Medical informatics programs prepare people to apply information science to medicine. Students learn computer science and the needs of medicine. They study medical terms and graphic arts. In addition, they learn to manage electronic medical records.
If you call yourself a computer programming geek, and you'd love to apply your skills to the healthcare field, medical informatics may be the program for you. This program - sometimes called "biomedical" or "health" informatics - is interdisciplinary. That means that it combines questions, concerns, and skills from many different fields.
Students of medical informatics know that the face of healthcare is rapidly changing. Because of this, they examine and look for different ways to deal with medical information: how to get it, organize it, and use it.
As you might imagine, this program is extremely broad and can be applied to many different avenues. For example, you might use a background in medical informatics to create a database that doctors can use to organize and streamline their patient files. Or you could work with biomedical researchers and figure out a way to archive research on human cases of a particular disease such as multiple sclerosis.
A current application in medical informatics is the organization of the Human Genome Project. Scientists worked for over a decade to identify the approximate 30,000 genes in human DNA. What do you do with such information? How do you store it? What kind of databases could you design so that scientists could easily access the information that they need? You can see how medical informatics would be extremely useful in trying to answer these questions.
As a student in this program, you learn advanced ways to use computers, such a designing complicated databases or a new kind of software. You study the ways that scientists conduct medical and biological research in order to better understand the information you're learning to organize. You also take courses in some biological sciences to gain an understanding of our current knowledge in the healthcare field and new developments.
There are about 15 schools in the U.S. that offer accredited programs in medical informatics, sometimes called "biomedical" or "health" informatics. With the exception of one, all of them are graduate programs where you can earn a master's degree, Ph.D., or postbaccalaureate certificate.
If you include the four years it normally takes to get a bachelor's degree, a postbaccalaureate certificate generally takes five to six years of full-time study after high school. Likewise, a master's degree typically takes six years, and a Ph.D. usually takes ten to eleven years.