Health informatics is a rapidly expanding and evolving discipline that leverages data analytics and digital technologies to improve patient care, drive health care policy, improve operations in health care facilities and advance health care systems. Many people associate the field of health informatics with electronic medical records (EMRs), but informatics specialists—also known as informaticists—work with all kinds of clinical, operational and financial data generated by health services delivery.
Informaticists are highly skilled experts who use data to optimize the practice of medicine. They often have advanced credentials, such as the University of Pittsburgh’s online Master of Science in Health Informatics (MSHI) and are paid accordingly. Experts predict the informatics field will grow from $30 billion to $100 billion by 2030, and qualified data professionals are already in high demand. Health informatics is a lucrative career pathway, which is why many professionals from business, health care administration, technology and even patient care transition into the health informatics field.
Training for a career in informatics is also an opportunity to get involved in the evolution of medicine. Informaticists are at the forefront of research, policy, administration and pushing the boundary of what clinical health care can achieve. They design and use cutting-edge tools and technology and work in various settings from hospitals and laboratories to insurance companies and government agencies. It’s also a straightforward way to earn the credentials to become a competitive top earner shaping the future of medicine.
There is no typical master’s in health informatics salary because salaries in informatics vary widely based on education, years of experience, location and job title. Additionally, there are a variety of subspecialties within the scope of health informatics, including nursing informatics, pharmacy informatics and consumer health informatics. While informaticists in each subfield of informatics use health care data to power decision-making, the scope of their responsibilities may affect the size of their salaries.
Entry-level and early-career informatics specialist positions requiring a bachelor’s degree often start around $50,000 and increase over time, while the average master’s in health informatics salary is usually much higher. According to the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) 2019 U.S. Salary Survey Report, the average salary for health informatics professionals was about $84,000, but professionals in informatics leadership positions such as clinical informatics manager or Chief Informatics Nurse can earn even more. PayScale reports the highest health informatics director salaries can exceed $200,000, and executive health informatics directors may earn $230,000 or more.
Finally, domain expertise can impact health informatics salaries. Some informaticists are data analysis experts—essentially the data scientists of the medical world. Others are experts in the technical aspects of informatics, including health information systems and database management. Still others have deep domain expertise in one or more focus areas, such as clinical trial research, public health, pharmacy data or imaging analysis.
While the base salaries for health informatics jobs tend to be higher than the national average, specific informatics skills carry a trackable wage premium. These include:
Compliance in health informatics encompasses the legal and ethical requirements and regulations that protect private patient information. Because health informatics works so closely with protected health information (PHI), there are several positions in the field of health informatics specifically responsible for ensuring facilities, laboratories and health care-adjacent organizations stay on the right side of HIPAA laws. Pitt online MSHI courses such as Security, Privacy, Legal and Ethical Issues in Health Information Systems cover issues related to patient information security. Students in the program can also complete an optional Certificate in Health Information Cybersecurity.
According to an AHIMA survey, health informatics professionals working in compliance earn an average starting salary of $89,000 and enjoy salary increases as they gain experience. A health care IT manager with regulatory compliance skills can earn more than $96,000. And a director of information security and compliance can earn about $149,000.
Health care operations skills are valuable in a range of jobs related to the clinical, administrative, financial and legal sides of health care and can open up higher-paying career pathways in management. Health informatics professionals with health care operations skills often work in leadership positions, using the insights produced by analysts to make business and quality improvement policy decisions for their organizations. Pitt’s online MSHI program offers both a Health Care Supervision and Management track, which focuses on the administrative and business sides of health informatics, and a Certificate in Leadership in Health Informatics.
Health informatics managers earn an average salary of $141,000, while health informatics directors earn a median salary of $170,000. Informaticists in more senior management roles such as clinical operations director might earn up to $200,000.
Providers, administrators and informaticists use health information technology systems to manage data in health care settings. This includes systems that collect and store patient data, such as hospital billing or electronic health records, as well as systems that analyze or transmit information. Health informatics professionals comfortable building, maintaining and managing information systems in health care may earn more, which is why the MSHI course Database Design and Big Data Analytics teaches students how to design and manage health care databases. The Digital Health course focuses on emerging technologies in the health care field, many of which interface with health information systems.
According to the AHIMA survey linked above, health informatics professionals who work in IT and infrastructure earn an average salary of about $98,000—the highest pay rate of all the job families in the survey. Health information systems skills also open up opportunities in some of the highest paying IT pathways in health care settings. For example, informaticists who work in health care IT can earn up to $140,000, while health care IT project managers earn an average salary of $110,000. At the leadership level, Chief Technology Officers earn about $166,000.
Revenue cycle management is a business technology and finance skill useful for informaticists who work in billing, insurance and other administrative areas of health care organizations. According to the Healthcare Financial Management Association, the complete cycle encompasses “all the activities that lead to payment for services provided, from patient registration to verification of benefits to care delivery, claim submission and reimbursement.” Health informaticists who understand revenue cycle management can help health care organizations reduce costs, increase profits and ensure that patients receive continuity of care without financial disruption. The MSHI course Financial Management and Health Care Reimbursement teaches students about the revenue cycle and gives them skills to manage systems in health care settings. Students in Pitt’s online informatics master’s program can also pursue a Certificate in Revenue Cycle Management.
The 2019 survey by AHIMA found that revenue cycle management work is typical in informatics. About 44% of respondents described themselves as working in revenue cycle management, and the average salaries show why this informatics specialty area is so popular. Health care revenue cycle managers earn close to $100,000 annually, and director-level revenue cycle management specialists can earn a lot more.
Health informatics careers at the leadership level may involve working directly with data but are more likely to involve overseeing informaticians who work with data and facilitating communication between technical teams and providers, administrators and researchers who rely on the insights found in it when making decisions. Roles for health informatics professionals with leadership skills include informatics director, clinical informatics coordinator, health data resources manager and Chief Medical Information Officer. Pitt MSHI candidates in the Health Care Supervision and Management track learn to implement leadership skills to enact change in complex and dynamic health care settings.
Leadership roles in health informatics tend to pay the most. Chief Medical Information Officers earn about $299,000, while a Chief Informatics Nurse might earn $120,000 per year or more. Top-earning informaticists tend to work for large health systems or hospital networks, where they oversee health informatics professionals such as clinical analysts and health informatics consultants.
Health informaticists who do work similar to that of data scientists often use programming skills to automate their work. Because clinical data sets are often large, clinical informaticists turn to computer algorithms to help analyze clinical trial data, build apps for patients to learn about their health or communicate with providers or integrate artificial intelligence into patient records systems to support diagnostics. Pitt MSHI classes such as Practical Statistics and Programming Using R, Introduction to Python for Health Informatics and Digital Health teach aspiring informaticists computer programming and the foundations of IT in health care settings. The online master’s in informatics program also offers a data science track emphasizing programming skills in health informatics careers.
Higher-paying roles like health data analyst, health informatics data analyst and health data scientist often involve programming. Health data scientists earn average salaries of $110,000, and medical software development engineers earn close to $120,000. Top earners in health care information technology earn average salaries of close to $145,000.
Research has shown that “the skills needed for health informaticians vary significantly depending on the position, and health informatics students need skills pertinent to their professional experience for their future career paths.” This suggests a versatile, interdisciplinary academic pathway such as Pitt’s online informatics master’s degree program may be the best professional development option for aspiring health informatics professionals.
The skills covered in the online MSHI curriculum are those associated with higher median salaries in informatics. In the AHIMA survey, 23% of respondents reported that having a specific skillset had the most significant impact on getting a promotion. Further, 21% said that multi-disciplinary knowledge had the most significant influence, while 40% said that education level had the most significant influence.
Additionally, Pitt’s informatics master’s degree faculty comprises nationally renowned experts and thought leaders in health informatics. And the 100% online informatics master’s program offers the same transformative, forward-thinking learning experience as the on-campus program but doesn’t require students to leave the workforce. Online MSHI alumni work for major health care organizations, health insurance companies and IT companies that partner with the health care industry.
The program takes 16 to 24 months to complete and welcomes students of all educational and professional backgrounds, making it optimal for career-changers. Many Pitt MSHI candidates have experience in health and rehabilitation sciences, health information management, information science, computer science, biology, management or nursing, but others come from academic and professional backgrounds unrelated to informatics.
Whether you need a master’s degree to work in informatics comes down to employer expectations, but it is telling that close to a quarter of health informatics specialists have master’s degrees. Professionals with the highly specialized and advanced skills necessary to shape the future of informatics will be in high demand as the health care industry evolves. Ambitious informaticists pursue master’s degree programs for many reasons—the wage premium associated with the MSHI is just one of them. Pursuing a master’s empowers can help you make a bigger impact in medicine and change health care for the better.
Apply now to earn your MSHI online at the University of Pittsburgh, and in less than two years, you’ll have the skills and credentials to boost your earning potential and shape the future of health care.