Health Informatics: Master’s Degree vs. Certificate Program – Which is Best for You?

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Health informatics degree vs health informatics certificate

It’s no secret that health informatics is a fast-growing field spanning a broad spectrum of job opportunities that offer above-average pay. But you’ll likely need some additional training to get your foot in the door. So what’s the best way to position yourself for a successful career move into health informatics?

Two of the most common pathways involve earning a:

  • Certificate in health informatics, or
  • Master’s degree in health informatics

But which one is best for you?

A successful career in health informatics requires a combination of skills related to both medical care and information technology, so you’ll have a solid head start if you already have experience working in health care or as an IT professional.

When it comes to ideal candidates, health informatics employers also are on the lookout for people who have a background in health information management — billing, medical coding, handling compliance issues, implementation or processing of electronic health records (EHR), etc.

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For the majority of individuals who are coming from these backgrounds, as well as those who wish to make the transition from an entirely unrelated field, a master’s degree in health informatics is your most effective ticket for entry into this potentially lucrative line of work.

While a certificate in health informatics will definitely help you develop key technical skills, it likely will not provide the same career growth potential as a master’s degree. However, there are certain situations in which a certificate program is a good choice.

Health Informatics Certificate and Master Degree Course Comparison Table

A certificate program in health informatics may be right for you if:

A master’s program in health informatics might be best for you if:

You want to gain some exposure to the field before deciding whether to commit to a full master’s degree programYou work as a health care professional and are focused on obtaining the necessary IT and informatics skills
You already have experience working in informatics and are looking for a resume boostYou work as an IT professional and are focused on obtaining the needed health-related training and medical knowledge
You have already acquired an MBA but need to develop technical skills specific to medical informaticsYou want to go beyond learning the basic technical tools and skills, and delve into courses in leadership, finance, strategic planning, statistics and more to position yourself for advancement in a hospital or health care setting
You have aspirations to work in health informatics, but not necessarily in a leadership capacityYou are willing to invest the extra time required to complete an advanced degree (your online master’s degree can be completed in less than 2 years)

Flexible Pathways to a Career in Health Informatics

If you are looking to gain some exposure to the field of health informatics before diving into a master’s, keep in mind that some certificate programs can transition seamlessly into master’s degree should you decide to go that route.

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Although the basic technical tools and skills can be learned through most certificate programs, a master’s degree better prepares students for mid-level, upper-level and leadership positions within the field and therefore is the preferred option for those who aspire to climb the health informatics career ladder. (This report from lists key health informatics positions with salaries ranging from $64,000 to $144,000.)

If you are committed to pursuing a career in health informatics, earning an advanced degree such as the Master of Science in Health Care Informatics offered at the University of San Diego can make you a more competitive job candidate and open the door for greater advancement and earning potential. The unique curriculum integrates the technical and programmatic skills required of an informaticist with leadership and business management and is offered in two flexible formats – 100% online or on-campus in the evenings –  allowing you to continue working full time while earning your degree.

[RELATED] How to Choose the Best Health Informatics Degree Program >>

Exploring Your Future in Health Informatics?

Download free Career Guide: “A Career in Health Care Informatics: How Big Data & Technology Are Creating New Opportunities to Work in Health Care”