What Kind of Courses Will I Take If I Major in Health Informatics?

courses health informaticsBlending technological principles with healthcare management practices is reflected in health informatics courses in this degree field. The most successful students in this major display aptitudes for studying science, math, technology, communications and human behavior. In accordance with core competencies established in 2008 by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), aspiring healthcare informatics specialists learn how to: understand, aggregate and code patient data appropriately; safeguard private information; create and manage medical program systems; and maintain ethical, legal and professional interactions with patients and staff.

Certificate and Degree Options in Healthcare Informatics

A student can earn a certificate or associate’s degree from an accredited healthcare informatics program. Employees at the certificate level work under supervision, while those with associate’s degrees will generally have some independent responsibilities. Higher level degree holders usually assume management and instructional roles and are more heavily involved in planning, coordinating and programming operating systems.

Accredited programs are most often taught through an institution’s technology, health, public service or business departments. Certificate’s or associate’s degrees are often earned at local technical schools or community colleges. Graduates of these programs can then opt to go on for further education at four-year public institutions to complete higher level degrees. Degrees in the major typically have a science designation, for example, a Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Informatics. Minors and specializations in the field are also offered as ways to personalize other types of diplomas, such as an MBA with a concentration in Health Information Systems.  A Master’s in Health Informatics Degree is also an option.

Curriculum Expectations

Programs of study will vary according to the type of credentials obtained. Foundational coursework is built upon at each level.

  • Certificate Level: A certificate may be completed in as little as a semester with nine credit hours of study in healthcare terminology, information systems, organizational behavior, social issues, patient care, planning and evaluating delivery of services, and research methods.
  • Associate’s Level: Students engage in more in-depth analysis of medical coding and billing, healthcare computer systems, medical conditions, legal and ethical decisions, and medical office management. A capstone course involving an on-site practicum experience is usually required. Typical length of study is 12-15 credit hours that can be finished in 12-18 months.
  • Bachelor’s Level: Programs range from 120-126 credits of study over four years and require completing a general education curriculum in humanities, science and math courses before entering the major. Core studies include concentrated levels of math and computer science, anatomy and physiology, business philosophies, communications, ethics, and statistics. Concentrated health informatics courses involve expansion of knowledge with coding systems, reimbursement plans, healthcare management quality, legal and ethical aspects of organizational behavior, computer platform technologies, database design and management, and security of digital information. Additionally, students participate in supervised internships.
  • Master’s and Professional Studies: These degrees are geared towards the business, administrative, research, and educational sides of the profession. On average, candidates take 30-36 credit hours of coursework focusing on application of healthcare informatics principles, informational technology, ethics, management, and program design. Emphasis is placed on evaluating, creating and maintaining efficient and confidential healthcare management systems from technological and organizational behavior viewpoints. Programs are frequently offered online or through part-time evening and weekend classes to accommodate working professionals.

The field of healthcare informatics offers a wide variety of career opportunities for those who display aptitudes for math, science, technology, human behavior and communications. Students can earn credentials as they progress in their career, from on-the-job training with a certificate to attainment of higher degrees that provide broader career options. Depending upon which track students choose, health informatics courses will prepare them for a worthwhile career improving the lives of citizens in a variety of public and private health settings.