Bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs in health care data management (usually in the health information management or health informatics fields) can lead to careers in medical IT management, health data analysis or research. A bachelor's degree is a typical requirement for industry certification or any required licensure and prepares graduates for entry-level jobs in the field.
Four-year bachelor's degree programs require applicants to possess a high school diploma or equivalent. At the master's level, admissions might require a specific undergraduate major and experience or familiarity of the field, and some schools offer the programs fully or partially online. Doctoral programs are commonly research based and a dissertation is usually required. A master's degree is required for acceptance into these programs.
Bachelor's Degree in Health Information Management
Bachelor of Science programs in health information management prepare students for entry-level jobs in small settings within health care services. Students train to oversee the storage, organization and retrieval of health care records.
Undergraduate degree programs introduce students to the legal and ethical ramifications of data management. Programs give students a working knowledge of health care practices as well as computer science. Coursework includes:
- Data management
- Electronic health records
- Medical terminology
Master's Degree in Health Information Management
Master's degrees in health information management are two-year programs aimed at information technology professionals and those with a background in health care. Universities may grant the degree as a Master of Science (M.S.) or a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) with a health information concentration. Both M.S. and MLIS curricula are drawn from nursing, medicine, health sciences and computer sciences departments.
Health information management programs require a bachelor's degree in a related field. Examples of acceptable undergraduate degrees include:
- Computer science
- Information management
Coursework at the master's level is intended to acquaint information technology specialists with the medical field, as well as introducing medical professionals to the principles of information management. Classes include:
- Biomedical informatics
- Health information law
- Organization of records
Ph.D. in Health Informatics
Doctoral degrees in health informatics focus on scholarship, research and support of future academic leaders to teach those methods to both undergraduate students and health care information professionals. Ph.D. candidates develop new methods and applications for health care data management through research projects that culminate in a doctoral dissertation that candidates present to and defend before a faculty board. Some programs offer assistant teaching and research fellowship opportunities for graduate students during all or part of the 5 to 10 years of a Ph.D. program. Some programs offer assistant teaching and research fellowship opportunities for graduate students during all or part of the Ph.D. program.
Doctoral programs build upon backgrounds in medicine and informatics by requiring students to create and work on independent research projects. Ph.D. students learn research and statistical modeling techniques in order to gather evidence to support independently proposed research projects. Curriculum topics include:
- Behavioral research
- Computational models
- Computer architecture
- Data mining
- Statistical analysis
Health information master's degree graduates find work in medical centers, health care consulting companies and governmental regulatory groups. Common job titles include:
- Manager of health care IT systems
- Chief medical information officer
- Health informatician
- Informatics analyst
- Senior health care data analyst
Some Ph.D. graduates choose to go into the consulting field, educating healthcare professionals about issues of compliance, data security and mining data to discover health trends in biomedical data and information. Other positions for health care data management specialists include:
- Health information professor
- Biomedical informatics professor
- Business management informatics director
- Independent researcher
- Translational informatics scientist
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment for medical and health services managers is expected to rise 32% from 2019 to 2029 (www.bls.gov). This growth is much faster than average when compared to other occupations in the United States. May 2019 wage data from the BLS showed that medical and health services managers earned a median annual salary of $100,980.
Continuing Education and Certification
Though not required, some professionals choose to obtain Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) certification through the American Health Information Management Association (www.ahima.org). The minimum requirement to sit for the RHIA exam is the completion of a health information management bachelor's degree program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM).
Licensure is only required for those working in nursing facilities. Some states also require health care professionals working at assisted living facilities to obtain a license to practice. Typical requirements include obtaining a bachelor's degree, completion of an approved training program, passing a test and earning continuing education credit.
Bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees are available in health information management and health informatics; both fields help to prepare students for work in health care data management. Many graduates choose to pursue voluntary certification, and those involved in nursing facilities may need to earn licensure, depending on their state.