An affordable online master’s in nursing or health informatics is a flexible path for HIT professionals or nurses to advance their careers. Just like all the other industries, the healthcare sector is going through dynamic technological changes. More professionals are finding it necessary to go back to school and advance their skills.
One of the most in-demand degrees in the healthcare sector is healthcare informatics. Graduate programs in health informatics combine healthcare with IT, computer analysis, and data analysis. Most people in the healthcare industry sign up for an affordable informatics master’s as a way of improving or boosting their careers. Doctors, nurses, hospital technicians, and even administrators can sign up for a graduate degree in this field. After completing the course, they can pair this course with their professional experience and find better-paying jobs in the healthcare sector. They can become IT professionals, data analysts, chief information officers, and hospital administrators.
Although a degree in healthcare informatics could lead to higher or better salaries and a fulfilling career, paying for this education is a challenge to many. While cost is a major consideration, today’s students are looking beyond the price tag and looking into obtaining a quality education. Some of the institutions that offer affordable healthcare informatics master’s degree programs include small private schools, regional public colleges, and institutions where online learning is an option.
Our Method: Ranking the Most Affordable Health Informatics Programs
Working nurses and healthcare managers who want to improve their credentials or move into a new career like informatics have a lot of concerns, but one of the most important is cost. That’s why the BHD ranking of the most affordable nursing and healthcare informatics programs is focused on one main criteria: tuition cost, as reported to IPEDS. Only accredited, reputable institutions are considered.
1. East Carolina University
Among the 90+ online degree courses offered by East Carolina University is the master’s degree in health informatics and information management. Before commencing with the program, students have to complete 33 hours of foundational curriculum and prerequisite courses. All Students cover the coursework in 126 hours. It includes such topics as allied health management, healthcare payment systems, and health information systems. Students can choose to submit a thesis or complete an internship at the end of the program. The program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics Information Management (CAHIIM).
Founded in 1907, East Carolina University, shortly known as ECU, is the third-largest university in North Carolina. It is among the few institutions in the state offering the top health informatics programs. ECU has quite a number of campuses, nine undergraduate schools and colleges, and three graduate schools. The institution is also fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
Degree: MS Health Informatics and Information Management
2. Dakota State University
Dakota State University provides a master’s in health informatics and information management program in a bid to train healthcare professionals to become health information administrators. As the course is 100 percent online, students can choose to undertake the 33-credit program either part-time or full-time. Full-time students can undertake the course in as little as four semesters. All students must complete the program in five years. Students must be experienced or trained in such courses as healthcare information, information systems, and applied statistics. This is an ideal course for health professionals who want to pursue such careers as clinical coding specialists, information managers, and privacy officers.
Located in Madison, Dakota State University was founded in 1881 when South Dakota was not yet a sovereign state. Popular majors offered in the university include Information Science, System Administration, Database, Network, and Business. The institution is quite popular for its top nursing informatics programs and its 84% acceptance rate.
Degree: MS in Health Informatics and Information Management
3. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Texas Tech University’s MSN nursing informatics online program is offered through the institution’s Health Sciences Center. While the 39-credit program is fully online, students might have to travel to the institution’s campus in Lubbock for immersive sessions. Students can choose to specialize in such courses as education, administration, family nurse practitioners, which is further divided into nursing informatics and midwifery. Such diversification makes this one of the top health informatics programs in the country. The program requires clinical experience through an applied course or practicum. The course is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and is suitable for nurses or healthcare providers who want to hone their leadership and management skills. The course also certifies students for CPHIMS and ANCC Board Certification exams.
Established in 1923, Texas Tech University is famous for its Larry Community Health & Wellness Center, which accommodates about 7,500 low-income patients. The U.S. News & World Report ranks the institution 91st across the country.
Degree: MSN Nursing Informatics
4. Columbus State University + Georgia Southwestern University
The joint Columbus State University and Georgia Southwestern University’s MSN in nursing informatics is a course aimed at preparing students for such careers as case management, health education, patient education, and program planning. As one of the top nursing informatics programs, nursing students can specialize in nursing informatics, nursing education, nursing leadership or management, and family nurse practitioner. The program requires a 3.0 GPA score for the degree to be conferred. The program is CCNE accredited and can be completed in four full-time semesters or longer, depending on the student’s professional demands and availability.
Columbia State University and Georgia Southwestern State University are part of the University System of Georgia. The two regional public universities were founded in 1958 and 1906, respectively. While the first started out as a junior college and the second an agricultural school, both are committed to delivering the highest-quality education in the region.
Degree: MSN – Nursing Informatics
5. Western Governors University
Western Governors University offers a master’s in nursing informatics program, which is meant to prepare registered nurses in a healthcare informatics career. The program is entirely online, and students can take at their own pace. Rather than receiving credits, the program’s coursework is measured in competency units. This means that the instructors are more concerned about the skills students gain rather than how much class time they register. Students pay a flat rate fee every six months rather than paying for competency units or credit hours. The program is also one of the top health informatics programs and covers topics such as foundational courses in nursing informatics, database management, data science and analysis, and data modeling. To qualify for the program, students must have a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
Western Governors University was founded in 1997. It is a no-profit institution that ranks 12th on the list of the most innovative schools. The institution’s popular majors include Nursing, Elementary Education, and Business.
Degree: MSN Nursing Informatics
6. Louisiana Tech University
Louisiana Tech University’s master’s of health informatics program is meant for working professionals. The program is provided through the institution’s College of Applied and Natural Science. Unlike other top health informatics programs that are designed for healthcare practitioners, this program accommodates students from all backgrounds such as IT or computer science who wish to switch careers. The 45-credit program includes such topics as computerized decision support, database architecture, and information system evaluation. Students do not have to submit GRE scores to be admitted into the program. However, they must have at least two years of experience in an IT or healthcare-related field.
Located in Ruston, Louisiana Tech University, formerly known as Louisiana Industrial Institute, is a public higher learning institution that was established in 1894. Since then, the institution has gone on to work with notable institutions such as the Department of Defense, the National Institute of Health, and even NASA. Admission into the university is rather competitive as it has an acceptance rate of 65%. The institution is SACSCOC accredited.
Degree: Master of Health Informatics
7. University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus
The University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus offers a fully online master’s program in healthcare informatics. The program has three concentrations: healthcare informatics, leadership, and family nurse practitioner. It is designed to hone the leadership skills of registered nurses while reducing health disparities through data management. The program’s inclusion of courses such as decision support, information management, the life cycle of information systems, and healthcare technology makes it one of the top health informatics programs. Through the CCNE-accredited program, students have a chance to build their networks and take advantage of the online program’s collaborative tools such as video conferencing. Students are required to arrange for a practicum session before they graduate.
The University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz was established in 1912 as an extension to the University of Colorado. The institution’s College of Nursing is renowned for its excellence when it comes to nursing education. The U.S. News & World Report has also ranked it 5th for Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, 13th for Nursing Midwifery, and 16th for Family Nurse Practitioner.
Degree: MSN Health Care Informatics
8. University of Central Florida
PSM in Healthcare Informatics is one of the University of Central Florida’s more than 30 online degrees. As one of the top nursing informatics programs, the program is aimed at preparing students for the highly dynamic healthcare industry by enabling them to improve patient care, healthcare data management, and delivery. Unlike other programs that are largely based on research and classwork, this program is based on real-world training. The 38-credit program is set out in 10 courses. Students begin the course by undertaking a course in informatics fundamentals and end with an internship. Although the program is fully online, some specializations may require students to go to the campus for brief sessions. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution.
The University of Central Florida offers some of the most affordable online graduate degrees. Students can gain admission into the institution during the spring and fall semesters. The institution is ranked 10th by the U.S. News & World Report.
Degree: PSM in Healthcare Informatics
9. Ferris State University
The Ferris State University offers an MSN informatics degree program which is available to healthcare practitioners. Students are required to complete 24-bridge coursework as well as 37-credits in general education before commencing with the MSN program. The online program enables students to take as much as four courses at a time. The 37-credit program includes such topics as leadership for informatics specialists, healthcare systems and policies, organizational leadership, and data management and safety. Such depth and scope in coursework have made it one of the top nursing informatics programs in the country. Applicants must have an active registered nurse license and an overall GPA of 3.0. The institution recommends that applicants have at least two years of experience. While it is a fully online program, successful applicants need to attend a 4-hour face-to-face orientation session at the main campus.
Formerly known as Big Rapids Industrial School, Ferris State University was established in 1884. The institution’s main campus is located in Big Rapids, while a secondary campus is in Grand Rapids. Ferris State University ranks 94th among the best regional universities in Midwest, according to U.S. News & World.
Degree: MSN – Informatics
10. Troy University
Troy University’s College of Health and Human Services offers an MSN in Nursing Informatics for registered nurses. The program is meant to help them advance their leadership and clinical skills. The program prepares nurses for advanced roles in their careers, which could include informatics specialists, nurse administrators, and family nurse practitioners. Although this is a fully online program, new students are required to attend a one-day orientation session. The coursework covers such topics as pharmacology and health assessment. The 47-credit MSN nursing informatics program is accredited by CCNE, ACEN, and NLNA , making it one of the top nursing informatics programs in the U.S.
Troy University was founded in 1887 as Troy Normal School. The institution is the flagship of Troy University System, and it boasts of a student ratio of 15:1, which explains the strong campus culture and student support. Currently, it has four campuses in Alabama and 50 teaching sites across 15 states. It is also the first institution to have established an open publishing facility in Alabama.
Degree: MSN Nursing Informatics
Where Can I Get an Affordable Informatics Degree?
Small private schools and regional universities tend to be quite affordable compared to huge public universities. Also, due to the personal touch with students, such institutions often offer attractive financial aid to students that deserve them. Students get an intimate learning atmosphere as opposed to the arena-like classroom settings typical of public universities.
USA Today notes that small private colleges and regional public universities tend to have more resources at their disposal. For instance, faculty mentors and lecturers are available to guide students through the learning process. Also, due to the smaller number of graduates compared to public institutions, there is a high likelihood of alumni providing support as well as career opportunities for students.
Enrolling in an online college has its unique perks. Students prefer it as they can undertake their health informatics courses in the comfort of their homes. It is also quite affordable as you do not have to incur such costs as commuting costs and housing fees. The flexibility offered by online learning is unparalleled. For instance, a person working as a nurse can fulfill their obligations and complete health informatics tasks and assignments once they are off work. This is because the course content is available 24/7.
The coursework for those undertaking a health informatics course includes:
- Data management and analysis
- Database management
- Computer technology and health information systems
- Biomedical Sciences, and
- Legal aspects as far as health information is concerned
How Much Can I Make in Health Informatics?
A healthcare or nursing informatics professional works in a hospital or healthcare setting to maintain the organization’s IT systems. This includes ensuring that the system complies with the law as well as company policies and regulations. The professional works alone or as part of a team to perform extensive research on available solutions depending on the organization’s needs. They then plan on how the software system or technological solution will be implemented.
Implementing a software could involve testing the system, debugging it, and optimizing it for maximum functionality. The health informatics specialist will also troubleshoot the system whenever it encounters a problem. They may also be responsible for the training of the other employees to familiarize them with how the system works. They will also need to stay informed on system developments so that they can update it when necessary. In some instances, health informatics work with clients to optimize online platforms.
The healthcare informatics salary depends on such factors as:
- The type of informatics career one chooses
- The level of the student’s health informatics degree
- The work environment or the type of healthcare facility one works in
- The years of experience
- Types of health informatics careers and potential salaries
Health informatics salaries differ from one career to another. Some of the most common health informatics professions include:
1. Health informatics director
This position requires one to have health informatics skills along with people skills. A health informatics director organizes and integrates data flow across different departments in the organization. They also meet with stakeholders to discuss technological changes and how to mitigate any challenges presented by existing technological systems.
2. Health informatics consultant
Most health informatics consultants work independently to perform such tasks as:
- Installation of new software systems
- Monitoring and troubleshooting systems
- Training teams
- Updating networks, among others
3. Chief medical information officer
The roles and responsibilities of a chief medical information officer vary from one organization to the other. This professional is responsible for conducting analysis to optimize IT infrastructure and designing software applications to ensure high-quality patient care. Apart from working in a hospital setting, a chief medical information officer could also work in a government agency and or an academic setting.
4. Nursing informatics specialist
In a world where big data is becoming increasingly popular, most healthcare organizations are looking for nurses with specialist skills in informatics. These professionals work alongside healthcare providers and regular nurses to keep accurate records of patient care plans. They sometimes train their colleagues on record-keeping procedures.
5. Healthcare IT manager
A healthcare IT manager is responsible for the creation and execution of technological project plans within healthcare organizations. The professional will also communicate with other employees within the organization to ensure that projects are completed on time.
6. An electronic medical records keeper
An electronic medical record keeper is responsible for inputting such data as patients’ diagnosis, symptoms, conditions, and treatments into the organization’s database. This professional ensures that patient data is as accurate as possible. They could also be responsible for the collection of data for medical studies and research. Due to the ongoing transition by healthcare facilities from conventional data-keeping structures to modern solutions such as cloud computing, there is an increased demand for electronic medical records keepers.
Healthcare informatics master’s degree salary is about $20,000 annually more compared to a healthcare informatics bachelor’s degree salary.
How Much Can I Make as a Nurse Informaticist?
Technology plays a key role in the delivery of quality healthcare in institutions. This has led to an increase in the demand for nursing informatics professionals. This field blends technological systems with patient care to enhance the patients’ experiences as far as nursing care is concerned. Apart from being registered nurses, nurse informatics help develop and implement clinical applications and information systems. Therefore, people who want to advance in this field must have a background in technology and clinical nursing.
Some of the most common nurse informatics roles include:
- Programming systems or customizing systems provided by a vendor or developed by an in-house team
- Participating in data analysis and improvement initiatives to optimize existing technological systems
- Providing support and training to other employees
- Simplifying documentation and access to patients’ records. This ensures that other healthcare providers can access patients’ record on computers and mobile devices
Nursing informatics salary depends on such factors as the work setting, the region, and the level of education or certification. For example, a master’s in nursing informatics salary is more compared to a bachelor’s nursing informatics jobs salary.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average msn informatics salary is $88,740 per year. Nursing informatics can work in military or government settings, consulting firms, corporate offices belonging to healthcare organizations, academic settings, and ambulatory care centers.
There are skills that make a healthcare informatics candidate more desirable. These may include:
- Clinical information systems
- Information technology
- Electronic medical records (EMR) implementation
- Project management
- Policy writing
Nursing informatics is a potentially lucrative career. Nurses who are passionate about information systems and data management would be smart to tap into this specialty.
Can an Informaticist Work from Home?
Health information and record management systems are constantly being developed. This makes it important or even mandatory that clinics, doctor offices, hospitals, and medical schools onboard an informaticist who can ensure the smooth operation of such systems. This professional also keeps the operational, administrative, and clinical departments in sync.
The workplace is also undergoing dynamic changes, and it is not uncommon to come across nursing informatics jobs work-from-home job opportunities. This position involves the use of sophisticated software along with analytics applications. These are quite resource-intensive. Therefore, employers hiring remote informaticists require them to have a computer that is capable of running this software and related applications consistently. In most cases, the employer will dictate the required processer, disk storage space, and the amount of installed memory.
Normally, these professionals work for about 40 hours per week. In some instances, working overtime could be required. Evening and night-shift working conditions are also available, especially if the professional works in a hospital setting.
The best thing that any potential health informatics student can do is research on existing and future job opportunities before picking a specialty. Since healthcare informatics is a multidisciplinary as well as one of the most stable fields in the US, it is a perfect option for people who are on the lookout for in-demand occupations.