College of Health and Human Services
George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Health Informatics FAQs

What is health informatics?

Health informatics is a field that concerns the generation, processing, storage, and use of health-related data, information, and knowledge. It is an interdisciplinary field that spans medicine, health administration, and management on one side, and computer science, information science, and technology on the other side.

For more on the definition of health informatics, visit the following websites:

What distinguishes health informatics vs. health information technology (IT) and bioinformatics?

While often confused for one another, these three terms are different disciplines which intersect in several aspects, but are very different in focus. Here are some key differences:

  • Health informatics focuses on health data, information, and knowledge, including its collection, processing, analysis, and use. The focus is on data and its use in decision making. Computer science and information technology only provide tools to do so.
  • Health IT is a technical discipline focusing on information technology and how that technology is used in health care. It includes a wide spectrum of topics, from computer networks to processing algorithms.
  • Bioinformatics is about using computational methods in biology, and also partially in medicine. The discipline focuses on processing genomic and proteomics data for basic research in biology, but also medicine, drug discovery, and related areas. George Mason offers bioinformatics degrees within the College of Science.
What career opportunities are available in health informatics?

Health informatics is one of the fastest-growing, in-demand health care careers—employment prospects are high! George Mason graduates will possess the business skills and scientific knowledge to obtain careers with a variety of organizations, including:

  • Private and public sector government jobs
  • Hospitals, clinics, or health care practices
  • Consulting or software firms
  • Research institutions
  • Insurance companies
  • And more!

Since this is a new discipline, there are few jobs that include “health informatics” in the job title. Instead, graduates of this program are typically employed as consultants, managers, systems designers, product developers, implementation and security specialists, health IT systems analysts, and researchers.

What health informatics programs are offered at George Mason?

Currently, George Mason offers the following programs:

Do I need to have an IT background?

No. In fact, most of our students do not have formal IT training. If you don't know much about IT, you will need to work harder in the classroom to acquire the needed background. Students applying to graduate programs without IT and math background may be asked to complete a preparation course that reviews college level IT, math, and informatics concepts. As long as you are good in analytical and abstract thinking and like technology in general, you should be able to successfully complete the preparation course and attend classes.

Our undergraduate and graduate programs provide opportunities to learn enough technology to be successful in the field. However, it is always suggested that you talk to our faculty before applying to make sure that the programs are right for you.

If you do not like IT and do not intend to work hard to learn these skills, the Department of Health Administration and Policy offers other avenues for careers in health care.

When are admission deadlines?

For application deadlines and detailed application requirements, please refer to Graduate Admissions for HAP Programs. The online Application for Graduate Admissions can be found on the admissions website at admissions.gmu.edu.

Undergraduate applications follow George Mason's admissions policies. Details can be found on the admissions website at admissions.gmu.edu.

What are the admission criteria?

The current admission criteria are always available in the George Mason University Catalog

Admission to the program is competitive, and we consider a combination of multiple criteria to ensure that the prospective students will be successful in the program. If you have any additional questions about the criteria, please contact Dr. Janusz Wojtusiak, Chief of the health informatics program.

Can I complete the program online?

The program is offered in two tracks: traditional on-campus and fully online (concentration in Health Data Analytics).

Within the traditional program, courses are available on-campus, online, or in hybrid formats. Additionally, all on-campus graduate-level courses are offered in the afternoons and evenings to accommodate students who work full-time. Please check the course schedule for specific availability, or contact the department for details.

What are the capstone pre-practicum and practicum?

Prior to the final semester in the MS program, students enroll in a 1 credit Capstone Preparation class (HAP 789) that will assist in identifying a practicum organization based on individual student interests and needs. The course helps students prepare and identify a project that they will complete during their time as an integral team member.

The Capstone class (HAP 790) is not an internship; the goal is to work on a specific project in the industry and report the project's results. The practicum can be unpaid or paid as an arrangement between the student and the receiving organization. However, the practicum cannot be part of the student’s regular day job.

George Mason and the Department of Health Administration and Policy pride themselves in providing students with the knowledge, skills, and tools to enter the job market, coupled with hands-on experience. The practicum involves functioning as an integral member of an organization for about 20 hours a week and participating in a Capstone seminar for one semester. HAP 790 also includes a comprehensive exam where students are required to synthesize knowledge from the entire program.

What is the thesis option in the MS program?

Students who wish to continue their education in a PhD program may not want to complete a typical industry-based practicum. Instead it may be beneficial for them to write a master’s thesis. The thesis constitutes original research by the student and can be done in two semesters. Interested students should talk to the program coordinator.

Does the department offer research opportunities?

We are committed to engaging students in research activities in and out of classroom. Informatics faculty have a strong research program. We encourage all students to volunteer in research activities or work as research assistants.

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