The Best Online MSN Informatics Programs in 2020

See which accredited schools earned the top spots in our rankings and learn more about getting your nursing informatics MSN degree online.

Last Updated: 08/07/2020
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Success as an MSN informatics nursing student begins with finding the right online degree program, and that means putting in some time and effort in researching your options. We’re here to help get your search off to the right start with our list of the best online MSN nursing informatics programs for 2020. We’ve researched online programs from schools across the U.S. and ranked them based on factors like proper accreditation, curriculum quality, and affordability. As you look over these schools, remember that the right program for you will be the one that best suits your unique professional interests, study format preferences, and work and life schedules.

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About the ranking

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Methodology for EduMed’s 2020 Rankings

To be considered for this ranking, each school must have the following:

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Program(s) offered at least partially online.

School Metrics Explained

EduMed.org data scientists analyzed government higher education data and created a proprietary algorithm to rank each U.S. postsecondary institution and its online programs using 5 primary factors:

  • Cost: Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Online Program Availability: Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to Department of Education.
  • Academic Counseling: Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Career Placement: Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Students w/ Institutional Aid: Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

About Our Data

EduMed’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

Most recent data pull: February 2020

#School NameTypeCostOnline ProgramsMore DetailsSchool InformationOnline StudentsAcademic CounselingCareer PlacementStudents w/Institutional AidMedian Earnings 10yrs After EntryAccreditation
1Southwestern Oklahoma State UniversityWeatherford, OKPublic$$1

Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SOSU) offers its online BSN to MSN program to those looking to take the next step in their careers. Despite its name, SOSU’s program is open to not just bachelor of science (BSN) degree holders, but those who are in their last semester of a BSN program. When enrolled in the master’s in nursing (MSN) program, students can choose among three specialization tracks, including Informatics. They can expect to complete courses in subjects such as information and healthcare technology, healthcare systems databases, and coaching and mentoring in nurse leadership. Because the curriculum is entirely online, students can complete courses at their own pace, allowing them to finish in just over a year as a full-time student.

Program Overview:

Online BSN to MSN - Informatics

  • Credits: 33
  • Length: One to three years
  • Cost: $340/credit (resident); $610/credit (non-resident)
  • Mode: Fully online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
66%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
2Capella UniversityMinneapolis, MNPrivate, For-Profit$$$4

Capella University is a leader in delivering online graduate education; the MSN-Master of Science in Nursing program is a perfect example of that. This program offers multiple areas of specialization, including Nursing Informatics. Students will learn how to find ways to better improve the efficient delivery of healthcare services though data-driven clinical project management and strategic planning. These skills will be learned over seven core and four major courses. While the class portion of the curriculum can be completed online, students will also need to complete two practicum courses, which provide the opportunity to gain real-world experience and instruction.

Program Overview:

MSN in Nursing Informatics

  • Credits: 54 quarter credits
  • Length: 12 months
  • Cost: $435/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
50%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
3Georgia Southwestern State UniversityAmericus, GAPublic$1

Georgia Southwestern State University (GSWU) offers the Master of Science in Nursing – Informatics program to those who already possess a bachelor of science in nursing degree. The MSN program is part of the Georgia Intercollegiate Consortium for Graduate Nursing Education (GICGNE) consortium. This means it’s partnered with Columbus State University to offer MSN programs. The curriculum is made up of 12 courses, equally divided among core and informatics topics. At the end of the curriculum, students will complete a three credit project course. The courses will be delivered through the Georgia On My Line (GOML) learning management system.

Program Overview:

Master of Science in Nursing - Informatics

  • Credits: 36
  • Length: Two years
  • Cost: $15,380 (total program cost)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
32%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
4Southern New Hampshire UniversityManchester, NHPrivate, Not-for-Profit$$$$1

Southern New Hampshire University’s online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program is designed for nurses who already possess their BSN degree. The curriculum allows students to tailor their education to their specific professional goals, including working as nurse informaticists. The curriculum will include courses such as biostatistics, advanced nursing concepts, and evidence-based practice. All students will need to complete 280 hours of practical application experience and 120 hours towards a capstone project. This capstone project will consist of identifying a way to improve a process in a healthcare setting and presenting the findings through a presentation and written paper.

Program Overview:

Online MSN Program

  • Credits: 39
  • Length: 20 months
  • Cost: $627/credit
  • Mode: Fully online
  • Accreditation: NECHE (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
39%
AccreditationNew England Commission of Higher Education
5Western Governors UniversitySalt Lake City, UTPrivate, Not-for-Profit$$2

Western Governors University’s (WGU) Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree in Informatics is a BSN-to-MSN program that trains current nurses to become nurse informaticists. The curriculum consist 14 courses, including foundations in nursing informatics, data science and analytics, and translational research for practice and populations. WGU expects students to complete at least eight credits every six months. To be admitted, prospective students must not only have a bachelor of science in nursing, but also have a current registered nursing license. To help pay for this education, WGU offers a number of nursing scholarships, including the ACLC Leaders in Healthcare Scholarship and the Margaret McClure Scholarship.

Program Overview:

Master of Science – Nursing – Nursing Informatics

  • Credits: 36
  • Length: 18 months
  • Cost: $4,135/term
  • Mode: Fully online
  • Accreditation: NWCCU (school); CCNE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
No
Students w/
Institutional Aid
0%
AccreditationDistance Education Accrediting Commission

Nursing School Spotlights for the Online Master’s in Nursing Informatics

Want to explore even more school options for your online master’s in nursing informatics? Check out the three accredited programs we’ve spotlighted below and see if their tuition costs, online learning format, and other features match what you’re looking for.

Duke University

Duke University’s online MSN in Health Informatics program centers on nursing and biomedical informatics with an emphasis on real-world application. This 38-credit hour program combines synchronous and asynchronous, fully-online coursework with two, single-day on-campus sessions (one in each of the two semesters). Studies culminate in an intensive in-person practicum (minimum 224 hours) with an approved health care organization typically located in the student’s local community. During the practicum, students complete an informatics-related project under the mentorship of an experienced clinician.

Admission requirements include a BSN degree from a properly-accredited college or university, or a bachelor’s degree in any major combined with an associate degree in nursing. Preference is given to applicants with an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher. A GRE score is not required, but may be submitted as an option. A minimum of one year of nursing experience is recommended but not required.

University of Utah

The MSN Nursing Informatics degree offered by the University of Utah provides students with the knowledge and skills needed to improve patient care and organizational processes through effective use of communication and information technologies. Students choose either a full-time, five-semester or part-time, eight-semester curriculum. Students progress through their MSN program with the same group of students. Additionally, the course of study must be started at the beginning of the fall semester. Coursework is presented in a hybrid format with most work completed online. Students are required to attend periodic in-person sessions on the university’s School of Nursing campus in Salt Lake City. Students must also complete an in-person practicum.

Admission into the program requires a bachelor’s degree in nursing earned with a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA. However, acceptance into the program is limited and selective, so meeting the minimum admissions requirements does not guaranty entry.

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University’s MSN in Nursing Informatics program prepares graduates to collect, process, and manage data in nursing practice, research, education and administration fields, and to contribute to the expansion of nursing knowledge. Coursework for this 36-credit hour program is presented primarily in an online format. However, students are required to attend four, multi-day on-campus immersion experiences, one each at the beginning of the first two fall and spring semesters. Additionally, students complete an in-person practicum through a clinical placement in their home area. All program requirements can be completed without moving to the Nashville area.

To qualify for admission, applicants must have a BSN, ASN, or ADN degree, or nursing diploma. Applicants without a BSN must complete a two-year, part-time sequence of bachelor’s-level courses before continuing on to complete the degree’s informatics specialty courses. Additionally, an applicant must be licensed as an RN and eligible to practice in the state where he or she will be completing the required clinical practicum.

FAQs About Online Nursing Informatics Master’s Programs

The best decisions are always informed ones. Below are answers to a few of the most commonly asked questions by prospective informatics MSN students.

What exactly is nursing informatics?

According to the American Nurses Association, nursing informatics “integrates nursing science with multiple information and analytical sciences to identify, define, manage and communicate data, information, knowledge and wisdom in nursing practice.”  Put simply, nursing informatics involves using information and data technologies to improve nursing practice and patient care. With practically all patient data and medical practice information kept electronically today, the importance of informatics to modern healthcare can’t be overstated. This is a rapidly-growing area of nursing practice with great career potential.

What do you learn while earning a master’s in nursing informatics online?

As you research potential nursing programs, you’ll find that each one takes its own approach to informatics education, with varying areas of emphasis in academic presentation and practical application. Nevertheless, you can expect all programs to include common requirements, such as clinical experiences and capstone projects, as well as coursework in topics like mobile technologies, virtual reality, project management, evidence-based practice and decision-making, and current and emerging digital technologies and analysis tools.

Here are some courses similar to those you’ll likely find in your online MSN Informatics program’s curriculum:  

Foundations of Nursing Informatics

Introductory course covering the basic theories and concepts taken from both computer science and nursing science that intersect to form the foundation of nursing/health informatics practice. Topics covered include healthcare computing, systems design and analysis, knowledge generation, nursing vocabularies, and the ethical and social issues related to health information gathering and security.   

Healthcare Leadership

This course provides a comprehensive examination of the theories and concepts of leadership, and their application in the day-to-day practice of nursing. Emphasis is placed on the development of leadership skills based on basic competencies such as professionalism, business principles, communication, relationship management, and knowledge of healthcare systems and the health services environment.

Project Management

As healthcare leaders, MSN nursing informatics professionals are often called upon to take charge of specific projects within their organizations. This course surveys the range of skills and methods employed in the design, planning, and management of scalable projects. Specific topics covered include time and cost management, quality control, human resource management, risk assessment, and effective communications.

Statistics and Data Management in Healthcare Systems

This course provides an introduction to statistical analysis, data management, and measurement theory as it applies to nursing and the broader healthcare field. Specific areas discussed include hypothesis testing, multivariable model building, probability, data preparation and display, and statistical testing. Students additionally gain hands-on experience in the use of statistical software.

Nursing Informatics Practicum/Capstone Project

Virtually all informatics MSN degree programs culminate in the completion of a practicum experience and capstone project. The purpose of the practicum/capstone project is to allow students to demonstrate the knowledge and skills they have gained throughout the course of their degree studies by applying them in a real-world practice setting.


Upon completion of your MSN in Informatics studies, you will have obtained a solid base of professional knowledge and practical skills that you’ll be able to apply effectively starting with your first day on the job and lasting throughout your career. Among the many important skills and knowledge you’ll attain are:

  • A clear understanding of how information technology and data management can be used to resolve problems related to healthcare services delivery and improve patient health.
  • The ability to integrate the best practices of nursing science with related fields like physiology, psychology, business and finance, politics, and public relations to better serve your organization and its patients.
  • The tools to work collaboratively across disciplines and communicate with other team members to resolve healthcare-related problems through the use of cutting-edge information technologies.
  • A strong working knowledge of the laws, regulations, and key ethical issues applicable to the professional practice of nursing informatics.
  • The ability to effectively lead others in your organization and contribute to the progression of the nursing informatics profession as a whole.

Can you earn an MSN informatics degree completely online?

The simple answer is no, although some programs feature coursework that is completed 100% online. Most programs, however, include some form of on-campus participation, often in the form of brief (one- to three-day) orientation sessions at the beginning of each term or semester that allow students to participate in seminars and meet with faculty, career counselors, and fellow students. Additionally, all programs include a practicum experience that incorporates substantial in-person clinical hours at a program-approved healthcare facility, typically in the student’s home area.

How long does it take to earn a nursing informatics master’s degree online?

Degree completion times vary substantially from program to program based on a number of factors, including full-time vs. part-time study and the number of previously-earned college credits that can be transferred in. For example, Liberty University’s accelerated program can be completed in as little as 12 months. Most programs, however, will require one-and-a-half to two years of full-time study or two-and-a-half to three years of part-time study. Keep in mind that schools are keenly aware that most of their students will pursue their degrees while maintaining their current employment, and therefore allow for some flexibility when it comes to completion times.

How much does an online MSN in informatics cost?

The costs associated with earning an online MSN in Informatics degree depend greatly on factors such as total program length and whether your program is offered by a public or private institution. To give you an idea of how much you might spend earning your degree, here are the current (as of fall 2019) tuition costs for three online informatics MSN programs. To find out the cost of more programs, check out the rankings list at the top of the page and visit the program’s tuitions and fees webpage.


MSN: Nursing Informatics

Total Credits: 36

$565/credit (Full-time); $615/credit (Part-time)


MSN: Nursing Informatics

Total Credits: 40

$824/credit (In-state); $1,461/credit (Out-of-state)


MSN: Nursing Informatics

Total Credits: 36

$1,642/credit

Do you need a BSN to get into an online MSN informatics program?

In most cases you will need a BSN degree earned from a properly-accredited college. However, some online informatics MSN programs will accept applicants with a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing major or with a nursing associate degree or diploma. Be sure to consult with the admissions office at each of the schools you are considering before submitting your admissions application.

Paying for Your Online Master’s in Nursing Informatics

Earning an informatics MSN degree can require a substantial financial commitment. And finding the cash to fund your degree may seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, there are several ways to help ease the burden. Here are a few of the most common:

Scholarships

Scholarships are probably the most attractive option for financing your degree since they are, in essence, free money. However, scholarships can be incredibly competitive and are awarded on the basis of the student’s scholastic achievements, a specific talent (athletic, artistic, etc.), or involvement in charitable or other voluntary activities. Additional factors sometimes considered include a demonstrated financial need or belonging to a particular demographic group. For more information on scholarships and award opportunities, visit EduMed’s scholarships for medical and healthcare students page.

Grants

Similar to scholarships in that they are not paid back, grants are another highly sought-after source of college funding. The biggest difference between scholarships and grants is that most grants are awarded primarily on the recipient’s financial need. The single largest source of grant funds is the federal government, but most federal grant money is reserved for students pursuing undergraduate degrees. Other grant sources for MSN students include state governments, private and nonprofit organizations, and graduate programs and schools themselves.

Federal Loans

Student loans are the most common form of financial aid and one of the easiest to obtain. Student loans differ from scholarships and grants in that the funds received must be paid back with interest, according to the payment schedule included in the loan agreement. Not surprisingly, a major source of loans for MSN students is the federal government with Direct PLUS Loans being the most common. Applying for a federal student loan or any other form of federal student financial aid requires submission of the FAFSA application.

Additional Funding Sources

Another popular source for funding your MSN in Informatics degree is employer-sponsored tuition reimbursement. Be sure to ask your employer about availability. And for current military and veterans, check out the education benefits offered through the GI Bill.

To learn more about degree funding options, contact the financial aid offices at each of the schools you are considering. And be sure to visit EduMed’s Pay Less for Education guide.

Accreditation Standards for Online Nursing Informatics Programs

Accreditation is the process through which colleges and universities, and the degree programs they offer, are vetted to ensure that they meet specifically-stated standards of quality. There are two basic types of accreditation to look for. The first is institutional accreditation, which refers to accreditation of the college or university as a whole. Institutional accreditation is handled by several national and regional agencies approved by the Department of Education (DOE). The second type, programmatic accreditation, concerns the accreditation of specific degree programs offered by colleges and universities. Accreditation of MSN programs in the U.S. is administered by two agencies: the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

Proper accreditation is extremely important, and you should only consider those online programs that have it. Confirming an informatics MSN program’s accreditation status is easy. You can normally find current accreditation information on each individual program’s website. If not there, check out both of these program locator tools provided by the CCNE and the ACEN. You can also find both institutional and programmatic accreditation information through this DOE database.

Looking Ahead: What’s Next After Earning Your Informatics MSN Online  

It’s critical to learn as much as possible about all of your online informatics MSN program options. It’s just as important, however, to have a solid understanding of the nursing informatics profession as a whole, as well as the career landscape for informatics MSN graduates before signing on to any degree program. Here’s more on what you need to know:

Do you need a special certification to work or advance in nursing informatics?

In the United States, professional certification in nursing informatics is offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Obtaining the ANCC’s Informatics Nursing Certification is not a requirement for practice in the field, however, and there is no specific state licensure of nurse informaticists (although practitioners must, of course, be licensed as an RN in their state). Nevertheless, possessing the Informatics Nursing Certification will likely increase the holder’s attractiveness to employers and enhance their chances for career advancement.  

What can you do with a nursing informatics MSN?

Nursing informatics is a rapidly-growing field both in the U.S. and around the world. The use of digital technology in medical record-keeping and healthcare services management is here to stay, suggesting that the demand for highly-skilled nursing informatics professionals will remain strong moving well into the future. Career opportunities for MSN Nursing Informatics graduates exist in all sectors of healthcare services in positions with job titles such as:

  • Informatics Nurse Specialist (INS)
  • Clinical Informatics Nurse
  • Clinical Informatics Analyst
  • Health IT Security and Privacy Specialist

Leadership positions with titles such as Health Information Manager, Health IT Project Manager, Informatics Administrator, and Informatics Executive are also available.

In addition to immediate employment with healthcare service providers, MSN informatics graduates are also prepared to fill positions as both nursing informatics researchers and educators. Graduates may also opt to continue on with their formal educations to earn such credentials as the PhD in Health Informatics or DNP in Nursing Informatics. The chart below offers a look at some of the most popular career paths open to informatics MSN graduates:

How much can you earn with a nursing informatics master’s degree?

Salaries for entry-level MSN in Informatics degree holders are robust, far surpassing entry-level salaries for most other occupations. Earnings potential for many nursing informatics job titles is also quite positive, with amounts sometimes reaching past the six-figure mark. The chart below provides a look at current salary figures for two of the most popular nursing informatics job titles. Figures are taken from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career2018 National Median Annual Salary10th Percentile90th Percentile
Informatics Nurse Specialist*$88,740$54,360$142,220
Health Information Manager**$99,730$58,680$182,600

*Figures for Computer Systems Analysts generally.
**Figures for Medical and Health Services Managers generally.

Continuing Education & Related Degrees

Individuals interested in healthcare services technology and data management are not limited to the MSN in Informatics degree for establishing a career in the informatics field. And informatics MSN graduates interested in moving into top-tier positions can pursue an informatics-related doctoral-level degree. Here is a brief look at some of those alternative and advanced degree options:

Related Degrees

Online Health Information Management Degrees

Students interested in careers in the healthcare informatics field may want to consider a degree in health information management (HIM). HIM degree programs are most commonly offered on the bachelor’s and master’s levels. HIM programs differ from nursing informatics programs in that they do not require applicants to hold a previously-earned degree or diploma in nursing, or possess an RN license. Most HIM master’s programs, however, do require a bachelor’s degree or college-level coursework in a health, technology, or business-related field. Common job titles for HIM degree graduates include, among others, Medical Coder, Healthcare Data Analyst, Medical Research Analyst, Clinical Data Manager, and Health Information Manager.

Online Master’s Degree in Health Informatics

Sometimes the differences between specific majors can be vague and confusing. Generally speaking, health informatics is a broad term that encompasses a wide range of subjects related to data management and information technology, while nursing informatics focuses more on how those subjects directly relate to patient care. A health informatics master’s degree may be good alternative to the informatics MSN for nursing professionals not interested in the stricter requirements of an MSN program. Admission into a health informatics master’s program is also typically open to non-nursing healthcare professionals seeking to advance their careers into informatics, as well as IT professionals interested in a transition into the healthcare industry.

Continuing Education

Continuing Education Options

Doctor of Nurse Practice (DNP) in Nursing Informatics

The DNP in Nursing Informatics degree is geared toward advanced nursing practitioners intent on pursuing administrative positions at the very top of their profession. Nursing informatics DNP holders are often employed as clinical health advisors to senior executives in large and complex healthcare services organizations or as independent consultants. Common job titles include, among others, Chief Information Officer, Information Systems Administrator, Clinical Systems Analyst, and Director of Nursing Informatics.

PhD in Health Informatics

The PhD in Health Informatics is a research- and academia-focused credential. A previously-earned nursing degree is not required for admission into this PhD program, although most programs require applicants to possess either a master’s degree or bachelor’s degree (with substantial professional work experience) in a medical- or healthcare-related field. Individuals who earn this degree typically establish careers in postsecondary education, as well as in senior-level research positions at universities, government agencies, medical institutions, non-profit organizations, and in private industry.