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.

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. We will be publishing our full 2020 rankings list soon, but here’s a detailed look at three standout schools as a preview. As you look over these schools, remember that the right program for you will be the one that also best suits your unique professional interests, study format preferences, and work and life schedules.  

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

Vanderbilt University

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

Project Management

Statistics and Data Management in Healthcare Systems

Nursing Informatics Practicum/Capstone Project


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

Federal Loans

Additional Funding Sources

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.

Career 2018 National Median Annual Salary 10th Percentile 90th 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.