MSHI or Master’s in IT: Which Degree Is for You?

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Mouse resting on top of a diplomaAiming for a technology-focused career in health care is a complex process, because jobs at this intersection of industries combine so many important and specific concepts. The relentless progress of technology is giving organizations new capabilities for data collection and use, while the rigorous privacy and security demands of the medical world are shaping the ways those systems can be put to use.

If you’re a professional interested in joining the technological side of the health care industry, a master’s degree may be the next step in intensifying your career progress. With that said, it can be challenging to choose what kind of master’s degree to pursue. It pays to compare the kind of education offered in IT-centric specializations with more overtly medical disciplines such as health informatics.

Before starting any program, potential students should ask themselves whether they’re ready to learn about the constantly evolving practices of information use and health care. Standards and requirements in each of these disciplines move forward quickly, and combining the two is a recipe for constant evolution. If this is the direction students want to go, they can look at the coursework and job path differences between general IT master’s degrees and programs with a health focus.

Earning a Master’s in IT

When it’s time to make a career change through an online master’s degree program, IT is a compelling option due to the sheer importance of technology to companies across the industry spectrum. U.S. News & World Report indicated that employees who are adept at working with cloud computing, cybersecurity and analytics are in high demand in the corporate world today. These technology needs address the same basic idea: Companies need a place to put huge amounts of data, a way to defend that content and methods of taking insight from it.

IT is a field based on the business use cases and issues around hardware and software deployment. U.S. News noted this is the difference between IT and computer science: The latter field is more dedicated to the nuts and bolts of working with the mechanics of computer code. This separation of tasks means the IT degree courses may include management and business ideas that are proximate to technology use but don’t directly involve it.

Selected classes may include pillars such as information systems management, as well as database work, network oversight and cybersecurity. These, along with specialties such as business intelligence, give pupils a rounded IT outlook.

Earning an HI Master’s

While a general IT education is suitable for many industries, health care may not be one of them. This is where health informatics enters the picture. Pursuing a health informatics degree combines learning about technology with studies directly aimed at the medical world. Students who want to understand the present conditions in this highly specialized industry may fare well with such a program, especially with health care administrators tying their future strategies closely to IT’s potential.

Patient care and behind-the-scenes departmental policies may be shaped by informatics experts in the years ahead, and the expertise needed to take on these roles may be too field-specific to be learned in master’s programs that don’t focus on medical applications. For instance, the data belonging to hospital patients is governed by a precise and ever-changing set of laws. Learning how to balance compliance, security and access in such an environment is deeply specific to medicine.

Courses involved in an HI master’s include ethical, legal and social ramifications of IT use, alongside communication and management studies focused on the subject. These sit alongside more technical courses on analyzing and designing systems in health care settings and working with data. The medical focus extends to all levels of the program.

Choosing UIC

If you see a future in health informatics, the online Master of Science in Health Informatics program at the University of Illinois at Chicago may be the right choice for you. The flexible and remote nature of the program enables it to fit into students’ schedules on a business school model. The courses, with their focus on conveying current and relevant information on the present and future of IT in the health care industry, are meant to bolster students’ job prospects in the field.

Your preferred future direction will likely determine what kind of master’s degree can help your career aspirations the most. In today’s technology-saturated business world, it’s not unusual that there are so many specialized programs dealing with aspects of IT. When you see health care systems design or operation as an ideal profession, HI can be an excellent choice. Learn more about UIC’s Health Informatics program to see how you can get started.

Recommended Readings:

Career Spotlight: Health Informatics Consultant

What Communication Skills Do You Need to Succeed in Health Informatics?


Online Information Technology Master’s Degree, U.S. News & World Report

Leading the Future of Healthcare IT, University of Illinois at Chicago