One of the most rewarding aspects of my work is the time I spend with my career coaching clients. Although some have been working in the Healthcare IT (HIT) industry for years and are looking for ways to become more competitive candidates, many are hoping to transition into HIT and seek advice on how best to get from Point A (their present situation) to Point B (a lucrative, satisfying career in Healthcare Informatics). Inevitably the focus of our conversation turns to education and training, and I’m asked if an advanced degree in Healthcare Informatics is worth the significant investment of time and resources. As with any big decision in life – professional or personal – the answer is generally, “It depends.”
Opportunities abound in HIT, and many career paths do not require a graduate degree. For example, armed with the right EHR vendor-specific certifications (unfortunately not always as easy as it sounds), professionals who are interested in EHR implementation-related positions such as Trainers, Analysts, Developers, etc. are in high demand, and can expect to command compensation in the 60 – 80k range. On the other side of the spectrum, talented sales and marketing professionals are also often able to excel without an advanced degree, as in their case employers generally place more value on experience than on education. However, when reviewing the more lucrative (90k+) job opportunities on Healthcare IT Central, I’m starting to see the graduate degree preference shift from the “Preferred” column to the “Required” column. These positions include Project Managers and Project Directors, Business Development Leads, CIOs, Senior Analysts, Senior Developers, Training Leads, and Consultants of many descriptions, to name a few.
Even if the position description does not include a graduate degree requirement, when it comes down to choosing between two equally-talented candidates, if all other things are equal, the graduate degree (or lack thereof) may be the deciding factor. So when I’m asked, “When does an advanced degree in healthcare informatics really pay off?” My answer is that if your aspirations include a six-figure salary, a management position, and/or you want to be the most competitive candidate you can be (even if you’re not interested in management), an advanced degree from an accredited university will be worth the time and money invested.