While the online Ph.D. in Health Informatics degree may seem like overkill for such a small industry, the fact is that the healthcare industry is searching for advanced professionals to provide leadership in the field. With technology changing at a rapid pace and a need for professionals who can both understand the technology as well as design and implement changes, these advanced degrees are providing the industry with tomorrow's leaders.
Online degrees for health informatics specialists are a great way to enable them to continue to work while advancing their education. With asynchronous and synchronous classes, smartphone apps, online office hours and more features only available through virtual schools, students have access to a great education and a flexible schedule. This ranking's goal is to provide enough information so that a student can make a decision about which schools they should do more research on.
The ranking first began when information was culled by the National Center for Education Statistics and its College Navigator database. From the initial pool of 60 schools, this ranking was narrowed down to 10 based on in-state graduate tuition. They are listed below in descending order.
Ranking Low-cost Online Health Informatics PhD Programs
10. University of Maryland
Online Doctor of Nursing Practice, Focus in Informatics
The online Ph.D. in Health Informatics at the University of Maryland is actually the post-master's DNP, informatics focus. This hybrid program was designed for nursing professionals who are interested in moving into another specialty within the field; with a degree in health informatics, nurses can become administrators and managers that are in charge of informatics within hospitals, clinics, and even healthcare insurance companies. The DNP is a comprehensive degree that at the University of Maryland, can be completed as a part-time or full-time course. Students will have to complete 26 credit hours of coursework, 1,000 clinical hours in the form of a practicum, a comprehensive exam, and a scholarly project. Sample courses include Information Systems and Technology Improvement/Transformation Health Care, Theory for Evidence-Based Practice, and Evidence-Based Health Policy.
9. University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee
Online Doctor of Philosophy in Health Sciences
The health informatics Ph.D. online degree from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee is a rare degree in that this is one of only a dozen of schools across the country that offer this terminal degree. As a research-based, interdisciplinary program, students will find that there is a close focus on research areas and a lot of room to tailor the hybrid degree to suit their needs. Residency at the school is only required during the dissertation phase; students must defend their dissertation at the school in order to graduate. They can also expect to complete 36 credit hours of coursework, a research project, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Statistical Analysis in the Health Sciences, Seminar on Philosophical Approaches to Science, and Teaching, Learning and Educational Leadership in the Health Sciences.
8. Indiana University – Purdue University Indiana
Online Doctor of Philosophy in Informatics, Health and Biomedical Informatics Specialization
Indiana University – Purdue University Indiana confers an online Ph.D. in Health Informatics that combines research rotations with topical seminars to provide students with a well-rounded understanding of how the informatics industry works and how they can make a difference with original research. This is a 100 percent online program that encourages students to ask tough questions about the healthcare industry and its relationship to technology. From discussing electronic health records to designing plans to harness the power of social media to monitor epidemics, students can choose their own personal research focus area that will culminate with a dissertation. Along with the dissertation, students will complete 90 credit hours of coursework, a comprehensive written exam, and an oral exam. Sample courses include Clinical Information Systems, Health Informatics Standards and Terminology, and Professionalism and Pedagogy in Informatics.
7. American Sentinel University
Online Doctor of Nursing Practice in Informatics Leadership
An incredible option for nurses interested in pursuing an online Ph.D. in Health Informatics can be found at American Sentinel University. It is one of just a handful of online DNP programs that offers a way to become a leader in health informatics. This is an evidence-based and research-led program, providing working professionals with an exhaustive education in the informatics field. It is also an accelerated hybrid degree; the university will pay for a student to stay at the school for a four-day residency and students can complete all requirements within 28 months. The degree requires 39 credit hours of coursework, practicum experiences, and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Health Services Research, Strategic Leadership and Planning, and Role of Technology and Simulation in Nursing Education.
6. Dakota State University
Madison, South Dakota
Online Doctor of Science in Information Systems, Healthcare Information Systems
Dakota State University confers the most popular health informatics doctorate online degree in the state. The D.Sc. in Information Systems with a specialization in Health Information Systems is a 100 percent online degree, which can be taken as either a part-time or full-time degree, that focuses on research and an evidence-based curriculum. Students will spend much of their plan of study working on independent study or learning about trends and current issues in the information systems field; they will also take seminars and engage in original research. Students will also complete 72 credit hours of coursework, a comprehensive written exam, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Data Analytics in Healthcare, Foundations in Healthcare Information, and Healthcare Informatics, Information Systems, and Technology.
5. University of Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah
Online Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Informatics
Earning an online Ph.D. in Health Informatics is a breeze at the University of Utah. This is an online research-based degree that focuses on biomedical informatics research topics. Founded in 1964, the University of Utah's program in biomedical informatics is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field and is a center of research that all academics in the field consider for their terminal degree education. Students spend much of this degree learning different methodologies for analysis, working on research projects, and completing a dissertation. Students can expect to complete 40 credit hours of coursework as well as a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Introduction to Probability and Statistics, Systems Modeling and Process Improvement, and Population and Public Health Informatics.
4. California Intercontinental University
Online Doctorate of Business Administration in Healthcare Management and Leadership (DBAHCML)
California Intercontinental University confers a great alternative to the health informatics online Ph.D., the DBAHCML. This is a professional degree that has a general focus on business administration while also offering students the chance to engage in evidence-based work in healthcare management and leadership. This is a great choice for health informatics professionals who are interested in working in the private sector for healthcare insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Students must complete 60 credit hours of coursework, a research project, a comprehensive written and oral exam, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Healthcare Marketing: Tools and Techniques, Business Research Methodology and Quantitative Statistics, and Organizational Change and Development in Management Systems.
3. University of South Alabama
Online Doctor of Nursing Practice, Nursing Informatics Specialization
The University of South Alabama confers a nursing alternative to the online Ph.D. in Health Informatics. Designed specifically for working nurses, the DNP in Nursing Informatics offers nurses the opportunity to take part in a hybrid program that focuses on evidence-based scholarly projects, clinical rotations, and coursework. Students will focus on nursing leadership and the informatics that affect their profession specifically, and the healthcare industry in general. Students can expect to complete 39 credit hours of coursework, 720 clinical hours, a scholarly project, and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Quality Improvement Outcomes Assessment, Healthcare Policy and Finance, and Scientific Underpinnings of Advanced Nursing Practice.
2. University of Texas – Health Science Center at Houston
Online Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Informatics
A great choice for health informatics professionals comes from the University of Texas' Health Science Center at Houston. This is a hybrid Ph.D. in Health Informatics online degree that is trans-disciplinary in nature and provides students with the chance to work on original research in the field. The program, while affordable, also comes with an opportunity to win a full-ride scholarship that will support them during their first year in the program. Students will be expected to complete a long list of requirements, including 93 credit hours of coursework, a research project, a comprehensive written and oral exam, and a dissertation. Sample courses include Introduction to Bioinformatics, Advanced Database Concepts in Biomedical Informatics, and Theories and Frameworks for BMI Research.
1. University of Central Florida
Online Doctor of Nursing Practice, Advanced Practice Nurse Specialization
The University of Central Florida confers an alternative to the online health informatics Ph.D. in the form of a DNP that focuses on advanced practice nursing. An accredited CCNE program, this hybrid degree can be completed mostly online; however, there are some intensives that require campus residency. Students will also be required to complete clinical hours, which can vary based on their prior MSN curriculum requirements. This degree is only open to licensed nurses and may not be conferred to nurses from every state, so students are encouraged to do their research to see if their state-of-residency is acceptable. Students can expect to complete 42 credit hours of research, 420 clinical hours, a comprehensive exam, and a research project. Sample courses include Innovative Technologies in Healthcare, Concepts, Measurement, and Data Management, and Leadership and Economics in Advanced Practice Nursing.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Career Options for an Online Doctorate in Health Informatics Degree?
Health informatics is a growing field, meaning that the career options that are currently available will not be the only ones in the industry in a couple of years. For now, however, there are a variety of options for professionals.
The most common career option actually comes through nursing. Nurses who go back to school to earn a degree in this field can become informatics nurses, clinical informatics specialists, managers, and nurse executives. This is because health informatics is tied closely with nursing and indeed began because nurses needed access to technology to make them more efficient at their jobs.
It is also possible to come to health informatics through business. The DBA with a specialization in health informatics is uncommon, but in demand by many employers. These professionals work as analysts, specialists, and managers in the healthcare industry and for healthcare-related companies. As technology begins to dominate the healthcare field, these positions will become more common.
Another option is academia. Students who earn a terminal degree can work as educators in college and university settings; this gives them access to research opportunities that aren't available to professionals who work in the private sector. Professors and researchers also have the ability to freely work with charities, enabling them to help advocate for changes in the healthcare industry.
How Much Can You Earn in this Field?
The current range of salaries that a professional can expect in the health informatics field ranges from $66,000 to $125,000, based on their position, area of residence, and prior work experience. Because there are a variety of positions available within human informatics, salaries can be unpredictable. Health informatics specialists can make anywhere from $60,000 to $91,000 a year, while informatics nurses, a similar career, can make between $50,000 to $90,000. Students with a doctorate in this field can expect to make higher salaries than their graduate counterparts, often starting a career at around $70,000.
Clinical informatics specialists make around the same salary as a health informatics specialist; the same goes for clinical analysts. It's important for students to understand that the higher-paying jobs are in metropolitan cities that host large healthcare systems. The highest paying job in the field of health informatics is the clinical informatics manager position. This career pays, on average, between $59,000 to $125,000, with doctorate-holding professionals making the highest wages. These positions also come with additional compensation in the form of annual bonuses.
What are the Various Disciplines of Health Informatics?
Health informatics combines a variety of disciplines; it is often considered a trans-disciplinary or multi-disciplinary field because it requires a student to have a stable knowledge of various fields in order to be an effective professional once they enter the workforce. The most common disciplines in health informatics include information systems, computer science, scientific research methodologies, medicine, technology, and public health. Because of the comprehensive nature of the field, students will also be required to understand math, economics, policy, and law in the form of regulations.
Students who take on a general doctorate degree with a specialization in health informatics will notice that their degrees require different types of disciplines. For instance, a student who earns a DBA will be required to understand business, economics, and have a firm understand of healthcare law and reform. A nursing professional undertaking the DNP will have their education focus on nursing, epidemiology, population health, and specific disciplines based on their specialty as a nurse.
Many times, health informatics specialists are in management or leadership positions after graduating with a doctorate degree. This requires an understanding of these disciplines as well as human resources, organizational leadership, psychology, sociology, and other related disciplines.
Does Accreditation Matter?
The field of health informatics does not have its own accreditation body, so many students assume that the distinction is not necessary. This was originally true, as many schools currently do not offer health informatics as a stand-alone doctorate. But times are changing. Now there are several degrees from different disciplines that offer a specialization or focus area in health informatics. This has led to a rise in popularity in the specialization, but it is tied to these general degrees.
The most popular doctorate degrees with health informatics specializations are the Doctor of Nursing Practice and the Doctor of Business Administration. These are professional degrees, so students should consider entering a program that is accredited by the appropriate bodies. That's because professionals in these disciplines are expected to have accreditation in that general field, regardless if they are establishing their expertise in one field or another. It's also important because a doctorate in that general field generally implies that a student has or will work in that profession; this is especially true of the DNP, as the health informatics field is filled with nurse professionals.
For research-based degrees, such as the Doctor of Philosophy, accreditation is less important. This is because researchers and academics tend to either have certification or licensure before they reach the terminal stage of the education. And because health informatics doesn't have accreditation at the doctorate level, employers will often look to see what other certifications or licenses a professional has. Certification, not accreditation, can be a deciding factor for many employers. Health informatics specialists certifications do exist from professional associations, so students in the field are highly encouraged to pursue professional certification after they complete their education.
Are Affordable Online Schools Really a Good Option at the Doctorate Level?
Earning a cheap online health informatics Ph.D. can be the same as paying more for an expensive, traditional degree; what really matters is the quality of the education and the opportunities provided by the school. Many students will notice that online schools are cheaper than traditional schools; this often leads to the assumption that they are not at the same quality level. The truth is that online schools are more affordable because schools employ online tuition rates that enable students to forgo paying campus fees. These programs also use online textbooks and other resources that are easier to come by at an affordable price.
Additionally, many schools use the exact same curriculum for their degrees, even at the doctoral level. A student who earns an online Ph.D. in Health Informatics is literally getting the same education, taught by the same professors, at a lower cost. They also have access to flexible term schedules, something that traditional students aren't afforded when they attend campus.
Overall, it's important to stress that students who are at the doctoral level simply do not have the time or money to attend a traditional school. These are professionals who have two or more degrees and work a full-time job. They cannot be expected to attend a full-time traditional program, especially if they are to continue to be a positive force in their workplace. That's why many of the programs on this list are affordable and designed specifically with working professionals in mind; the degrees are tailored to make earning an online doctorate easier and more affordable.
Health informatics is still a new and emerging field, one that will only continue to grow with importance as technology becomes a bigger player in the healthcare field. While it's possible to join the field at the undergraduate level of education, many employers are searching for health informatics specialists with a terminal degree. All students have to do is to look through the above schools to find the online Ph.D. in Health Informatics degree that makes sense for their career goals.