Changes in technology and legislation like the Affordable Care Act (ACA) haven’t just affected how patients’ information is kept, and shared, among providers and insurers. They have also created a fast-growing and high-paying career field in health informatics. As Charles Friedman, director of the health informatics program at the University of Michigan, told U.S. News and World Report, “This field is exploding. Access to health information on the Web is taking off at a meteoric pace. It’s creating enormous employment opportunities.”
Health informatics is a multidisciplinary career that combines technology and IT skills, medical knowledge, and expertise in policy fields such as patient privacy law and insurance regulations. And jobs in health informatics are both in demand and highly paid. According to the job-search site Simply Hired, average salaries for the field are around $64,000 a year. Whether you’re already working in the profession or looking to transition from another health profession such as nursing, an advanced degree in health informatics can bring even higher income.
What are the most affordable master’s degrees in health informatics?
While a number of universities have begun offering master’s programs in health informatics, you may not be willing or able to uproot your life (or your family’s) to attend school full-time on campus. And you may be wondering if you can afford to make the investment in education that would take your career to the next level. That’s why we’ve ranked the most affordable regionally accredited online programs in health informatics. While some of these programs have a hands-on learning component that can be filled through a local internship, most of their course content is delivered online, making it ideal for working adults. For more information on the career field or for networking opportunities, check out the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society and the American Health Information Management Association.
New England College
Total cost: $19,800
The most affordable online master’s degree program in health informatics that we ranked was New England College’s Master of Business Administration degree with a concentration in health informatics. NEC’s accredited program is intended for working professionals in health care institutions. While some come to this degree program from an IT or computer networking background, others may come from fields such as nursing and pharmacy.
The program at New England college consists of two parts. The first is an MBA core curriculum, followed by a specialization in health informatics. A typical course sequence looks like this:
MBA Core Curriculum, 28 credits:
- Organizational Leadership and Change
- Managerial Accounting and Finance for Leadership
- Managerial Economics
- Marketing Management
- Professional and Organizational Ethics
- Strategic Planning and Policy
- Capstone Project
MBA Specialty Curriculum, 12 credits:
- Principles of Health Informatics
- Healthcare Technology and Systems
- Knowledge Management in Healthcare
The degree then concludes with a capstone project in your area of interest. New England College is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
Total cost: $21,420
Valparaiso University is a private, independent Lutheran institution located in Valparaiso, Indiana that offers several online master’s degrees for professionals in health care, including as Master of Science in Health Administration with a concentration in Health Informatics. Students in Valparaiso’s online master’s program in health informatics will be prepared to tackle the issues and challenges that healthcare organizations face, including ethical and legal matters, and they gain the skills to manage an organization’s projects, finances and information.
As the program website states, topics addressed in coursework include the following areas:
- Effective management and leadership skills to address challenges within the healthcare field
- Government policies of healthcare, including but not limited to community health organizations
- Trends, including research and best practices in managing information, people and resources
- Relevant components of project management, including project scope, schedule, and budget management
- Design and development process of health information exchange
- Network-integrated decision support tools for medical institutions
- Potential of e-health delivery.
Graduates of this program will be equipped to manage patient medical data, deal with financial models, and analyze health. Potential career fields for graduates including managing departments within health care institutions or leading a major electronic health records (EHR) team. Valparaiso University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Total cost: $21,780
Located in Denver, CO, Regis University offers an online Master of Science degree in Health Informatics and Health Information Management. This program requires 36 semester hours to complete and includes courses in:
- Data Mining for Decision Support in Health Care Settings
- Workflow and Change Management in Adoption of Health IT
- Ethics in Information Technology
- Managing a Secure Enterprise
Along with elective courses in your particular area of interest, the program also includes a capstone research project.
Regis’ program is distinctive in that it provides graduates with skills in both health informatics and healthcare information management. As they explain, the difference is that “informatics is focused on designing, developing and maintaining systems and processes, while information management is focused on maintaining, organizing, and securing patient data.” Typically, students come to the program with a background either in health care or in IT, and graduates may be employed as informatics specialists, clinical analysts, and informatics managers. Regis University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Southern New Hampshire University
Total cost: $22,572
Among Southern New Hampshire University’s extensive online offerings is their Master of Science in Information Technology degree with a concentration in Health Informatics. While this is a technology-oriented degree and most courses involve networking, system design and programming, and application development, other requirements focus on the specific health care aspects of the field. Topics addressed include:
- Healthcare informatics
- Social and organizational issues in healthcare
- Project and team management
A capstone project concludes the degree, allowing students to synthesize and apply what they have learned over the course of their studies.
Throughout the program, case studies are assigned that allow students to explore the field through real-world applications in health informatics. Graduates will be prepared for management positions and IT leadership positions in health care institutions, insurance providers, or other similar organization. Southern New Hampshire University is a private, non-profit institution, and it is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
University of Maryland University College
Total cost: $23,724
University College is the extended and online education component of the University of Maryland system. As part of a respected state university system, students in the online master of science program in health informatics administration have access to the library and career advising resources of the University of Maryland. Because the program is focused on management education for working professionals, applicants should have at least three years of experience in either a health care setting (e.g. in nursing) or in information technology in a health care setting.
Like many master’s programs in health informatics, the UMUC degree culminates in a capstone project that deals with issues such as ‘challenges in U.S. and global health care systems, potential new health care delivery models, approaches to strategically shaping local and national informatics policy, and the role of information technology (IT) in supporting the full continuum of care in health organizations.’ In addition, coursework is required in diverse aspects of the field including:
- Health data management
- Financial management for health care organizations
- Legal aspects of health care administration
- IT acquisitions management
The University of Maryland University College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
College of St. Scholastica
Total cost: $25,620
The College of St. Scholastica is a private, Catholic college in the Benedictine tradition that has long been a leader in the field. It founded the first Health Information Management program in 1935, and since then has broadened its reach to offer online master of science degrees in health informatics as well. The two programs at St. Scholastica differ in that health information management students focus on the organizational and policy aspects of electronic health information, while health informatics is concerned with the technical application of computers to the field.
The MS in health informatics is a 42 credit, 2-year degree that includes coursework in:
- Advanced biostatistics and health analytics
- Human factors and usability assessment
- Database methods in clinical management
- Health information security systems
- Healthcare monitoring, evaluation, and research
- Health information exchanges
Before starting this program, you must have completed four undergraduate course credits in statistics as well. Other requirements include a final applied project and a graduate seminar in health informatics. The College of St. Scholastica is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Nova Southeastern University
Total cost: $25,800
The College of Osteopathic Medicine at Nova Southeastern University, located in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, offers an online master of science degree in biomedical informatics. To apply for this program, a previous degree in one of the health professions is desirable, but not required, but previous work experience or education in the biomedical sciences is required. While most of the course content is delivered online, students are also required to complete a hands-on project consisting of practical work within a health technology environment.
Coursework requirements include 31 credits (10 courses) of required classes in health informatics as well as 12 credits (4 courses) drawn from a wide range of electives on topics that range from biostatistics and epidemiology to quality control and workforce management. Along the way, you can gain special certifications in Lean Six Sigma quality control and NextGen systems, the latter being one of the most commonly used electronic health records systems in the US. As a result, this program can easily be tailored to your own interests within the health informatics field, whether those involve health records management or computer application development. Nova Southeastern University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Total cost: $25,905
As a predominantly online institution offering graduate degrees in various business, health, technology, and criminal justice fields, Walden University has extensive experience providing degree programs to distance learners. Its more than 50,000 students come from all 50 states as well as abroad, and its degree programs include an online master of science degree in health informatics.
The program requires slightly fewer credits than some of the others on this list. 30 hours of coursework are required, with a 3 hour research project and an optional 3 credit hour practicum bringing the possible total to between 33 and 36. In addition, up to 16 credits for prior graduate work may be transferrable, possibly reducing your cost and time to completion even further. The courses are more focused on management, policy, and financial aspects of health informatics, making it better suited to students interested in management positions and less so for those interested in the technical side of the field.
University of Cincinnati
Total cost: $26,604
Founded in 1819, the University of Cincinnati has long been a leader in education for the health professions. They started the first bachelor’s degree program in nursing and the first emergency medicine training program, and now they have extended that tradition into the field of health informatics. The online master of health informatics program at UC combines the resources and faculty of a major research university with the accessibility of distance learning – all at an affordable tuition rate.
There are three parts to this program. First, students take two introductory courses on health informatics and the healthcare landscape in the US. Then, there are 10 required core classes in topics such as:
- Health information legislation, privacy and security
- Project and program management
- Database modeling and design
- Statistics, healthcare data analytics, and business intelligence
Finally, a two-semester capstone project may be completed virtually under the supervision of a faculty mentor, or in a local health care organization for those looking for more hands-on experience. The University of Cincinnati is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
University of Central Florida
Total cost: $29988
Located in Orlando, FL, the University of Central Florida’s Department on Health Management and Informatics offers an online master of science program in health care informatics. As the program overview states, the degree has three educational goals:
- Developing leadership and decision-making skills
- Enabling graduates to serve the information needs of health care organizations
- Teaching students to work using an evidence-based, knowledge-management approach
Graduates will be prepared to work as practitioners, managers, analysts, or researchers in a number of environments ranging from health care facilities to insurance companies.
While this program is open to all students, those without experience in the health care informatics field will also be required to complete three prerequisite courses before enrolling:
- Survey of health information management
- Foundation of health services administration
- Medical terminology for informatics professionals
After fulfilling those requirements if needed, students will complete 38 credits of graduate coursework in technical fields as well as in project management, privacy, and security issues. Both a capstone project and a hands-on internship are required for graduation. The University of Central Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.