Want to Land a Job in Health Informatics? The Different Paths to Employment
As the health care industry comes into the data age, the demand for health care information experts is rising steadily. A separate discipline for several decades, jobs in health care informatics have moved to the forefront in the last five years with the switch to electronic medical records by health care organizations – including hospitals, clinics and private physician offices. According to The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), “There are approximately 12,000 to 50,000 new jobs anticipated by 2017, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics cites a 23% growth rate in employment opportunities for medical and health services managers.
So how do you land a job in the growing health informatics field? While the jobs are plentiful, in order to qualify for the jobs with the highest growth and earning potential, you need to have a unique combination of experience and education.
The Two Tracks to a Career in Health Informatics
There are two primary paths to landing a job in health informatics. You either need a background in clinical care, or a background in computer information sciences.
If you are an MD, nurse or other medical clinician looking to expand your career options and move into a leadership role, a master’s degree in health care informatics can be quite appealing. Not only will a graduate degree in health care informatics build upon your current health care knowledge and years of medical experience but it will allow you to expand your career beyond direct patient care. And with a background in medicine and clinical care, you have the perfect educational and experiential foundation required to succeed in health informatics.
The second path to a career in health care informatics requires a computer information science background. For IT professionals who have an interest in the health care field and would like to use their technical skills to impact the future of patient care and delivery, a job in health informatics can be extremely appealing. But to be successful in the health informatics field, IT professionals need a certain level of health care knowledge and training, which can be gained through the completion of a master’s degree in health care informatics.
For many jobs in the health informatics field, a combination of IT and nursing or clinical care skills are required, a combination that is hard to find. According to a 2014 report by Burning Glass Technologies,
“Specifically, our research finds that many of these new jobs [in health informatics] are hybrids, requiring skill sets from different disciplines and which therefore are not typically trained together. That means that people trained in any one required area of expertise are unlikely to have some of the other skills demanded in these new jobs. One example is the role of Clinical Analyst, which assists clinical staff with IT systems, interprets data, and manages patient records. That requires some of the skills both of a registered nurse and of an IT technician—at present, an uncommon combination. As a result, Clinical Analyst positions stay open 15% longer than the national average.”
That’s why a strong graduate degree can make all the difference. The best graduate programs recruit students from both patient care and IT fields, and offer curriculums that develop students’ knowledge across technical and professional systems… Not only will a master’s degree in health informatics fill in the blanks in your education and experience (developing your IT skills if you’re a clinician or doctor, and vice versa if you’re currently working in IT) but it will set you apart from the competition during a time when skilled informatics professionals are in high demand and short supply.
So for the most part, it boils down to two distinct paths for those looking to get into the health informatics field:
Master level informatics professionals may consider multiple jobs in healthcare informatics such as health informatics director, chief medical information officer, health informatics consultant, clinical data analyst, health information resource manager, health information system application designer and compliance officer.
Want to Test Out the Water Before Diving In?
Pursuing a master’s degree takes commitment. For many, the burgeoning field of health informatics is intriguing, but having never worked or studied in informatics, specifically, they may question whether or not it is the right move. If this is your mindset, committing to a master’s program can feel overwhelming. That’s why universities have started to offer certificate programs. For example, the University of San Diego offers a certificate in health care informatics that is fully transferable to the masters in health care informatics degree. So in essence you can start with the certificate program, and if you decide you enjoy the discipline and want to take your learning to the next level, all of your classes will transfer over to the master’s program
If you are already committed to pursuing a career in health informatics, consider earning an advanced degree in the topic, such as the Master of Science in Health Care Informatics from the University of San Diego. The unique program curriculum integrates health care technology, leadership and business knowledge/skills in both a campus-based and online format, allowing you to earn your degree while working full time. You can specialize in data science/analytics or health care leadership, or stick with the foundational health care informatics curriculum. Either way, you’ll enjoy a program that is approved by HIMSS and prepares you for certification in the field.