Here you’ll discover a full explanation of RN to MSN Nursing Informatics degrees—including details on admissions, coursework, and practicums—and useful info about online RN to MSN Nursing Informatics programs. We’ve got a rundown of common nursing informatics certifications (including the ANCC qualification) and links to tons of nursing informatics conferences, organizations & resources. Wondering how to get started in the field? Check out the section on nursing informatics jobs & salaries.
Already a convert? Skip ahead to our Directory of RN to MSN Nursing Informatics Programs.
What is Nursing Informatics?
Definition of Nursing Informatics
Nursing informatics is a specialty field that integrates clinical knowledge & nursing science with information science & communication technologies to improve the health of patients, families, and communities.
In practical terms, this means nursing informatics specialists are responsible for dealing with all kinds of healthcare information technologies & processes, including:
- Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems
- Implementation training & consulting
- Healthcare system design & development
- Ensuring data security & privacy
- Overseeing data infrastructures
- Information retrieval & presentation
- Process improvement & workflow (e.g. expediting patient test results)
- Data analysis (e.g. evaluating staffing needs)
- Actionable data science projects (e.g. improving patient safety)
Well-trained graduates work for:
- Hospitals & healthcare systems in mid-level and high-level positions (e.g. Chief Information Officer)
- Healthcare software companies, IT vendors, and analytics businesses
- IT consulting firms
- Federal agencies (e.g. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services)
- Public health organizations involved in data analysis, healthcare policy & research (e.g. CDC)
- Education providers (e.g. simulation learning centers)
- Insurance companies
- Biotech firms
- Colleges & universities (e.g. teaching and/or research)
Some entrepreneurial types even develop their own healthcare IT businesses.
Note: Want two straightforward ways to define the scope of practice? Have a look at the Test Content Outline of the ANCC’s Informatics Nursing (RN-BC) exam and the job responsibilities listed in HIMSS’s Nursing Informatics (NI) Workforce Survey.
Nursing Informatics Fields
The words “nursing informatics” encompass all kinds of healthcare-related disciplines. Here are some of the major duties associated with each field:
- Clinical Informatics: Employing your clinical RN experience and knowledge of IT solutions to serve medical providers in patient-based settings (e.g. hospitals, clinics & private practices).
- Consumer Health Informatics: Designing, building, and improving telemedicine systems that promote better health, monitor patients, and administer care.
- Educational Health Informatics: Collaborating with faculty to invent web-based courses, online learning communities & simulation scenarios and integrate technology into clinical courses.
- Public Health Informatics: Using community & population health data to develop innovative programs (e.g. public health information networks, biosurvelliance programs, immunization registries, etc.) and supply policymakers with research-based advice.
- Research Informatics: Attaining a doctoral degree to focus on a specific field of applied informatics research (e.g. impact of IT on health practices & outcomes; effectiveness of data communication technologies; methods of decision support for nurses; etc.).
We should point out that clinical informatics is the most popular field for nurses. Funding is now tied to patient outcomes, and many hospitals need to prove their worth through data.
- In 2017, almost two-thirds of Nursing Informatics (NI) Workforce Survey respondents worked at a hospital, a multi-facility health system, or at the corporate offices of a healthcare system.
- Half of the respondents worked at a Magnet-designated hospital.
But keep your mind open as you head into your studies. Certain fields (e.g. telemedicine) are expanding rapidly as technology matures.
Why Pursue a Nursing Informatics Degree?
Benefits of a Nursing Informatics MSN
First things first: You may not need an MSN to become a nurse informaticist—most job positions list the BSN as the baseline requirement. To improve their chances of hire, folks with a BSN sometimes earn a graduate certificate in nursing informatics instead of the more expensive graduate degree.
But since you’re on this site, we’re assuming you don’t have a BSN! If that’s the case, the RN to MSN Nursing Informatics program is going to be your most efficient option. It’s accelerated, it’s flexible, and it may help you earn a bachelor’s degree along the way. Other benefits of MSN program include:
- Advanced Nursing Knowledge: Most MSN programs in nursing informatics have a core of advanced practice subjects (e.g. nursing leadership, policy, evidence-based practice, regulatory issues, quality improvement & safety, etc.). This kind of interdisciplinary knowledge is critical when you’re tackling complex healthcare problems. You’re not locked into an “IT bubble.”
- Career-Specific Training: The right MSN program will include concentration courses in your specific area of interest (e.g. consumer health informatics). Better yet, you’ll be encouraged to apply your training to a practicum project under the supervision of a preceptor. You gain relevant work experience and networking contacts.
- Long-Term Prestige: An MSN is often the first step on the road to major leadership positions. If you’re aspiring to an IT-related management position (e.g. CIO, CNIO, Clinical Informatics Architect, etc.), a master’s degree is a qualification worth having.
Talk to your mentors, chat with alumni, and check out the duties listed in current job descriptions before you make a decision about pursuing a master’s degree in nursing informatics. If you do opt for the MSN, you’ll find there’s a lot of market demand for your skills.
Note: Nursing informatics programs do not lead to APRN state licensure. If you’re interested in graduate training for a specific clinical field (e.g. NP specialties, CNM, CNS), you will need to look elsewhere on this site!
RN to MSN Nursing Informatics Programs
RN to MSN Nursing Informatics: Overview
RN to MSN Nursing Informatics programs are designed for RNs who have a diploma or an associate’s degree (e.g. ASN/ADN) and want to pursue an MSN or MS. There are also RN to MSN Nursing Informatics programs for RNs who have a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing.
There are two types of nursing informatics master’s programs in our directory:
- RN to MSN in Nursing Informatics: An informatics program that includes a general advanced practice core and a number of concentration courses in informatics fields. This is the most common academic offering.
- RN to MSN in Nursing Leadership: Concentration in Nursing Informatics: A leadership-focused program with a concentration or track in nursing informatics. The coursework may slant toward topics such as leadership development, innovative change, and healthcare management.
Before you make a final decision, take some time to dig into the curricula. Because leadership & nursing informatics degrees deal with indirect patient care, they often have similar core coursework. You may find there’s no real difference between certain programs!
RN to MSN Nursing Informatics: Admissions
RN to MSN Nursing Informatics programs share the same general prerequisites as many other RN to MSN advanced nursing programs that deal with indirect patient care (e.g. RN to MSN Nursing Administration Programs and RN to MSN/MBA Programs). You’ll typically need to have:
- A diploma or associate’s degree in nursing (e.g. ADN or ASN) or a bachelor’s degree in another field from a regionally accredited institution
- A current RN license
- At least one year of full-time RN clinical experience
- A baseline undergraduate GPA (usually 2.75-3.0)—some schools will also ask for GMAT or GRE scores, especially if your GPA is not very high
- Letters of professional/academic reference
You can improve your chances of admission by demonstrating your expertise & enthusiasm for healthcare technologies. Check out our section on nursing informatics careers for ideas.
RN to MSN Nursing Informatics: Undergraduate Phase
Before you can start work on the MSN, you’ll be required to earn good grades on upper-level undergraduate courses through your chosen college or university.
The length of this phase will depend on what qualification you currently hold (e.g. ASN vs. non-nursing bachelor’s degree), but most coursework takes 6 months-2 years to complete.
Examples of prerequisite undergraduate courses can include:
- Conceptual bases of professional nursing practice
- Concepts & theories in nursing
- Nursing research & evidence-based practice
- Nursing leadership & management
- Community health nursing
Schools of Nursing almost always list statistics & health assessment as standard prerequisites for the MSN. Schools are usually willing to accept transfer credits or a health assessment portfolio for these two courses.
RN to MSN Nursing Informatics: MSN Curriculum
After you’ve finished your undergraduate courses, you can start to tackle the MSN. Every School of Nursing has their own unique take on informatics, but a number of universities now try to align their curricula with informatics competencies laid out by HIMSS’s Technology Informatics Guiding Education Reform (TIGER).
For example, a sample curriculum might include:
- Core Courses: ~6-8 courses in advanced practice subjects (e.g. leadership; evidence-based practice; health policy & politics; advanced nursing research; ethics & law; etc.).
- Concentration Courses: ~3-6 courses in informatics (e.g. administrative informatics; healthcare database systems; IT project management; data management in healthcare; managing the nursing informatics life cycle; human-technology interactions in healthcare; etc.).
Informatics concentration courses vary widely between schools, so please check the curriculum to make sure you’re acquiring the skills you need. Some programs have a true technical feel; others are primarily focused on administrative & management issues. You can also look to see who’s teaching the courses (i.e. nursing faculty or IT experts).
In addition to traditional classroom work, almost all MSN nursing informatics programs include a capstone or scholarly project and practicums.
Note: We’ve spotted one or two RN to MSN programs that include the 3 fundamental courses of clinical practice—advanced pharmacology, advanced pathophysiology, and advanced health assessment—but they are rare.
RN to MSN Nursing Informatics: MSN Clinical Hours / Practicums
A lot of MSN programs in informatics try to include at least 200 practicum hours in the curriculum. That’s the minimum experience requirement for folks who have completed a graduate program in informatics nursing and wish to apply for ANCC’s Informatics Nursing certification.
For your practicum, you might be expected to design an informatics project that incorporates current theory & research, implement it, and evaluate its success. The University of Kansas suggests talking to institutions about:
- Implementation projects for new systems
- Process improvement projects
- Enhancement projects for current healthcare technology systems
- New performance measures
- Quality improvement department goals
- Workflow mapping
- Specification gathering
- Project presentations to end users or leadership
Common practicum sites include hospitals, clinic informatics departments, quality improvement departments, county health departments, EHR vendors, private providers’ offices, insurance companies, and the like.
Students are usually expected to arrange their own sites & preceptors, but talk to the program coordinator about your options. Some universities (especially ones in metro areas) have close ties with major hospitals and healthcare systems. These institutions often desperately need IT help.
Online RN to MSN Nursing Informatics Programs
Are Online RN to MSN Nursing Informatics Programs Available?
Yes. In fact, because this is a tech-heavy specialty that deals with indirect patient care, the majority of listings in our directory are Online RN to MSN Nursing Informatics programs. And even the on-campus ones are usually hybrid.
Here’s how a typical RN to MSN distance learning program is structured:
- Undergraduate Phase: Just like an on-campus degree, you’ll be required to earn good grades in upper-level undergraduate courses from the university. These courses are almost always offered online, so you can work while you study.
- Graduate Phase: You’ll be able to take all (or almost all) of your standard MS or MSN courses online. You can fulfill your practicums in your home community, but—as we mentioned—you may be expected to find the preceptor and arrange the setting. You’ll also have to pay for transit costs to the site.
Occasionally, a School of Nursing will ask you to visit the campus for a beginning orientation or a weekend residency, but a number of nursing informatics programs omit this aspect altogether.
Online RN to MSN Nursing Informatics Programs & State Authorization
Online RN to MSN Nursing Informatics programs are not designed to lead to advance practice state licensure. That means many of the regulations involving distance learning and clinical practicums disappear. In other words, you should be eligible for a number of online programs, regardless of your state of residence.
On the other hand, because of interstate agreements, Schools of Nursing may still be unable to accept certain out-of-state MSN applicants. You can usually find details about these issues on program websites or the school’s State Authorization or State Regulation page.
For example, in 2018:
- South University’s RN to MSN with a Specialization in Nursing Informatics program website noted that the program was not available to residents of Alabama, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New York, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington, and Washington D.C.
- West Coast University’s Online RN to MSN in Nursing Informatics program website stated that nursing distance education is offered through the Orange County, CA campus and may not be available to residents in all states.
State authorization rules change frequently, so it’s always best to check with the program coordinator for clarification.
Nurse Informatics Certification
Overview of Nursing Informatics Certification
You can qualify for the RN-BC in a number of ways (e.g. extensive work experience), but you’ll notice that the ANCC is happy to accept candidates with a graduate degree in informatics nursing and 200 hours of practicums. So make sure your MSN degree contains that magic number. Many RN to MSN Nurse Informatics programs will make a point of preparing you for ANCC certification.
The other common certification is the CPHIMS from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). This is a credential for more experienced professionals who have a few years of informatics work under their belt.
Leaders in the field might have both credentials. For example:
- Devon Ray RN, BSN, RN-BC, CPHIMS, Director of Nursing Informatics
- Penelope Garcia RN, MSN, RN-BC, CPHIMS, Clinical Informatics Architect
- Eileen Hubble DNP, RN-BC, NEA-BC, CPHIMS, FHIMS, Vice President of Clinical Informatics
Note: FHIMS/FHIMSS stands for HIMSS’s Fellow in Healthcare Information & Management Systems.
Nursing Informatics Certifications
Informatics Nursing certification is a specialty credential offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). It demonstrates that you have entry-level clinical knowledge and skills in nursing informatics. To gain it, you must:
- Hold a current, active RN license.
- Earn a bachelor’s or a graduate degree in nursing or a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field.
- Have the equivalent of 2 years full-time work experience as an RN.
- Have completed 30 hours of continuing education in informatics nursing within the last 3 years.
- Have fulfilled one of the following criteria:
- Have practiced a minimum of 2,000 hours in informatics nursing within the last 3 years
- Have practiced a minimum of 1,000 hours in informatics nursing in the last 3 years + completed a minimum of 12 semester hours of academic credit in informatics courses that are part of a graduate-level informatics nursing program
- Have completed a graduate program in informatics nursing with a minimum of 200 hours of faculty-supervised practicums in informatics nursing.
- Take & pass the Informatics Nursing Board Certification (BC) exam. It’s a computer-based exam with 175 questions (150 scored + 25 pretest questions that are not scored). The 3 major categories are: Foundations of Practice; System Design Life Cycle; and Data Management & Healthcare Technology.
- Keep your RN-BC certification up-to-date through continuing education. Certification is valid for 5 years.
Healthcare Informatics Certifications
CAHIMS is offered by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). It’s aimed at emerging professionals who may or may not have experience within the industry. To gain it, you must:
- Have a high school diploma (or the equivalent).
- Take & pass the CAHIMS exam. It’s a 2-hour exam with 115 multiple-choice questions, 100 of which are scored. The exam covers 3 main areas: General (e.g. Technology Environment); Healthcare Information and Systems Management; and Administration.
- Keep your CAHIMS certification up-to-date through continuing education or successful re-examiniation. Certification is valid for 3 years.
CPHIMS is offered by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). It’s a credential for experienced healthcare information and management systems professionals. To gain it, you must:
- Earn an accredited bachelor’s degree + have 5 years of information & management systems experience (3 of those years in a healthcare setting) or earn an accredited graduate degree or higher + 3 years of information & management systems experience (2 of those years in a healthcare setting).
- Take & pass the CPHIMS exam. It’s a 2-hour exam with 115 multiple-choice questions, 100 of which are scored. The exam covers 3 main areas: General (e.g. Healthcare Environment); Systems; and Administration.
- Keep your CPHIMS certification up-to-date through continuing education or successful re-examiniation. Certification is valid for 3 years.
Nursing Informatics Jobs
Nursing Informatics Careers
A graduate degree may help you win an interview, but you will need clinical and IT experience to secure a job. Employers will choose an RN with a BSN & significant IT skills over an RN with an MSN & little experience every time!
To buff up the IT portion of your résumé, you may wish to:
- Become a Super-User: Super-users are clinical care providers who have additional training on a specific technology (e.g. EHR system). With that knowledge in hand, they can then provide IT teaching & support to their colleagues (e.g. during a go-live/implementation phase). A lot of informatics professionals enter the field as super-users.
- Earn CAHIMS Certification: This is a “starter” qualification in health management & information systems offered by HIMSS. You only need a high school diploma to apply. We outline the exam procedure in our section on nursing informatics certifications.
- Join (or Start) an Informatics Committee: As one nurse pointed out, these have lots of different names, so you may need to ask around. Being on a committee/taskforce will give you inside knowledge of the field, as well as some of the real-world challenges involved in clinical information systems.
- Volunteer for IT-Related Projects: Ask the IT Department if you can road-test new healthcare technologies, software & programs. Offer to build IT solutions and online tools for your colleagues. Become the liaison person for vendor organizations & software companies.
- Write for Informatics Publications: Submit white papers, articles, and opinion pieces to healthcare journals and newsletters. You can start with the Journal of Informatics Nursing (JIN), but remember that publications in your specific field (e.g. pediatrics) will also be interested in IT perspectives.
- Train in Epic & Consider Epic Certification: Because Epic is one of the largest EHR systems on the market, it’s helpful to have some exposure to it. When it comes to Epic certification, you can become certified in a variety of Epic modules (e.g. Willow, Cupid, Stork, etc.). However, a) your employer must sponsor you; b) your employer must be an Epic customer/contractor; and c) you will need to travel to Epic headquarters in Wisconsin for training.
- Choose the Right MSN Practicum: Make sure your 200-hour practicum is focused on real-world projects with career applications. Some schools like to boast that their nursing students are hired as informaticians while they are still in the program—ask about your school’s employment rates at practicum sites.
- Network Like Mad: Attend nursing informatics conferences & workshops. Contact informatics professionals through LinkedIn and ask them about their work experiences. Talk to program alumni about the job hunting process.
If you’re eyeing work in a hospital or healthcare system, employers will also be looking for relevant clinical expertise. In the 2017 Nursing Informatics (NI) Workforce Survey, 42% of respondents had 16+ years of bedside clinical experience before becoming a nurse informaticist; only 16% had 1-5 years of bedside clinical experience.
Nursing Informatics Job Openings
- Indeed: Nurse Informatics Jobs; Informatics Nurse Specialist Jobs.
- Monster: Nursing Informatics Jobs.
- Glassdoor: Nursing Informatics Jobs; Nurse Informatics Specialist Jobs.
- LinkedIn: Nursing Informatics Jobs.
Mid-Level Job Titles
- Informatics Nurse
- Informatics Coordinator
- Nursing Informatics Analyst
- Nurse Informaticist
- Nurse Informatics Specialist
- Informatics Nurse Specialist
- Quality Improvement Specialist
- IT Nursing Advocate
- Systems Analyst
- Clinical Data Analyst
- Clinical Informatics Expert
- Systems Administrator
- Clinical Informatics Manager
- IT Training Manager
- Project Manager
Note: According to the ANA’s Nursing Informatics: Scope and Standards of Practice, RNs who enter the informatics field via on-the-job training or continuing education courses are called “Informatics Nurses.” Nurses with a master’s degree (e.g. MSN) or higher in nursing informatics are called “Informatics Nurse Specialists.”
High-Level Job Titles
- Director of Nursing Informatics
- Director of EHR Support
- Clinical Informatics Architect
- Chief Information Officer (CIO)
- Chief Nursing Informatics Officer (CNIO)
- Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO)
- Vice President of Informatics
Nursing Informatics Salaries
The Bureau of Labor Statistics posts job data on medical records and health information technicians, but these stats usually only cover low-level positions. Your better bet is HIMSS’s U.S. Compensation Survey, which is published every year. In 2018, HIMSS digital health professionals reported an average salary of $109,610.
However, HIMSS discovered a large gender pay gap, especially for female executives and females in clinical management roles. There was also a significant racial pay gap—non-white health IT professionals made 12% less than their white counterparts. To avoid the gap, go into a job interview with salary facts at your fingertips!
You can get ballpark figures for most positions by looking at Payscale’s page on Nursing Informatics Salaries. This has a list of common informatics titles and their accompanying salaries. For example, in 2018:
- Informatics Nurses had an average annual salary of $78,000.
- Nursing Informatics Analysts had an average annual salary of $78,000.
- Clinical Informatics Specialists had an average annual salary of $82,000.
- Clinical Informatics Managers had an average annual salary of $102,000.
- Nursing Informatics Directors had an average annual salary of $123,000.
Nursing Informatics Resources
Nursing Informatics Certification Bodies
- American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
- ANIA Certification Review Course for ANCC’s Informatics Nursing Certification
Nursing Informatics Professional Associations
- Alliance for Nursing Informatics (ANI)
- American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA)
- American Nurses Association (ANA)
- American Nursing Informatics Association (ANIA)
- Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS)
- International Medical Informatics Association (IMIA)
- New England Nursing Informatics Consortium (NENIC)
Nursing Informatics Conferences & Events
- AMIA Annual Symposium
- AMIA Clinical Informatics Conference
- AMIA Informatics Educators Forum
- AMIA Informatics Summit
- ANIA Annual Conference
- HIMSS Global Conference
- International Conference on Nursing Informatics
- NENIC Annual Symposium
- Summer Institute in Nursing Informatics (SINI)
Nursing Informatics Journals
- Health Informatics Journal (JHI)
- International Journal of Medical Informatics (IJMI)
- Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA)
- Journal of Biomedical Informatics (JBI)
- Journal of Informatics Nursing (JIN)
Nursing Informatics Useful Resources
- AMIA Career Center
- AMIA Nursing Informatics Working Group
- ANA Nursing Informatics: Scope and Standards of Practice
- HIMSS Career Institute
- HIMSS Resource Library
- HIMSS Scholarships
- HIMSS Nursing Informatics (NI) Workforce Survey
- HIMSS U.S. Compensation Survey
- ICCE Weekend Immersion in Nursing Informatics (WINI)
- Women in AMIA Initiative