the most education.3

An Expanding Market

Another signal of expanding job opportunities in the HI field is the size of the market for providers of technology and IT solutions. Between federal agencies, hospitals, private clinics, insurers and consumers, it is estimated that the size of the health IT market already reached $100 billion in 2017. Some market watchers estimate that number will balloon even higher than that by 2020.4

Room for Advancement…With an Advanced Degree

It’s true, you don’t need a master’s degree to pursue a role in HI. With some certification and an associate’s degree, it’s possible to get into a health information technician position, with a median pay of $39,180 per year.5 However, management positions are typically reserved for those with bachelor’s or master’s degrees, and those positions come with a salary increase of over 150 percent: the median pay for managers in the health information field is $98,000.6 And with a master’s degree, you can make yourself eligible for c-suite positions like Chief Medical Information Officer in a hospital, a position with a median salary of $349,000 and a top salary over half a million dollars per year.7

The Skills for Success

Whether you already have experience working in health informatics or you’re diving into it for the first time, you’ll quickly recognize that this field requires an analytical mind. Database management skills are an absolute must, as the storage and coordination of patient and other healthcare-related information will be among your chief responsibilities.

Interpersonal skills, such as competence in a customer service role, are essential as well, since health informatics technicians and managers have to deal with many different kinds of individuals, all coming from different backgrounds. And writing and speaking skills are also paramount, since much of the job entails making usage policies and procedures as clear as possible to all users. So if you’re an analytically minded person with solid communication skills and a drive to advance to the top of your career, health informatics offers a path and a destination well worth pursuing.

Take advantage of the opportunities that are surging throughout the HI industry. Consider the online Master of Science in Health Informatics from Kent State University, and build the skills you may need to transform the continuum of healthcare delivery.