Are you a librarian or other information professional (or soon-to-be) who’s comfortable with numbers? If so, you might want to take a serious look at the growing career path of informatics.
Although it’s already become a key driver in the medical and healthcare industries, the use of informatics is now also providing decision support in law firms, libraries, corporations, government agencies, and pretty much any organization able to gather and make use of data.
In fact, notes Brad Rogers, LibGig Director of Recruiting,
“An increasing number of employers are looking for informatics and other data-analytics skills across all industry verticals as companies rely more on data for decision support.”
What is informatics?
Although literally hundreds of definitions of informatics are available (thank you, Google), informatics in the broadest sense is the science, practice, or process of collecting, organizing, storing, analyzing, preserving, retrieving, and governing data relevant to the organization. This is similar to what’s often called data librarianship.
However, informatics professionals take things a bit further:
Informatics experts must understand not only the data being collected, but also the most strategic ways to use that data to support their organization’s research, outcome improvement, process re-engineering, and other business goals. In many cases, they then must be able to translate that understanding into information that can support decisions and actions.
Insights gained from informatics can produce a wide range of benefits:
- Identifying new market opportunities
- Revealing emerging demographic trends
- Spotting potential competitive threats
- Reducing costs through process re-engineering
- Improving customer experiences
- Improving productivity through better supply chain management
- Maximizing return on investment for research activities
- Identifying re-occurring problems or mistakes so they can be addressed at a system level
As you can see from this small list of potential organizational benefits, informatics is a powerful tool with which to make major–and multiple–improvements.
Who employs informatics professionals?
Informatics has had the greatest impact so far in the medical, pharmaceutical, and healthcare industries because both regulatory and business requirements make gathering, managing, and drawing conclusions from specific types of data a strategic imperative. Especially in the medical and healthcare fields, informatics is being used to improve patient safety, hospitalization outcomes, operating procedures, and financial results, among other benefits.
However, informatics professionals can deliver strategic value to any organization that gathers information through any type of research, not only clinical trials—like customer demographics, GIS data, legal research, outcome assessments, or any other type of “big data.”
So, for instance, besides various medical informatics, you’ll find these disciplines and potential job opportunities:
- Behavioral informatics
- Business informatics
- Community informatics
- Imaging informatics
- Museum informatics
- Research informatics
- Social informatics
- Urban informatics
Assume that this is simply a sampling of ways that informatics expertise can be deployed; any industry or organization able to gather and mine strategic data will be doing so soon, if not already.
What else might informatics jobs be called?
As is the case with so many information-focused roles, titles for informatics professionals vary by industry and employer as well as by area of specialization or work setting.
Alternative titles for informatics professionals may include informatician, informaticist researcher, informatics librarian (academic science library), information manager, informatics specialist, informatics analyst, chief clinical informatics officer, and informatics manager, among others.
In addition, terms that may fall under the informatics area of expertise, depending on the specific job duties, may include clinical and research librarian, data analyst, data librarian, data manager, data mining, data science specialist, data strategist, knowledge manager, records manager, and research data specialist.
What skills do informatics professionals need?
At its core, informatics is a combination of computer technology, information systems, and specialized domain knowledge such as law, genetics or public libraries. Consequently, informatics professionals need expertise first and foremost in understanding how to use advanced information technologies to gather, manage, provide access to, and mine strategic data.
Informatics professionals may, depending on the job, also need an understanding of:
- Information system management
- Information relevance for meaningful insights into organizational metrics
- Database structure and mining for actionable information related to strategic outcomes
- Mining customer data to identify patterns, emerging trends and other predictive analytics
- Evaluating and applying new data management tools
- Information governance within the context of regulatory and legal compliance
- Information security and privacy principles and requirements
Other valuable skills for informatics careers:
- Project management
- Workflow and process
- Training and coaching
- Leadership and change management
- Creating and working with budgets
- Teamwork and collaboration
Salary ranges for informatics professionals
As you’d expect, there is a wide range of salaries within the informatics profession, depending on levels of responsibility, the size and type of employer, geographic region, specialization, and other variables.
For example, a search for nursing informatics manager among three top salary and job sites shows salaries of $82,000 (Payscale.com), $68,000 (Glassdoor.com), and $56,000-$104,000 (Indeed.com). A research informatics analyst in Colorado makes $63,000-$86,000, while a clinical informaticist in New York City makes an estimated $73,000-$91,000, according to SimplyHired.com.
Why consider an informatics career?
One of the best career aspects of informatics work is that these skills easily transfer across multiple industries and are increasingly in demand by a wide range of employers. Translation: job growth, diverse career opportunities, and room for advancement.
Whether your employer of choice is a public library, medical center, academic institution, government agency, nonprofit, major cultural heritage organization, pharmaceutical startup, policy think tank, or Fortune 500 corporation, there’s a high likelihood that your target organization is or soon will be incorporating informatics. And they’ll be looking for your informatics skills to help them do it well.
Additional informatics resources
- Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIST) (see specific Special Interest Groups)
- Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS)
- International Conference on Legal Informatics, Legal Knowledge and Information Systems (ICLILKIS)
- Special Libraries Association (SLA) (see specific divisions)