By TMHA Staff
There has never been a better time to earn a master's degree in health informatics. Occupational data is currently limited because the field is still so new, but initial indicators are extremely promising. One of the earliest studies, published back in 2012, found that job postings related to healthcare and bioinformatics rose a whopping 36% from 2007. That's far faster than just about every other job field, in or out of healthcare. And while this boom doesn't show any sign of slowing, it does mean that more and more people will start to gravitate to this lucrative career field. And what better way to make yourself stand out from the crowd then by earning an MS in health informatics?
Ranking the 20 Best Medical Informatics Degree Programs: Methodology
After assembling a list of potential schools with healthcare informatics degrees from College Navigator, we analyzed each program in four areas:
Most of these programs are not accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (frankly, very few master's degrees are), but there are a few that have earned this rare distinction or are in the process of seeking it.
Emphasis on Healthcare
You can usually tell what fields of study a university values the most by looking at the size of the resources it devotes to them. We assessed each school's overall emphasis on healthcare by looking at the total number of programs it supports in this field. More programs means more opportunities, choices, and like-minded classmates for students majoring in health informatics.
Comprehensiveness of Curriculum
Although every program's curriculum is different, there are some key topics that help round out any solid healthcare informatics program. These include classes on databases/data storage; statistics and research; healthcare policy, law, and ethics; and cybersecurity. Colleges that incorporate most or all of these topics have a better chance of preparing students for versatile careers.
Healthcare and technology are two of the world's most rapidly evolving industries. To have any chance of success in a career that combines both, professionals must stay up-to-date on all the latest developments. Therefore, we vetted each program's course list to check for opportunities – whether through seminar, selected topics, or journal club classes – that expose students to as much contemporary information as possible.
Only the 20 schools that performed the best in each of the above categories made it onto this ranking of top MS in health informatics programs. Note below that "Average Tuition" refers to the graduate-level tuition rate (averaged only for public schools that offer separate in-state and out-of-state rates) as reported on College Navigator.
20. Harvard University
Whether you already have a doctoral degree or you're an undergrad preparing for post-graduate studies, Harvard has an accredited biomedical informatics master's degree that will fit the bill. The school's post-doctoral program consists of just 36 credits, while the option for post-baccalaureate students is more comprehensive at 48 credits. However, both degrees provide a solid foundation in quantitative methods and include coursework in novel topics like precision medicine. If you're currently an undergraduate, you might get started by applying to Harvard's Summer Institute in Biomedical Informatics, a nine-week, NIH-funded research/internship program that will leave you well-prepared for graduate-level work.
Average Tuition: $42,874/yr
19. Duke University
Working professionals should put Duke's Master of Management in Clinical Informatics at the top of their list of options. By offering classes on the weekend, this program makes it possible to earn one of the best master's degrees in health informatics without quitting your day job. Plus, it takes just 12 months to complete all of the coursework. But that's not all; Duke also provides a top-notch "career development and coaching program" that helps students match their education to their desired career path. This feature in particular should appeal to working adults who want to change jobs, whether you're a physician seeking an administrative role or an IT professional looking to break into medical informatics.
Average Tuition: $48,656/yr
18. University of San Diego
San Diego, CA
The two-year accredited MS in health informatics from USD offers a broad look at the field, incorporating coursework that ranges from the technical – i.e. informatics – to professional topics like financial planning, leadership, and data management. This breadth will provide you with the versatility to work not only in a clinical setting, but also in interdisciplinary positions like medical device consulting or insurance analysis. Note that the program mandates 50 hours of volunteer work in an acute-care setting – a rigorous requirement, but one that will prove particularly useful for students from less traditional backgrounds.
Average Tuition: $25,192/yr
17. University of Wisconsin Milwaukee
At UW – Milwaukee, both full-time students and working professionals earning a degree part-time can enroll in this affordable master of science in health informatics program. This interdisciplinary degree incorporates the expertise of faculty from many departments and offers a unique focus on designing and managing systems. If funding is an issue, check out Milwaukee's many fellowship opportunities, which range from merit scholarships to incentives that encourage under-represented groups to pursue careers in healthcare and technology. You can also apply for research, teaching, and project assistantships, which come with a stipend (and of course provide valuable learning experiences, too!).
Average Tuition: $18,243/yr
16. University of Missouri
The University of Missouri (sometimes called "Mizzou") boasts an impressive pedigree; it was the first school in the world to install a computerized laboratory system, and it has since gained more than 40 years of experience educating students in healthcare tech. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that the school offers one of the best master's degrees in health informatics. Students with specific career goals can enhance the power of their degree even further by opting to take additional courses in a specific area, such as electronic medical records or bioinformatics. And if you're particularly ambitious, you might consider pursuing a dual degree in health informatics and administration.
Average Tuition: $16,554/yr
15. University of Pittsburgh
The University of Pittsburgh employs a rigorous curriculum – complete with colloquium sessions that highlight contemporary topics in the industry – to prepare graduate students for a successful career in healthcare informatics. In addition to challenging coursework, this accredited biomedical informatics master's degree also requires program members to complete a comprehensive final exam and research paper. Although this may seem like a daunting task, it means you'll graduate with a high-quality academic paper under your belt. And because the university encourages students to submit their work for publication, you could end up with a serious advantage over your non-published colleagues in the job market.
Average Tuition: $28,902/yr
14. Medical University of South Carolina
Thanks to its many flexible degree completion options, MUSC's affordable MS in health informatics is an especially attractive program for working adults or students with families. First, you can opt to pursue your degree either full- or part-time (the full-time option typically takes about four semesters to complete). Second, the hybrid program means you can take many of your classes online. But even with these allowances, you won't miss out on crucial aspects of study: you'll still need to complete an in-person practicum or capstone project, or you can opt to write and defend a research-based thesis.
Average Tuition: $21,183/yr
13. SUNY Downstate Medical Center
If you crave a hands-on academic experience, SUNY Downstate Medical Center has one of the best medical informatics degree programs for your learning style. The required 120-hour internship and community-based project, for example, will give you a chance to put your skills to the test in the heart of New York City. Internships are available in clinical settings, with electronic healthcare records vendors, and at the NYC Department of Health, among other locations. Students must also complete a traditional master's research project and essay by exploring a topic that piques their professional interest and explaining the results through a final presentation – both activities that should appeal to people who prefer to "learning by doing."
Average Tuition: $17,144/yr
12. University of Kansas
At the University of Kansas, you can earn a top master of science in health informatics that's tailored to your specific professional goals. Initially, you'll take courses based on three core disciplines (informatics, research, and leadership). Then you'll choose a specific career focus within the field (public health, clinical, or health policy and management) to narrow your studies. You'll also have a dedicated faculty advisor to help shape your curriculum based on your personal interests. The University of Kansas also offers flexible and friendly formatting for non-traditional students, including online classes and extended time (up to seven years) to finish your degree.
Average Tuition: $16,003/yr
11. Lipscomb University
Lipscomb University benefits from Nashville's status as the nation's healthcare capital, with its nearly 400 health care companies located in the metro area. Opportunities abound for students in Lipscomb's Master of Health Care Informatics program, whether it is learning directly from faculty and local area experts, pioneering partnerships (individual accounts with IBM Watson Analytics), or emerging technologies (like digital health and blockchain). The comprehensive curriculum focus includes health sciences, information technology, and business management, with courses offered in Lipscomb's Colleges of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and Computing and Technology.
Lipscomb University provides a great option for students whose busy schedules make it difficult to attend weekday classes but still value in-person interactions with students and degree in 14 months and exclusively during weekend offerings. As an added bonus, course materials and meals are included. What's more, Lipscomb ensures a friendly learning environment by placing each student in a cohort, or group of classmates who take all their classes together. And if you're concerned about financing your accredited master's degree in health informatics, your program director can advise you on internships and employer tuition reimbursement options which could defray some of the costs.
Average Tuition: $18,432/yr
10. University of Utah
Salt Lake City, UT
If you have a background in IT, clinical care, or biology, the affordable biomedical informatics master's degree from the University of Utah is a great choice. Geared toward working professionals, this program favors practical, real-world learning experiences. As a result, there's no thesis requirement for graduation, although you will need to complete a practicum and capstone project. The program also offers considerably more versatility than the average master's degree. Choose from two primary tracks (Bioinformatics and Applied Clinical Informatics) to complete your core classes, and then narrow your focus even further by selecting one of seven unique areas of emphasis (including Natural Language Processing and Clinical Informatics Leadership).
Average Tuition: $15,102/yr
9. Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis
The prestigious School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis offers an accredited master of science in health informatics with plenty of benefits. First and foremost is the campus, which hosts a renowned research center and plenty of high-tech facilities to support your academic work. Program members also have access to internship, sponsorship, and research opportunities at top biopharmaceutical firms thanks to the school's partnerships with industry leaders. Finally, you'll have the freedom to choose a course of study that suits your learning style – whether that means completing a final project, thesis, or none of the above.
Average Tuition: $16,607/yr
8. Medical College of Wisconsin
MCW requires all students enrolled in its top medical informatics degree program to meet with an advisor prior to registering to map out a plan of attack for their degree. As a result, you'll have a clear sense of your course of study from the moment you walk through the door. Later on, your advisor will also help plan your internship and provide guidance on your research project. Another unique feature of this program is its journal club course. This class, which you must take three times before graduating, requires students to read, share, and discuss current articles in the medical literature in order to stay up-to-date on industry trends.
Average Tuition: $30,150/yr
7. University of North Carolina-Charlotte
Like many other programs on this list, UNC – Charlotte's affordable master's degree in health informatics was specifically designed as a professional degree for students who seek practical, real-world business skills. But what really helps set Charlotte apart is its emphasis on partnerships. The university's participation in a statewide data-science initiative, for example, nurtures relationships with the local business community and provides graduates with valuable networking opportunities. Additional partnerships with important industry leaders (think McKesson, Allscripts, and IBM Watson), prove especially useful when it comes time to set up your internship and practicum experiences. Ultimately, these connections also help ensure that program administrators are knowledgeable about current needs in the field – and that your curriculum reflects those demands.
Average Tuition: $13,367/yr
6. University of California-Davis
UC – Davis's top MS in health informatics requires a robust set of core classes that give you a strong foundation in the field, similar to many other degree programs. But the school rises above its competitors with a truly impressive set of elective opportunities. These electives, which comprise a solid 19 credits of the entire health informatics curriculum, include unique options from within the department – such as "Virtual Reality, Simulation, and Robotics" – as well as a variety of choices from other departments. This attribute of the program should be especially appealing to students who are considering interdisciplinary careers that combine informatics with work in veterinary medicine, public health, or engineering, among other fields.
Average Tuition: $20,715/yr
5. Marshall University
Marshall's health informatics program has definitely earned its top 5 spot on this ranking, thanks in part to its dedication to real-world experience. The curriculum even includes a required 400-hour internship, which imparts practical skills while also giving you the chance to make important connections in the industry. Also, current undergraduates at Marshall who intend to pursue an accredited master of science in health informatics should consider the school's "advanced master's degree" program. Ambitious students can earn up to 12 credit hours toward their graduate degree during their senior year, allowing them not only to get a head start on their studies, but to save some money, too!
Average Tuition: $12,063/yr
4. Nova Southeastern University
Fort Lauderdale, FL
No matter which aspect of informatics interests you, Nova Southeastern's top biomedical informatics master's degree has something that will meet your needs. That's because the program includes coursework in three distinct areas: computer science, clinical informatics, and business and management. The program has additional perks, too: if you're a working professional, you'll appreciate that you can complete nearly all your classes online. Not only that, but the curriculum can put you in a position to earn relevant certifications like the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and NextGen. Finally, the opportunity to take on a paid internship at one of NSU's clinics should be a big draw for students looking for financial assistance.
Average Tuition: $17,454/yr
3. George Mason University
At George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, enrollees in the affordable medical informatics degree program can tailor their studies to meet their specific needs and their preferred methods of evaluation. As a grad student in the program, you'll work with an advisor to identify your unique areas of interest and adapt your coursework accordingly; health data analytics, general health informatics, and privacy and security are three popular options. The program is also flexible in that students can choose to complete their requirements through a capstone practicum or a master's thesis (both of which require two semesters), and both part- and full-time scheduling is available.
Average Tuition: $22,364/yr
2. University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI
Because the MHI program at Michigan requires two full years of on-campus study, it will probably appeal most to students fresh out of undergrad and professionals who are able take a break from work. The school's accredited master's degree in health informatics examines all subject matter from the perspective of the individual, the community, and the organization. This well-rounded approach, along with a required internship, ensures that graduates enter the workforce with the ability to solve problems creatively and to use "socio-technical" interventions. Thanks to Michigan's focus on research, you can also participate in cutting-edge initiatives alongside respected faculty members.
Average Tuition: $31,491/yr
1. University of Washington-Seattle
If you already have an established career and want to move into a leadership role, take a look at the University of Washington, which perhaps offers the best MS in health informatics for current professionals. First, course scheduling caters to the needs of working adults through a combination of once-monthly on-campus classes and regular evening webinars. Second, the program hosts frequent lectures and panels from area professionals, giving you the chance to hear from industry leaders and forge important connections. And to top off your studies, you'll complete a community-based capstone that demonstrates your competence in a practical area of the field, like training physicians on a new EHR.
Average Tuition: $22,302/yr
Now that you've read all about the top biomedical informatics master's degrees, all that's left to do is pick your favorite and apply!
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