Health informatics is a field that combines computers and information science with health care. Professional in health informatics will work with a variety of complex information systems that combine understandings of clinical workflow, data management and more. From dental offices to pharmaceutical companies to public health and beyond, this field continues to thrive. Health informatics and the use of computers in health care settings dates back to the 1950s, but because of a push in the United States toward electronic health records, this is a fast-growing and rapidly-changing area. Through 2016, the field is expected to grow by 18 percent.
One of the most attractive things about this career is its versatility. Health informatics professionals may work for small start-ups, in large healthcare organizations, in clinics or in universities to name just a few settings. Specific jobs within those environments might including systems development, research, analyst, consultant and more. A number of different roles are available depending on one’s strengths and interests.
A master’s degree in health informatics would qualify one for any number of jobs in the field including management positions. This ability to advance and to oversee large information systems is one reason to seek a master’s degree over shorter certification programs.
A Need for Professionals
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the country is facing a serious shortage of health informatics professionals. As the field expands and organizations struggle to fill positions, many managers are reluctant to hire people who lack a medical background and clinical experience. The systems used in health care settings tend to be large and complex, and they need to interact with one another effectively. However, the shortage means that organizations are forced to be more flexible than they might in who they hire. Candidates still need to demonstrate they are right for the job, however, and a master’s degree in health informatics is an excellent way to position oneself ahead of other candidates.
A Multidisciplinary Degree
The field of health informatics is not simply about having strong information technology skills. The successful health informatics professional will have combined skills in computers and management as well as an understanding of the unique architecture of health care systems. A master’s degree will give students a thorough grounding in all of these areas in a far more in-depth way than a certificate program could offer. Students in a master’s program can also choose an area of specialization within the broader field of health informatics.
The health care profession has been a booming field for some time, and many people who return to school for a second or even third career do so in this area. A career in health care informatics combines the stability of health care and computer careers with the dynamism of a fast-growing and quickly-changing field. It is likely that health informatics will continue to expand in the years to come, and a master’s degree in health informatics will position one well to take advantage of these opportunities.
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Mark Fowler is a medical data analyst and guest author at Best Health Degrees, where he contributed to the guide to the Top 10 Best Master’s in Health Informatics Degrees.