Health Informatics FAQs

What is health informatics?

Health informatics involves generating, processing, storing, and using 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. There is much more to health informatics than the simple application of IT methods in health.

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

  1. HealthIT.govManaged by the U.S. Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, this site provides insights into health IT and informatics.
  2. American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) - AMIA is a professional organization that focuses on advancing the field of health informatics. Their website offers a wealth of resources, including definitions and articles related to health informatics.

  3. Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) - HIMSS is a global organization dedicated to improving healthcare through the effective use of information technology and management systems. Their website provides a wide range of resources, including definitions, articles, and insights specific to health informatics and IT in healthcare.

  4. International Medical Informatics Association (IMIA) - IMIA is a global organization that promotes health informatics education, research, and practice worldwide. Their website offers a range of resources and publications on health informatics.

  5. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA) - JAMIA is a leading journal in the field of health informatics. While access to some articles may require a subscription, the journal's website often features open-access articles and insights into the field.

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

While often mistaken for one another, health informatics, health information technology (IT), and bioinformatics are distinct disciplines that share certain intersections but differ significantly in focus. Here are the key differences:

Health Informatics: This discipline centers on health data, information, and knowledge, encompassing their collection, processing, analysis, and application in decision-making. It emphasizes the utilization of data in healthcare. Computer science and information technology serve as tools to facilitate this process.

Health IT: Health IT is a specialized field that focuses on the application of information technology within the healthcare sector. It covers a broad range of topics, from computer networking to advanced data processing algorithms.

Bioinformatics: Bioinformatics applies computational methods to biology and, to some extent, medicine. It specializes in processing genomic and proteomics data to support basic research in biology, medicine, drug discovery, and related fields. George Mason University 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 healthcare 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 healthcare practices
  • Consulting or software firms
  • Research institutions
  • Insurance companies
  • And more!

Since this is a relatively new discipline, few jobs 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 formal academic education is needed, such as an undergraduate computer science or health informatics degree. Most of our students come with clinical or other health-related backgrounds. However, we require students to have a basic working knowledge of computer programming, databases, and college-level math.

Students with no formal IT education may complete one of many available online courses on Python programming and SQL. Certificates of completion can be uploaded along with application materials. Goal statements should also indicate what programming and database training the applicants completed.

Upon admission, students receive complimentary access to an online bridge course covering math review, computer basics, informatics, and programming. This course should be completed before the first semester begins.

Most importantly, our undergraduate and graduate programs offer the necessary technological skills for success in the field. We strongly recommend consulting our faculty before applying to ensure the program aligns with your goals.

Suppose you do not have a strong interest in IT or are not committed to acquiring these skills. In that case, the Department of Health Administration and Policy offers alternative career pathways within the healthcare sector.

When are admission deadlines?

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

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

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 prospective students will succeed. If you have additional questions about the requirements, please contact the HAP department at

Can I complete the program online?

The MS program is offered in two tracks: traditional on-campus and fully online.

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 of the MS program, students are required to participate in a 3-credit workshop in health informatics and a 0-credit Capstone Preparation class. These courses aid students in selecting a practicum organization tailored to their interests and requirements. Through the course, students prepare and identify a project in which they will play an integral role as team members.

The Capstone class is distinct from an internship; its objective is to engage students in a specific industry project and report the outcomes. The practicum may be unpaid or paid, based on an agreement between the student and the host organization. Importantly, the practicum should not overlap with the student's regular employment duties.

George Mason and the Department of Health Administration and Policy pride themselves on providing students with the knowledge, skills, and tools to succeed in the job market, complemented by practical experience. The practicum entails working as an essential part of an organization for approximately 20 hours per week (or more for condensed online formats) and attending a Capstone seminar for one semester. The Capstone seminar culminates in a comprehensive exam, challenging students to integrate and apply knowledge acquired throughout the 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, they might find it more beneficial to write a master's thesis, which involves original research and can usually be completed within two semesters. Students considering this route should speak with the program coordinator.

Does the department offer research opportunities?

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