When to get a health care informatics certificate instead of a master’s degree?

When Is a Health Care Informatics Certificate Better than a Degree?

The right credentials help your resume stand out. Whether you’re pursuing a career in health care informatics or you just started considering a career change, you’ll probably need some additional education to take that next step.

But how do you know whether a certificate or an advanced degree is right for you?

Opportunities are expanding in health informatics, but you’ll need a credential that will prepare you for the changing future of the developing field. Whether a certificate or a degree is right for you depends on a few factors — but before we get into that, let’s look at the programs side by side.

Health Informatics Certificate vs. Degree: The Rundown

The health informatics certificate and master of science degree options at Regis University have some overlap. Overall, the certificate is a faster route and provides a core foundation in health care informatics, while the degree offers more depth and the ability to specialize in data science.

Here’s a quick rundown of the programs:

Graduate Certificate in Health Care Informatics Master of Science in Health Informatics
Online classes Accelerated online classes (8-week terms)
Finish in 6-12 months Finish in 12-24 months (must be completed within 4 years)
Start in January or October Start in January, March, May, June, August, or October
12 credits required 36 credits required (including 6-credit practicum)
  • Workflow and Change Management in Adoption of Health IT
  • Design and Selection of IT Systems in Health Care
  • Health Care Informatics and Information Management in Health Care Settings
  • Health Care Performance Evaluation

All course credits transfer to master's program

  • Core
  • Information Systems Concepts
  • Workflow and Change Management in Adoption of Health IT*
  • Design and Selection of IT Systems in Health Care*
  • Health Care Informatics and Information Management in Health Care Settings*
  • Health Care Performance Evaluation*
  • IT Research Methods
  • Electives
  • Nursing and Clinical Informatics
  • Management of e-HIM and Information Governance
  • Introduction to Data Science
  • Business Intelligence
  • Data Science Specialization
  • Introduction to Data Science
  • Data Analytics
  • Statistical Methods and Experimental Design
  • Data Visualization

*part of certificate curriculum

The certificate program requires four of the master’s degree’s six core courses, accounting for nearly half of the course credits required in the master’s program. For both programs, individual course grades must be at least a “C”, with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 (B) to earn the credential.

The Right Program for Busy Professionals

Which program is right for you will depend on:

  • Your current experience in healthcare, IT, and business operations
  • Your aspirations
  • The time and resources you’re prepared to dedicate to advancing your education

The certificate is a great place to start if you’re not quite sure about health informatics as a career — or if you want to gain an understanding of the field before committing to a full-fledged degree program.

If you’ve already been working in healthcare or IT and you’re ready to commit to a career in health informatics, with the potential of taking on leadership roles, the degree option will give you the foundation you need to:

  • Navigate both healthcare and IT
  • Assess and make decisions about facility technology
  • Lead your organization in using technology to improve patient care

It’s not a black-and-white decision. As you weigh your options, consider these scenarios to help you choose:

  • A nurse wants to switch to informatics to improve their facility’s function, maybe lead a department: Master’s.
    Why? The master’s program provides grounding in leadership and ethics topics, as well as informatics, data science, and information technology, preparing the nurse for management positions and technology considerations.
  • A business person is curious about healthcare informatics: Certificate.
    Why? The certificate provides an introduction to health informatics that can help the business person decide whether or not they want to pursue a career in the field.
  • A healthcare worker is considering a career change to informatics: Certificate.
    Why? The certificate will inform the healthcare worker on informatics topics and help them decide if a career change is right for them.
  • An IT worker at a hospital wants to lead the organization’s tech department: Master’s.
    Why? The master’s provides a deeper understanding of healthcare organizations, the specific legal and ethical considerations that affect healthcare technology, and leadership skills needed to lead a hospital IT department.
  • A data scientist wants to apply their skills to a healthcare setting: Certificate.
    Why? The certificate offers a first foray into the healthcare world and a look at how data science could apply via informatics, so the data scientist can gauge if the field is right for them.

The safest bet is always to start with the certificate. If you change your mind later and decide you want the degree, your credits will transfer, so the degree can be completed quickly. Either way, you’ll gain real-world understanding of health care informatics and be one step closer to a rewarding career.

Ready to take the next step? Learn more about our health informatics master’s and certificate programs.

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