MSHI or Master’s in Data Science: How to Choose Between the Degrees

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Mouse resting on top of a diplomaProfessionals eager to advance quickly within the health care field—or change roles to enter this industry—should be aware of the form progress is taking at hospitals and other facilities. Equipped with larger, more accurate and up-to-date information reserves, medical organizations are using advanced analytics to improve every element of operations, from care to customer experience and back-office functions such as budgeting and human resources.

When securing additional education to bolster one’s health care credentials, it makes sense to seek out more knowledge about data—how it’s stored, used, analyzed and protected. Such a focus narrows down the choice of advanced degree programs, but there are still several viable options. For instance, prospective students may have to choose between master’s degrees in data science and the Master of Science in Health Informatics.

Each data-focused degree is distinctive, and weighing the projected outcomes and course requirements can clarify which one is right for a prospective pupil. The right decision about which program to pursue can set a professional on a track for advancement within the data-saturated health care field.

Data Science Degrees

Data science is a relatively young field, and the master’s degree programs devoted to instructing aspiring data scientists are constantly changing and evolving to suit the latest breakthroughs. The primary reason to seek out a degree in data science, as Forbes contributor Bernard Marr pointed out, is that companies are experiencing a shortage of trained information analysts. The large reserves of unstructured data flowing into companies’ networks may fail to provide value without such employees.

Marr indicated that ideal pupils for data science programs include individuals who have some background in research. The industry in which the student has performed that research doesn’t matter, as the general concepts behind analytics and data science are becoming bedrock principles of every field imaginable. Graduates may be able to convince employers they are better prepared to make valuable use of data than “citizen” data scientists without a formal background in the subject matter.

Data analysis expert and Forbes contributor Meta Brown cautioned that data science programs are not for everybody. Many organizations are filling analyst roles with individuals who have shown practical ability rather than a diploma. Furthermore, due to the new and wide-ranging nature of data science, courses may vary widely. While Brown warned that students may not have the math and programming abilities needed to thrive in degree programs, Stratus Data partner Charles Pensig characterized a major college’s data science degree as too easy and uninformative to be worth his investment.

Health Informatics Degrees

Data use in the health care field is governed by unique regulations and operational styles that may differ from more general industry practices. The sensitivity of patient information such as that stored in electronic health records makes it especially important for employees to understand security and privacy competencies. Turning raw data input into the kind of insights that can positively impact patient care will require a new group of professionals with a grounding in both the systems and activities that have come to define health care IT.

An MSHI degree can prepare students to take the lead in their respective organizations, guiding strategic visions rather than simply implementing processes. That means in addition to a grounding in technology and tactics, pupils learn interpersonal and soft skills that will help them influence their teams and get buy-in for new and dynamic health data deployments. In an industry that is constantly shifting and evolving, these communication abilities will remain relevant over time.

The exact uses of informatics in the workplace—and therefore the outcomes of such a degree—differ depending on the type of health care a graduate provides. Physicians employ data in their decision-making processes regarding patient treatment programs. Nurse informaticists work with large amounts of information regarding many other workers within care facilities, and they act as facilitators in providing high-quality data and insights. In pharmacy settings, informatics expertise can assist in safe and effective prescriptions.

Programs at UIC

The MSHI program offered by the University of Illinois at Chicago is available 100 percent online, allowing professionals to learn about this in-demand field at the largest medical school in the U.S. without leaving their current roles. The flexibility of online studies opens the MSHI path to many prospective students by allowing them to study on their own schedules throughout the academic calendar.

The rise of data as a watchword in all industries has piqued interest in both general data science degrees and more specific programs such as the MSHI. When it comes to the unique world of health care, specializing may be a prospective student’s soundest course of action. Contact an enrollment advisor to learn more.

Recommended Readings:

Health Informatics and the Data Deluge

The Role of Health Informatics in Preventing Errors in Health Care


The 6 Best Data Science Master’s Courses in the U.S., Forbes

4 Reasons Not To Get That Master’s in Data Science, Forbes

Why I Left My Master’s Program, LinkedIn