Wednesday, January 20, 2010

MBA vs. MS in biomedical informatics?

If you could get a graduate degree, would you choose an MBA or an MS in biomedical, medical, or health informatics? The topic of the month here at is Health Information Technology this month (January), so that's why I'm comparing these 2 graduate degrees in the context of a career in health IT.

Before we answer this question, let's consider a few other questions that will impact our answer:
  • How do you plan to leverage your graduate degree? If you get an MBA or an MS in biomedical or medical informatics, how will you use that degree?
  • What level of experience do you have in the health information technology industry?  
  • Have you mapped out a long-term career plan for yourself? Do you hope to become a CMIO? A medical director of informatics? A CEO of a company?
  • How strong is your professional social network? Are you already well-connected with high-level executives who work in health IT?  
  • Are you currently working in health IT?
If you're fully committed to a long-term career in health IT, then an MS in biomedical informatics will provide you with valuable skills that will help you grow professionally in this industry. However, an MS in medical informatics does not guarantee that you'll find a job. If you're exploring various aspects of a non-clinical career in health IT, then an MBA could be much more beneficial if you're considering careers as an entrepreneur or a marketer. Even if you choose to consult in the health IT industry, an MBA could be more beneficial than an MS in biomedical informatics. 

At the end of the day, you may find yourself pursuing both an MBA and an MS in biomedical informatics. We're lifelong learners, aren't we? If we could learn for free, then many of us would take that course. The unfortunate reality is that graduate degrees can be expensive (especially executive MBAs that can easily cost well over $150,000). Degrees in biomedical informatics are much more affordable.

If you're willing to learn online, then an online degree in either medical or biomedical informatics could be a great learning experience. If you'd like to build your professional social network and explore options outside of becoming a CMIO, then make the investment and pursue an executive MBA.


  1. Allow me to throw some more letters into the alphabet soup. MPH in public health informatics. Although this is for a different audience thant he MBA or MS, I think it warrants mentioning that this degree is out there...

  2. The degree one seeks should depend on what you want to do. An MBA will give you good management skills, but you won't get the content that is increasingly essential in informatics (e.g., meaningful use, standards, etc.) and is provided in most MS in biomedical informatics programs (like ours at Oregon Health & Science University). We also provide courses in areas like organizational behavior and management as well as project management. For more information, visit:

    You might also be interested in my blog that is devoted to informatics workforce and education issues. It is:

    William Hersh, MD