By TMHA Staff
Below you will find our selection of the top online master’s in health informatics for the 2016-2017 school year.
As a field of study, “health informatics” didn’t even exist a mere 20-30 years ago. Rather, its advent occurred alongside a series of technological developments that fundamentally changed the way people look at and understand data. In a general sense, improvements in computing power have given way to a discipline now known as data science, or data analytics. And while data scientists could work in any number of industries, from marketing to politics, health informaticists take on a uniquely purposeful challenge.
The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) describes “the science of informatics” as one that “drives innovation” and is “defining future approaches” in essential sectors of the economy, such as biomedical research and public health. Professionals in medical informatics might spend their time mining data, conducting research, designing algorithms, or otherwise analyzing results that have significant applications in healthcare. The potential benefits of this work are vast, from helping an insurance company update its electronic records system to helping a busy hospital identify areas of inefficiency.
A master’s degree in bioinformatics isn’t necessarily a requirement, but as with most fields, it can greatly expand career opportunities and open up doors to higher-level positions. And because so much of healthcare informatics is focused on data collection and analysis, it helps to have experience conducting original research and/or completing a thesis project (which many graduate programs require).
For working adults and other nontraditional students, an online master’s in health informatics may be the way to go. But while there are dozens of viable options out there for interested online learners, only a select number made the cut for this top 20 ranking.
So what do these programs offer that others don’t?
We based our ranking methodology on five important factors:
Accreditation: The accrediting agency for health informatics programs is CAHIIM, or the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management. Programs that bear approval from CAHIIM meet the rigorous standards that the agency sets for health informatics curricula. It also confirms that the program’s coursework is up-to-date in quickly evolving areas, such as electronic health record (EHR) technology. Attending an accredited program is not a requirement for many jobs, but it is necessary for students who want to take an AHIMA (American Health Information Management Association) professional certification exam such as the RHIA (Registered Health Information Administrator). Weighted as 20% of the total score.
Association Membership: The AMIA, or the American Medical Informatics Association, is “the center of action for more than 5,000 health care professionals, informatics researchers, and thought-leaders in biomedicine, health care and science.” Members consist both of individuals, such as researchers and physicians, and organizations, such as academic institutions. Colleges and universities who obtain AMIA membership have the opportunity to become leaders in the field, make important connections in the industry, and obtain significant benefits for their faculty and students. Weighted as 20% of the total score.
Experiential Learning Component: No two master’s degrees in medical informatics are exactly alike. Some are more attractive to current professionals seeking management training, while others put a stronger emphasis on research and clinical work. However, all of the top programs share one feature in common: an experiential component. This could take the form of an internship, research project, capstone course, thesis requirement, or other similar opportunity – as long as it challenges students to synthesize their knowledge and apply their skills in a new way. Many programs even offer multiple opportunities and allow students to choose the course that best aligns with their goals. Programs earned more points for having more options/a greater variety in this area (we did not discriminate between types of experiential learning). Weighted as 25% of the total score.
Concentrations: It’s not a hard and fast rule that the top colleges must provide specializations within their bioinformatics degree. In fact, many of the schools on this ranking do not offer focus tracks of any kind. However, those that do are able to distinguish themselves from their competitors. Generally speaking, these programs are as more comprehensive and more capable of preparing graduate students for their desired careers. In addition, a curriculum that includes multiple specializations may appeal to a greater number of students because it grants them increased flexibility in their choice of elective courses. Weighted as 25% of the total score.
Tuition: Lastly, we rated universities on their annual tuition rates. All data for this category came from College Navigator and includes average costs (i.e. the average of in-state and out-of-state rates for public colleges). Although this information came from a reputable source and represents an accurate approximation of annual expenses, it is always important to check with the university directly to obtain an exact figure. Additional fees, books and materials, scholarships, and/or special discounts may all affect the price of enrollment. Weighted as 10% of the total score.
Using our sophisticated ranking methodology, we assigned each program a total score out of 100 points, indicative of their performance in the above categories. Although the final scores range from nearly 70 to a full 100 points, each of these top master’s degrees in health informatics online has something unique to offer. Check them out below!
20. The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Online Master’s Degree in Health Informatics
This thoughtfully designed MS in Health Informatics can accommodate the needs of many different types of student. Both full- and part-time options exist, and the degree includes distinct “Traditional Research” and “Applied Health Informatics” tracks. Students with a keen interest in data collection and analysis, especially those who would like to pursue a PhD, may prefer the former track. On the other hand, healthcare professionals interested in learning more about the implementation and maintenance of electronic healthcare records will find the latter option more suitable. And like all the best online health informatics masters programs, UTHSC requires all participants to gain hands-on experience through a mandatory practicum course.
Graduate Tuition: $17,318/yr
19. Michigan Technological University
Online MS in Medical Informatics
The opportunities to earn an affordable online master’s degree in medical informatics are few and far between. Fortunately, Michigan Technological University has developed one top-notch program to help fill in the gap. This degree, which features a three-pronged curriculum, has the flexibility to fit the schedules and career interests of most online learners. For those lacking practical and/or research experience, the Thesis and Report program options provide plenty of relevant training. Other students may not need, want, or have the time to take on an entire research project or independent study experience. For them, MTU offers a “coursework only” option that substitutes six additional credits of upper-level classes within the major.
Graduate Tuition: $15,507/yr
16. The College of St. Scholastica (Tied)
Online M.S. in Health Informatics
Although The College of St. Scholastica cannot yet officially boast an accredited online master’s in health informatics, it’s only a matter of time before it can. That’s because the school’s MS in Health Informatics is currently in “candidacy status” with CAHIIM, meaning that the review process is active. Undoubtedly, St. Scholastica will make the grade. After all, the rigorous curriculum matches the standards of many long-accredited degree programs. Students begin their studies with a required statistics course and end with a culminating graduate seminar and final applied project. Plus, the college already hosts two CAHIIM-accredited online programs: a master’s in Health Informatics Management (HIM) and a joint degree in HIM/IT Leadership.
Graduate Tuition: $10,980/yr
16. Southwestern Oklahoma State University (Tied)
Online M.S. Healthcare Informatics & Information Management
It’s no coincidence that Southwestern Oklahoma State University makes our top online master’s in health informatics ranking. Rather, this school’s reputation in healthcare technology is quite intentional. Acknowledging that health services is one of Oklahoma’s biggest industries, and knowing that technology is one of the country’s fastest growing, SOSU has established an MS in Healthcare Informatics and Information Management that is meant to directly and positively impact the local community. Of course, the degree’s online format means that students all across the country can benefit from its forward-thinking curriculum. Plus, with both Thesis and Non-Thesis course options, SOSU caters to the needs of aspiring academics as well as present-day professionals.
Graduate Tuition: $8,995/yr
16. Arkansas Tech University (Tied)
Online Master of Science in Healthcare Informatics
Like Southwestern Oklahoma State, it was the rising demand for health IT professionals that drove Arkansas Tech University to establish an online master’s in health informatics. Above all, this school’s biggest claim to fame is its incredible price; the annual $8000 price tag is the absolute lowest on this list. And yet despite its unique tuition, ATU’s curriculum has much in common with some of the field’s most expensive programs. From healthcare policy to biostatistics to emerging trends, faculty at ATU have designed and implemented classes that cover all the essential topics. And of course, a required thesis or research project is waiting at the end of the program to ensure that students have acquired the skills they need to succeed in the professional world.
Graduate Tuition: $8,037/yr
14. University of Central Florida (Tied)
Online Healthcare Informatics P.S.M.
While most health informatics programs are busy trying to appeal to every possible type of student, the University of Central Florida has taken an entirely different approach. Academics and theorists need not apply to this graduate degree, which grants a Professional Science Master’s (PSM) in Health Care Informatics. That being said, when it comes to practical applications and professional advancement, this is likely one of the best master’s degrees in health informatics online. The reason is simple. Instead of trying to be all things to all people, UCF sacrifices attention to research and number-crunching in favor of real-world training. As a result, the curriculum is jam-packed with relevant coursework that spans from database management to privacy and security.
Graduate Tuition: $18,293/yr
14. Johns Hopkins University (Tied)
Online MS in Bioinformatics
By almost any measure, Johns Hopkins is one of the foremost academic institutions in the entire world. More specifically, this nearly 150-year old university has become an international emblem of cutting-edge research and superior medical training. And this emphasis on the health sciences extends far beyond the medical school. Just look at JHU’s plethora of highly-specialized graduate programs, which cover disciplines like human genetics, biomedical engineering, bioethics, biotechnology, and of course – bioinformatics. Admittedly, this is one university that won’t win any awards for offering a particularly affordable bioinformatics masters program online. But when it comes to resources, research opportunities, and connections, Johns Hopkins’ caliber is unmatched.
Graduate Tuition: $50,510/yr
13. The University of Tennessee Health Science Center
Online Master of Health Informatics
The University of Tennessee Health Science Center has not one, but two accredited master’s in health informatics online programs. And that’s not the only way this university goes above and beyond expectations. Perhaps the best evidence of this overachiever attitude lies in the very nature of the two-track program, which provides distinct academic paths for students of varying backgrounds and career goals. The more intensive “Entry-Level MHIIM” includes over 60 credits of required coursework – and comes with a slew of prerequisites – but also qualifies graduates for the RHIA credential. Applicants who are already working in the healthcare/IT industry and simply want to brush up on their skills may prefer the “Post-Graduate MHIIM” option.
Graduate Tuition: $21,507/yr
11. Northwestern University (Tied)
Online Master’s in Health Informatics
Northwestern University narrowly escapes being named the most expensive school on this online health informatics masters programs ranking, thanks to its slightly pricier competitor at #14. But much like JHU, Northwestern makes a strong case for its value. For example, this graduate degree is one of just a handful of distance ed programs to offer specific concentration options. These targeted tracks focus on in-demand areas of the field, namely health technology, administration, and clinical work. Plus, online learners who opt for the Clinical Informatics specialization can become board certified in medical informatics, a credential that could go a long way in their search for top-paying jobs.
Graduate Tuition: $49,064/yr
11. Northeastern University (Tied)
Online Master of Science Degree in Health Informatics (MS in HI)
This top online health informatics masters program draws on the resources of two of Northeastern’s strongest divisions: The College of Computer and Information Science and the Bouve College of Health Sciences. By leveraging the best aspects of both schools, Northeastern University delivers an online learning experience that appeals just as much to pharmacists and nurses as programmers and network analysts. This academic partnership brings double the power to the curriculum, too, which sports a lengthy list of applicable courses. As such, Northeastern only names two classes that all health informatics students must take; the remaining credits are free for online learners to customize, choosing from popular specialty areas like data science and business management.
Graduate Tuition: $23,166/yr
10. Louisiana Tech University
Online Masters of Health Informatics (MHI)
Details aside, there is at least one reason students should strongly consider attending Louisiana Tech University. Simply put, LTU has the most affordable accredited master’s degree in health informatics online. Actually, Louisiana Tech is home to two accredited programs (its undergraduate curriculum has also earned full CAHIIM approval). And there’s no need to worry that this school is all prestige and no practice. Thanks to a course list heavily laden with professional topics – examples include EHR Infrastructure, Leadership in Healthcare, and Database Architecture – graduates are rarely lacking in opportunities. In fact, over 80% of alumni report that the program imparted “the knowledge necessary to function in their current job.”
Graduate Tuition: $15,467/yr
9. University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Online Master of Health Informatics Program
One of just four AMIA (American Medical Informatics Association) members on this list, the University of Minnesota readily demonstrates its commitment to health informatics education. But even if the university weren’t an AMIA member, few would doubt the caliber of its top online health informatics masters program. Coursework touches on a diverse array of subjects, from data analytics and data science to patient safety, and includes two topical seminars. And in their final summer of this three-semester degree, distance learners complete a capstone project that will prepare them to transfer their theoretical knowledge to real-world practice.
Graduate Tuition: $21,621/yr
8. Northern Kentucky University
Highland Heights, KY
Online Health Informatics, M.S.
Managing tuition costs without sacrificing course quality can be a precarious balancing act for many universities. For NKU, it’s just another day on campus. The university’s accessible online programs, such as the MS in Health Informatics, prove that high value academics can coexist peacefully with low tuition rates. A robust curriculum consists of 33 total credit hours, nine of which are dedicated to electives. Students can choose from nearly two dozen unique courses to fulfill their elective hours. Some distance learners may prefer to vary their selections, while others will focus their attention on a pre-defined specialty (Healthcare Data Analytics, Cybersecurity, or Process Management).
Graduate Tuition: $12,588/yr
7. East Carolina University
Online Health Informatics and Information Management, MS
Any program vying for consideration as one of the best master’s degrees in health informatics online will have to measure their worth against some pretty tough competitors – and ECU is one of the toughest there is. Of course, all of the top universities on this list perform well by just about every metric. And in many ways, East Carolina University marks the gateway into this elite haven of impressively well-rounded programs. Affordable? Its tuition rates are among the lowest represented here. Specialized? Concentrations include a general Health Informatics option as well as a track in Health Informatics Management. Experiential? Not only can students earn course credit for internships, but general-track program members have the additional option to complete a thesis project.
Graduate Tuition: $13,158/yr
6. Oregon Health & Science University
Online MS in Clinical Informatics
Oregon Health & Science University joins a prestigious group of online health informatics programs thanks to its two CAHIIM accreditations. And frankly, this university had a little bit of an unfair advantage when it set out to establish one of the best bioinformatics masters programs online. That’s because OHSU was able to leverage the full force of its reputable School of Medicine – complete with a specialized Department of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology – to establish this premier virtual degree. This strong foundation has also enabled the university to provide multiple versions of the program. Online learners can earn an MS or an MBI (Master of Bioinformatics) and specialize in Clinical Informatics or Health Information Management.
Graduate Tuition: $25,827/yr
5. University of Mississippi Medical Center
Online Master of Health Informatics and Information Management
To get the best possible education in a subject like healthcare or biology, it only seems logical to seek out a degree at a bona fide medical facility like UMMC. The University of Mississippi’s health science campus, which also happens to be a level one trauma center, has been a primary source of medical training and treatment for well over 50 years. And over the past half a century, the university has expanded its academic offerings to include a range of tech-focused degrees, including the popular and affordable master’s in health informatics online program. Distance learners enrolled in the program have their choice of two concentrations – Health Informatics or Health Informatics Management – and those in the latter track can even qualify for the RHIA credential.
Graduate Tuition: $14,059/yr
4. Rutgers University
New Brunswick, NJ
Online MS in Bioinformatics
Like the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Rutgers is a powerhouse of research and education in the health sciences. But instead of a medical campus, students at Rutgers should direct themselves to the School of Health Professions (SHP). SHP just happens to be the largest allied health school in the entire country, with nearly 40 different degree and certificate programs. This makes it the perfect setting for one of the best master’s degrees in health informatics online. In fact, not only is Rutgers bioinformatics graduate degree one of the best, it is also one of the most comprehensive. The department offers four unique specializations – more than any other college on this list – in the areas of Bioinformatics, Healthcare Management, Nanomedicine, and Consumer/Patient Care.
Graduate Tuition: $24,034/yr
3. University of Illinois at Chicago
Online MS in Health Informatics
On measures of both breadth and depth, the University of Illinois at Chicago stands out for the superb quality of its academics across many subjects. The Department of Biomedical and Health Information Sciences is no exception, as it hosts an impressive selection of programs. Among this selection are a bachelor’s, two master’s, two certificate, and one PhD degree program. Both the MS in Health Informatics and the IBHE post-master’s certificate are available through distance learning, and both the BS and MS programs are CAHIIM accredited. Furthermore, UIC is a member of the AMIA and features a unique online “AMIA 10×10” program for current healthcare and IT professionals.
Graduate Tuition: $20,956/yr
2. Kent State University
Online Master of Science: Health Informatics Concentration
Kent State University may not have the accredited online master’s degrees in medical informatics that UIC does, but it still has plenty of other reasons to brag about its top program. Aside from boasting one of the lowest tuition rates around, KSU claims one of the region’s most comprehensive curricula in health informatics. The interdisciplinary coursework draws on resources from multiple campus departments and even allows students to take electives in other subjects. As such, program members can specialize in unconventional topics, such as User Experience Design or Knowledge Management. By pairing this specialized training with traditional informatics classes and challenging final projects, online learners are uniquely prepared to succeed in a rapidly expanding job market.
Graduate Tuition: $14,622/yr
1. Dakota State University
Online Master of Science in Health Informatics
In an ideal world, the best colleges and the most affordable colleges would be one and the same. Unfortunately, this rarely turns out to be the case in real life. But there are rare exceptions, and Dakota State University is an emblem of this elusive dichotomy. Incredibly, DSU manages to snag both the #1 spot overall on this online health informatics masters programs ranking while also landing within the top five most affordable schools. As for its graduate degree, online learners benefit from a rich curriculum that includes classes like Project and Change Management and Healthcare Information Analysis. And for electives, students can pick and choose as they please or acquire an emphasis in Healthcare, Databases, or Privacy and Security.
Graduate Tuition: $12,294/yr
This concludes our ranking of the best bioinformatics masters programs online.
Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Health Information Management Education (CAHIIM)
American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA)
US News: Consider Pursuing a Career in Health Informatics