Biomedical Informatics Degrees & Certificates

To call the transformations set off by the innovations in computing technology “a revolution” might be a cliche, but it may be difficult to find a better word to describe it. Just a generation ago, analog technology ruled the day, cell phones were largely in the hands of the very wealthy, and computers took up the size of entire buildings. Today, most people in the United States carry a device in their pocket whose capabilities would have been unimaginable even 20 years ago.

Aside from selfies, social media and the ability to contact a loved one in real time across vast distances, computing has brought unprecedented changes to nearly every industry imaginable. One of the fields that has benefited the most from information technology is the medical world. While collecting, sorting, and analyzing data has always been a mainstay of the medical profession, information technology has allowed practitioners, researchers, and administrators to dispense with file folders and allow software to do much of the grunt work. The umbrella terms that are commonly used to describe this process are biomedical informatics or healthcare informatics. Essentially, they refer to any technique in which computing is used to process data sets related to medicine.

Biomedical informatics may be used in a research setting where large data sets about a population are evaluated to look for common trendlines. An example of this would be an academic using data collected from local hospitals to analyze the effects of the Covid-19 epidemic on a specific group of people. A simple software tool may be sufficient to let that individual ascertain how Coronavirus impacted specific age, ethnic, or economic groups.

Biomedical informatics can also be immensely valuable in working with much smaller data sets, such as when a local healthcare provider wants to glean more information about the health outcomes of the population they serve. Beyond compiling and sorting information, biomedical informatics can point out trendlines or even make its evaluations and conclusions through artificial intelligence. Algorithms allow healthcare providers and administrators to make calculations in seconds that not long ago would have preoccupied an entire department for months.

But how does one enter this field, and what opportunities are available for people who want to become biomedical informatics professionals? This guide is intended to give an overview of the educational opportunities available to enter this field, with a selection of accredited programs that can assist in entering the field or advancing opportunities within it in the future.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Biomedical Informatics

A bachelor of science degree is the cornerstone of a viable career in the burgeoning field of biomedical informatics. While previous generations of students may have been forced into creating their degree plans between the medical and computing departments, many renowned universities across the country now offer degree plans specifically geared towards the fascinating intersection of these two fields. Below is a sampling of bachelor’s degree programs from accredited institutions that may serve as takeoff platforms for employment in the sector:

St. John’s University

St. John’s University is a catholic institution located in the heart of Queens, New York, and offers a bachelor’s of science degree in healthcare informatics. St. John’s mission is centered around aiding traditionally underserved populations, and may be a good fit for an individual looking to use their skill sets to help disadvantaged people. On its website, St. John’s advertises its strong connections to the many healthcare providers located in one of the largest metropolitan areas of the United States.

  • Location: Queens, NY
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: 36 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $46,050

Arizona State University

Arizona State University is a large state school headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, with multiple campuses across the Phoenix area. ASU’s biomedical informatics program is offered at the school’s downtown Phoenix campus, emphasizing the multidisciplinary nature of its degree plan to reflect the work its graduates do.

While the major course components are taught in person, prospective students looking for an opportunity to pursue a hybrid learning experience may be attracted to the fact that ASU has one of the largest online programs in the country. Many prerequisites and components of the core curriculum can be completed fully online, giving students more flexibility in pursuing their degrees.

  • Location: Phoenix, AZ
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Expected Time to Completion: 36 months
  • Estimated Tuition: Residents: $11,348 per year, non-residents $29,438 per year

University of South Carolina

The University of South Carolina breaks from the usual pattern and offers its bachelor’s degree in health informatics as a bachelor’s of arts, not of science. South Carolina’s program is offered fully online, making this a rare opportunity for students seeking to complete their degree through a distance learning program. Additionally, the university accepts transfer students from other institutions with a relatively low minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0.

  • Location: Columbia, South Carolina
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Expected Time to Completion: 36 months
  • Estimated Tuition: Residents: $12,688 per year, non-residents $33,928 per year

Master’s Programs in Biomedical Informatics

While a bachelor’s degree is certainly considered the starting point for a career in biomedical informatics, a master’s degree is highly recommended for anyone looking to make a long term and lucrative career in the field. The following master’s programs from fully accredited universities offer this path, and may not necessarily require that prospective graduate students have completed their degree in the same discipline. However, most will require that students have either completed a related degree or have attained one in computer science.

The University of North Carolina

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is considered one of the premier learning institutions of the south and offers a master’s in professional science degree in biomedical and health informatics. While not the cheapest on the list, prospective graduate students at this institution may be interested that UNC hosts its own center for biomedical informatics, with strong tie-ins to the North Carolina Research Triangle Park, a large innovation center only a few minutes from the school’s main campus. Additionally, UNC offers three different tracks to meet student needs, from a fast track that can be completed in one year to a part-time program that can be completed in as many as four.

  • Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: Residents: $99,080 total, non-residents $210,532 total

Harvard University

Harvard is one of the most famous universities in the United States, if not the world, and is considered a top-tier institution. The Cambridge, Massachusetts school offers a master’s of medical sciences in biomedical informatics. Harvard offers no hybrid or online learning modalities for this program.

While Harvard is among the most expensive schools listed here, the university offers qualified students a sizable amount of scholarships. The two-year program includes the completion of a research thesis.

  • Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $57,418 per year

Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins in Washington, DC is not only considered a premier institution but also hosts one of the most well-known medical schools in the country. The university offers a master’s of science in bioinformatics, with strong tie-ins to the well-connected medical school. Of particular interest to prospective graduate students looking for hybrid or distance learning models may be the fact that Johns Hopkins offers a high amount of flexibility, with many classes available online and through in-person instruction.

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $6,290 per three-credit course

Biomedical Informatics Certificate Programs

A certificate program is a viable option for individuals who have completed their studies and are looking for a quicker way to gain vital knowledge in the field of biomedical informatics than starting their education anew or entering a graduate program. While every institution will have its own guidelines for admittance, these programs are generally geared towards individuals who have already completed either a bachelor’s or master’s degree program, or people who are already working in the healthcare field and looking to either hone their skills or breach into a new career path. The following selected certificate programs from accredited institutions are a sampling of what is currently available.

University of Texas at Houston

The University of Texas and its main campus in Austin, TX, is considered a powerhouse for university learning in the south. UT also manages the University of Texas Health Science Center in the metropolis of Houston, with an adjoined medical school and myriad programs related to the field. UT Houston offers several graduate certificates in biomedical informatics, with differing emphases.

The university’s offerings range from biomedical in public health to pharmacy and even dental informatics, making this institution a good choice for individuals hoping to pursue a certificate closely related to the field they are already working in or hoping to pursue. Additionally, certificate programs at UT Houston are offered fully online.

  • Location: Houston, TX
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 to 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $7,140 total, non-residents $16,275 total

University of Pittsburgh

The University of Pittsburgh is located in the Pennsylvania city of the same name and boasts its own department of biomedical informatics. The 15-credit program offered by the university is broken down into several sections which range from courses with a medical emphasis to those in the computer sciences, such as algorithmic computing. To complete the program, students must conduct an independent research project and pass an oral examination.

  • Location: Pittsburgh, PA
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 to 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $14,511 per term

City University of New York (CUNY)

The City University of New York is one of the largest public universities in the country and has multiple campuses spread across the New York metropolitan area. With 32 credits to be completed, this program will likely be among the most comprehensive. Courses include topics such as database systems, introduction to programming, and courses on medical coding. Prospective students at CUNY may benefit from the myriad of healthcare providers located directly in the area, and CUNY’s strong career placement program.

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 to 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $470 per credit

Career Outlook

Individuals who are interested in the world of biomedical informatics as a possible career choice have excellent prospects for steady employment. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2023) does not collect information on this specific career field, one of the closest categories, “Health Information Technologists and Medical Registrars,” projects 16 percent growth nationally in openings for this field between 2022 and 2032.

According to the BLS, “Computer and Information Research Scientists,” a related category, can expect an even higher rate of growth of 23 percent over the same decade, and a median annual salary of $131,490.

As a field that sits squarely between two rapidly growing sectors—the medical field and information technology—individuals who enter this field will likely enjoy stable employment prospects and a high salary throughout the coming years.

Johannes Stitz
Johannes Stitz Writer

Johannes Stitz is a freelance writer and researcher based in the Southwest. He’s written about various topics in medical technology careers. Before turning to freelance writing, he spent nearly a decade in the arts as a booker and event manager.