Prospective graduate students who would like to earn a Master's in Health Informatics often wonder whether or not completing a capstone project will be part of their degree requirements. It's a reasonable question when you're navigating through degree options and trying to assess how long you will truly spend to complete graduate school. While there's not a universal answer to the question that would be true in all scenarios, a majority of master's programs do require students to complete this lengthy research project.
What is a Capstone Project?
Undergraduate students spend a great deal of their time in a classroom setting listening to lectures and completing coursework that builds knowledge and familiarity within a specific subject area. When students reach their graduate years in college, they have already built the foundation of knowledge, the focus has shifted into the gear of mastering the subject area and becoming more of a problem solver. This is why projects are often required in master's degree programs.
According to the Education Reform Journal, capstones are experiential and multi-faceted projects where graduate students apply the lessons and theories they have learned to examine and research a specific idea. When capstones are required, students first have to send a proposal to their professor for approval. Once their theory, hypothesis, proposed research methods, and other issues are reviewed and approved, the advisor enrolls the student in the required course.
Why Are Capstones So Common?
Students can demonstrate their competency in a subject area by passing tests and achieving high scores on finals, but that doesn't really show that they can implement all of the subject areas they have learned into their jobs to solve a problem or research a pervasive issue showing up in the field. Requiring students to do a comprehensive research project, where the key behind it is problem-solving by implementing core curriculum, will help schools assess whether or not a student is ready for their professional practice. The various goals of capstones at a graduate level include:
- Choosing a problem to focus on and defining the problem
- Describing the research methods that will be used to identify the problem and suggest solutions
- Identifying the positive impact in the community it will have if a solution is found
How Long Does it Take to Complete The Project?
It's not out of the ordinary for master's degree programs in social services, public health, liberal arts, health information, and more to require capstones. Since students will need to learn, synthesize, apply, and integrate everything they have learned over the course of graduate school into this project, it's not something that's completed last minute.
Students must meet prerequisites and submit the proposal before they can enroll in the course. Because of this, capstones are completed near the end of your student career so that most of the master's curriculum has been completed. Once these prerequisites are met, it typically takes students at least one semester to complete their project and earn their required credits.
Completing the learning-pathway experience can be intimidating to many, however, it is a valuable intellectual experience for those who want to prepare for their professional world. If you are excited to enroll in a program to earn a Master's in Health Informatics, consider topics you're interested in so you have great proposals for your capstone.