Health informatics is an innovative field of study founded on concepts in health care systems, computer technology, and information science. At the doctoral level, students should expect to carry out advanced research in their area of interest. These may be topics such as health information exchange, telemedicine, and computer models for disease prevention and management, to name a handful. Other common courses for advanced students include health care economics, clinical informatics, public health informatics, and biomedical data analysis.

Why a Ph.D.?

A terminal degree such as a PhD in health informatics is ideal for those looking to teach at the college or university level or work in upper-level research positions. These job openings may be found with schools, government agencies, or companies that develop health care informatics systems, such as industry software. Some hospital systems may also hire experts in health informatics to fine tune their medical records systems or other information technology systems. It is best to research career opportunities prior to committing to a Ph.D. track to determine whether it will benefit you in the long term. (For some positions, a master’s degree will suffice.)

Getting Into a Ph.D. Program

Most Ph.D. programs are smaller than those offered at the master’s or undergraduate levels. This tends to mean schools will be more selective. Below are some eligibility requirements to keep in mind as you do your admissions research:

  • Completion of a master’s program at an accredited institution
  • Official transcripts from all colleges you have attended
  • Minimum GPA (as outlined by the school)
  • GRE or GMAT test scores (if required)
  • Resume or curriculum vitae
  • Minimum number of years working experience in a related field (if required)
  • Application form and fee
  • Statement of purpose
  • Letters of recommendation (if required)

Inside a Health Informatics Ph.D. Program

Most Ph.D. programs will take four to six years to complete. However, please note that this can vary greatly depending on your enrollment level throughout the program and the length of time taken for the thesis. This includes the proposal, research, composition, and defense of an original scholarly article worthy of publication in an academic journal. Since this can be such a long process, online PhD programs in health informatics offer the opportunity for you to continue working while furthering your education. Some examples of courses that may be available in this type of program include health systems informatics, bioinformatics, health information science, ethics and law in health care, database concepts, and health care delivery systems, among others.

Online courses typically operate in an asynchronous format. This means students can log in to the virtual classroom at times that work with their personal and professional schedules. Here, they can participate in group discussion boards, review instructor feedback, access course materials, or turn in assignments. Ph.D. students may also use video, chat, and virtual meeting technology to communicate with their professors and peers.

What’s Next for Health Informatics Ph.D. Degree Holders?

Graduates are qualified to teach at the college or university level. They may also pursue careers in management, research, development, or consulting for hospitals, clinics, schools, insurance companies, or government agencies. High growth is predicted for those working as medical or health services managers according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In fact, demand is predicted to increase by 22% over the projection period of 2010 to 2020. The growth rate for postsecondary teachers was reported at 17% over this same timeframe.

The average annual salary for medical and health services managers in 2011 was $96,030. This was $74,360 for postsecondary teachers. Please note, these are only estimates, and may not reflect actual starting pay or job availability in your area.