Informatics refers to the process of transforming data and information into useful knowledge for professionals in a variety of fields. The advent of the information age has created vast and potentially overwhelming quantities of data, and informatics seeks to harness the power of data science, statistics, and analytics to yield actionable insights as well as data visualizations to present them in an easily-understandable format. Informatics is thus becoming an important part of many industries seeking to use data to meet human needs by improving quality of service or creating new products.
Informatics is perhaps most prominently used in the field of nursing, where nurse informaticists use electronic healthcare data to provide decision support for doctors, streamline reporting, and improve the quality and safety of patient-centered care. It is also increasingly used in materials science, where materials data science and informatics can be used to improve the understanding, use, selection, development, and discovery of materials in the engineering field. And in the realm of biology, bioinformatics is playing an important role in understanding large and complex biological datasets, particularly in the realm of genomics.
The process of turning today’s incredibly rich data environment into usable insights is transforming a wide range of fields, and understanding these tools can be an asset for many careers. A background in bioinformatics, for example, is increasingly important for working as a biologist or medical scientist, especially if you want to understand the enormously complex data encoded in genes. Materials informatics expertise can lead to new opportunities in materials science and engineering, enabling new building materials and applications for them to be developed much more quickly than in the past.
Skills in using informatics are especially important for careers in nursing, as transformative health care delivery increasingly depends on information technology to improve and coordinate care, support patient engagement, and enable the use of analytics to inform decision-making. Becoming a nurse typically requires a bachelor’s degree or associate’s degree in nursing, along with state licensing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses earned a median annual salary of $73,300 in 2019, and these jobs are expected to grow faster than average as the population ages and chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity become more common.
Absolutely. Coursera offers a wealth of opportunities on data science and information technology, as well as applied courses on informatics in a variety of fields including nursing, materials science, and bioinformatics. You can learn from top-ranked universities like Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Minnesota, Georgia Institute of Technology, and University of California San Diego, ensuring you don’t have to sacrifice the quality of your education to learn online. And, because you can view course materials and complete assignments at your convenience, you have the flexibility to build these valuable, job-ready skills while maintaining your current work schedule.
Before you start learning informatics, it can be helpful to have strong critical thinking and analysis skills as well as experience working with computers and programming languages. If you are considering specializing in a field like health informatics, it may be beneficial to have experience working in the health care industry or take courses in health science or biology. Other useful skills include strong communication, observation, and analysis skills.
The kind of people best suited for roles in informatics often have a passion for exploring the connection between people and technology and examining ways to use technology to understand and predict behavior. They tend to be empathetic listeners who get to know the needs and wants of the organizations they work with and can turn statistics into data others can understand. These individuals typically have strong interpersonal, communication, and management skills, as they often work as members of a team. Many people who work in informatics feel comfortable working with statistics and may have backgrounds in computer science, data analysis, or health information management.
The types of places that hire people with backgrounds in informatics come from multiple industries and range from private companies to government agencies. They include health care facilities, retailers, manufacturers, and insurance companies. Places that hire people with experience in informatics typically look for employees who can help them with tasks like electronics records management, information security, and system design. Many hospital systems hire people with backgrounds in informatics because they need to have secure systems in place for medical professionals to share patient histories, treatments, and outcomes quickly and efficiently.
In addition to computer science and data analysis, you may want to explore other topics related to informatics, such as data visualization and database management. You also can learn programming languages commonly used to analyze data, like Python and R. Other topics to consider are medical ethics, statistics, machine learning, and AI as well as electronics, linguistics, and psychology.
This FAQ content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.