Is a Health Informatics Degree Worth It?
Since the passing of the HITECH Act requiring health providers to create and maintain electronic medical records for every patient, there has been a boom in the health care informatics field. Thousands of new jobs have opened up and new career paths have emerged for those in the health and IT fields. The Bureau of Labor Statistics even predicts that the number of jobs in the health care informatics field will grow 22% by 2022, twice as fast as employment overall.
So if you are considering what a career shift toward health care informatics might look like, you may also be wondering what education and experience you need to make the move successfully. Is a health informatics degree worth it or can you rely on your health or IT experience to break into this new and burgeoning field?
What Employers Are Looking For
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 come by.
According to a 2014 report by Burning Glass Technologies: “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 graduate degree can be so beneficial for those interested in a career in health informatics. Since most professionals interested in a career in informatics come from either a health background or an IT background, a graduate program can give you an education in the area that you lack, be it health care or IT.
Not only will a graduate degree help you balance out your skill set so that you are fully qualified for today’s informatics positions, but many of the top jobs in health informatics prefer candidates who have at least a master’s degree. Those jobs include clinical IT leadership positions, chief information officer, data scientists, health informatics researchers, consultants and clinical systems analysts.
Salaries in Health Informatics
A Healthcare IT News article reported that informatics is a top career in health care because those who master the art of combining patient care with health IT skills are in a better position to demand more pay, expand their growth potential and become an integral part of a growing dynamic health organization. “Clinicians with informatics skills are perfectly poised to expand their role at health care organizations that have already adopted electronic health records and are now getting ready to reap the rewards by analyzing the data from those systems,” said Joyce Sensmeier, vice president of informatics at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.
To master that art of combining patient care with IT skills, many in the field rely on higher education. And they are happy to do so knowing that their education will mean they are able to demand a higher salary.
As of 2015, the overall average salary for health IT professionals was $111,387.52, according to an annual compensation survey by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). The average salary for IT professionals across all industries was much lower, at $85,460 according to glassdoor.com. Why the discrepancy? In the health care informatics field there are currently not enough skilled informatics experts to fill the many new positions, which require candidates to have both medical and information technology knowledge plus a high level of education. Simply put, it’s a matter of economics – demand is high and supply is low.
Yes, A Health Informatics Degree Is Worth It
The best health informatics graduate programs recruit students from both patient care and IT fields and offer curriculums that develop students’ knowledge across technical and professional systems. The University of San Diego offers a 100% online Master of Science in Health Informatics degree that is designed to prepare working professionals with the knowledge required to compete for and succeed in director-level (and above) positions in health care, biotech, health insurance and related fields. The program curriculum was designed under the guidance of employers in the industry, who identified key characteristics and skills they look for when filling informatics positions in their organizations.
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 can set you apart from the competition during a time when skilled informatics professionals are in high demand and short supply.