Health informatics is a burgeoning field within the larger allied health industry
This career path is closely tied to the digital transformation happening within health care delivery, as evidenced by the 36% of U.S. respondents who received a prescription through a virtual medical visit. To meet the growing demand, employers are looking to hire professionals who can manage their data operations and perform other crucial IT duties.
These jobs often require multidisciplinary talent, and while a graduate degree is not required for entry-level jobs, a master's could help you build new skills and knowledge that can help you advance your career and earn a higher salary.
Why pursue a career in health informatics?
Technology is driving the evolution of health care, and many jobs in health informatics will be created in the coming years, providing you with diverse and numerous job opportunities.
Overall, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts 2.4 million new health care jobs between 2019 and 2029. Of that number, many will be in occupations within the field of health informatics:
Jobs for medical records and health information technicians are projected to grow 8% from 2019 to 2029
Jobs for medical and health service managers are projected to grow 32% in the same time frame
Also, employment of software developers and application developers is forecast to grow 22% in that time. This is important to note because there are many health informatics careers in software development. Hospitals, health insurers, and even community clinics are creating their own mobile apps.
Beyond employment opportunities, health informatics can offer you a rewarding career in other ways:
Opportunity to improve delivery and quality of care
With a career in health informatics, you'll have the opportunity to blend multiple disciplines to ultimately improve the delivery and quality of care. This is a field that will draw upon a variety of interests and ability in medicine, technology, social sciences, and other fields.
According to the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), health informatics "applies principles of computer and information science to the advancement of life sciences research, health professions education, public health, and patient care."
With the work you do in health informatics, you might be able to help develop a screening tool for early detection of disease or otherwise assist hospitals and other providers in improving quality of care via data insights.
Working with cutting-edge tools
A job in health care informatics will put you at the forefront of technology. New tools are constantly being introduced, and health care organizations have their eye on implementing emerging technologies after solidifying their adoption of data and analytics.
Physician offices are common work settings for health informatics professionals, so seeing what technologies they plan to use can be an indicator for the tools you can expect to use regularly on the job. According to a 2020 survey from the American Medical Association (AMA):
63% of physicians planned to adopt augmented intelligence (e.g., artificial intelligence and machine learning) tools for health administration within the next three years
65% planned to adopt tools for precision and personalized medicine
43% planned to adopt blockchain technology
Multiple pathways for career specialization
Health informatics is a broad category. You can follow personal or professional interests and passions by choosing a career pathway such as:
Clinical data specialist
Health information manager
Clinical data systems analyst
Electronic medical records specialist
Informatics nurse (if you have nursing certifications)
You can even opt to become a consultant and offer your services to a variety of clients. In such cases, you could join an existing consultancy firm or start your own business.
Industry trends in health informatics
Here’s a quick look at trends in this industry according to Burning Glass Technologies:
The digital transformation of health care has occurred so quickly that many organizations have experienced difficulty recruiting top informatics talent. This can be seen in the time it takes to fill related positions:
35 days to hire a clinical data manager
35 days to hire an electronic medical records specialist
One factor potentially impacting that skills shortage is the desire among employers for hybrid skill sets. It's clear that health informatics professionals need a deep repertoire of technical skills, but increasingly they also need a complement of soft skills. In an informatics career, you'll be one link in the health care chain where you'll need to effectively and efficiently coordinate, collaborate, and communicate with providers, colleagues, and other stakeholders.
Areas of opportunity for careers in health informatics
Industries with the highest levels of employment for medical record and health information technicians in 2019 were:
General medical and surgical hospitals
Offices of physicians
Outpatient care centers
Management of companies and enterprises
Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing care facilities)
The top industries for employment of health managers are similar to above. However, the top-employing industries in 2019 for application software developers were:
Computer systems design and related services
Management of companies and enterprises
Other information services
Data processing, hosting, and related services
Where are the health informatics jobs?
The digitization of health care has been widespread, with even rural providers adopting tools like telehealth and e-prescribing. Accordingly, health informatics jobs are available across the country. The top metropolitan areas for employment in 2019 were:
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim (California)
New York-Newark-Jersey City (New York, New Jersey)
Boston-Cambridge-Nashua (Massachusetts, New Hampshire)
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward (California)
Looking at concentration of employment can also be helpful for planning out your career. According to the BLS, the top metropolitan areas with the highest concentration of application developer jobs in 2019 were:
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara (California)
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward (California)
Trenton (New Jersey)
Raleigh (North Carolina)
Durham-Chapel Hill (North Carolina)
The average annual total compensation in 2020 (including salary and bonuses) for a health informatics specialist was $54,168, though you could earn more early in your career depending on your role. The average annual salary in 2020 for someone with 0-2 years of experience was:
$65,000 for a clinical data specialist
$69,000 for a clinical data systems analyst
$85,000 for a clinical data systems consultant
Advanced job options
The more experience you gain, the greater your earning potential will likely become. Health informatics specialists with 5-9 years of experience earned $72,000 a year on average, while those with 10-19 years made $78,000.
While a master's degree is not required for many entry-level positions, a graduate degree may be desired for advanced roles. At a minimum, the skills and knowledge you build could make you a better job candidate for opportunities like:
Clinical data manager ($100,000 average annual salary for 9+ years of experience)
Director of health information management ($95,500)
Manager of clinical data management ($98,000)
Geography also plays a part in compensation. According to PayScale, health informatics specialists in:
New York City earned 23% more than the national average
Nashville earned 16% more
Chicago earned 14% more
Atlanta earned 11% more
Little Rock earned 5% more
The top-paying regions for medical records and health information technicians in 2019 were:
Santa Cruz-Watsonville (California): $163,280 median salary
Vallejo-Fairfield (California): $159,190 median salary
Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk (Connecticut): $154,570 median salary
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara (California): $144,530 median salary
New York-Newark-Jersey City (New York and New Jersey): $144,370 median salary
Janesville-Beloit (Wisconsin): $143,940 median salary
Binghamton (New York): $141,450 median salary
Top skills and digital tools for health informatics careers
If you have ambitions in the health informatics field, you'll need a diverse skill set to compete for jobs, and ultimately succeed in your work. The fastest growing skills requested by employers (as measured by projected growth in job postings requiring the skill) include:
Joining a professional organization can help you advance your career, as well as grow personally and professionally. Gaining membership to an association will give you access to resources, continuing education, updates on industry trends, and peers. Networking with other professionals can be highly enriching for your career. Some of the most notable associations for health informatics professionals include:
With a job in health informatics, you can position yourself to help make a positive impact on the delivery and quality of care. As more technology and innovation come to health care, providers and other companies will need skilled informatics personnel to spearhead their data initiatives and other analytics projects.
Such careers offer meaningful and rewarding opportunities for growth. And with a master's degree, you could bring new or refined skills and knowledge to the table and make a positive impact through your work.