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What is an Informatics Degree?
Informatics studies the behavior and structure of systems that generate, store, process, and present information. It is about the study and application of information and information technology. In other words, informatics transforms data and information into knowledge that people can use every day.
Informaticists focus on the human use of computing, and on helping people interact with information systems in an efficient way. Informatics is, essentially, the science of information, of harnessing the power of data. And because reliable information is essential for effective operation and decision making in all kinds of enterprises, informatics is a big player in our world.
Health informatics allows clinicians to use electronic medical records to coordinate care and share information with other clinicians. Business informatics facilitates analysis and optimization of operational processes. Animal informatics focuses on designing technology that can help us understand how animals interact with their environment. These are just a few examples of the important role played by informatics specialists or ‘informaticists.’
Degree programs in informatics prepare students to enter this growing and multi-faceted field. It has been said that data is the most important raw material of the 21st century. If this is true – and there is no reason to believe that it is not – then informatics may be among the century’s most exciting fields.
Bachelor’s Degree in Informatics – Three to Four Year Duration
The objective of the bachelor’s program in informatics is to provide a theoretical foundation in core IT fields as well as practical learning in industry-standard and emerging technologies. Since informatics would not exist without mathematics, mathematics is an essential component of the curriculum. The final requirement of most programs includes preparation, presentation, discussion, and evaluation of a practical project developed and written by each student.
At this level, core required courses typically include:
- Programming Concepts – introduction to object-oriented programming (OOP), a computer programming model that organizes software design around data, or objects, rather than functions or logic
- Networking Fundamentals – networking and telecommunications fundamentals including local area networks (LANs), metropolitan area networks (MANs), wide area networks (WANs), intranets, the Internet, and the worldwide web
- Object-Oriented Programming – object-orientation programming and Java technologies, hands-on experience with engineering programs in Java
- Data Structures and Algorithms – how to organize and manipulate data efficiently, study of various conceptual data types and algorithms, implementation of data types in a specific programming language
- Computer Architecture – introduction to the organization and architecture of computer systems, digital logic, low level instructions execution, and system design
- Database Management Systems – introduction to the basic concepts and principles of designing, implementing, and managing databases
- Social and Professional Issues – examination of the ethical and professional issues involved in computing, discussion of how computers and software pose new ethical questions and dilemmas
- Systems Analysis and Design – overview of the systems development lifecycle, requirements and tools for collecting and structuring data, process modeling and data modeling, interface design, and data management
- Web Technology – introduction to common web architectures such as client-server architecture and web services; how to use server- and client-side technologies to design and develop online presence for an organization, implementing different navigation and web content strategies; students develop dynamic websites using high-level programming languages as well as mark-up and scripting languages
- Project Management – introduction to the project management process and project management methodologies such as PMI (Project Management Institute) and Prince2 (Projects in Controlled Environments); focuses on the field of software engineering
- Operating Systems – introduction to the basics of operating systems, CPU scheduling, file systems, memory management, device management, multiprocessing, and time sharing (a technique which enables many people, located at various terminals, to use a particular computer system at the same time)
- General Physics – basic topics of physics including waves, optics, sound, heat, electricity, circuits, magnetic and electromagnetic fields, and thermodynamics
- Discrete Mathematics – the development of mathematical tools needed for algorithmic applications in computer science
Master’s Degree in Informatics – Two Year Duration
Informatics master’s programs prepare students for roles that involve developing complex computer-assisted solutions to problems, managing the problem-solving process, and designing beneficial uses / applications of solutions. At this level, students enhance their knowledge in the core area of informatics by choosing an area of specialization. Most programs include a suitable internship, to test, apply, and expand the acquired expertise and knowledge in a practical setting. Applicants to master’s programs informatics must hold a bachelor’s degree, preferably in an area such as computer science, communication, or business.
Here are some sample informatics specializations offered at the master’s level:
- Analytics / Informatics Theory
- Artificial Intelligence
- Business Information Systems / Systems and Administration Informatics
- Cloud Computing
- Data Science and Engineering
- Distributed Systems
- Human Centered Design
- Human-Computer Interaction
- Information and System Security / Cyber Security
- Leading and Managing Technical Projects
- Multimedia Systems / Interactive Media Technology
- Software Engineering
Doctoral Degree in Informatics – Four Year Duration
A bachelor’s or master’s degree as well as knowledge of programming languages and databases are required to apply for admission to a doctoral program in informatics. This degree is aimed at students who plan to pursue a research and development role in the field. At the doctoral level, students choose a specialization track and conduct practical and theoretical research within that area. Options are wide ranging, simply because informatics – the science of how to use data, information, and knowledge – can be applied in several disciplines.
These are just some of the possible focus areas:
- Animal Informatics – improving the lives and our understanding of animals
- Bioinformatics – pursuing answers to biological and medical research questions
- Complex Networks and Systems – exploring how parts of a system interact with one another to drive the behavior of the system as a whole, in areas as diverse as the human brain, a language, social networks, power grids, and financial markets
- Computing, Culture and Society – focusing on the relationship between technological innovation and social, political, legal, and economic developments
- Human-Computer Interaction / Design (HCI/d) – understanding how HCI/d creates both opportunities and problems
- Health and Medical Informatics – using cutting-edge technologies to help people better understand, manage, and improve their health; promoting the effective organization, analysis, management, and use of information in healthcare; electronic medical records
- Intelligent and Interactive Systems – studying interactions between people and digital systems and developing systems that perceive, understand, and interact with people and the environment
- Security Informatics – going beyond technology to consider the social and practical aspects of protecting data, privacy, and other assets
- Art and Cultural Informatics – using 3D tools for analysis of cultural heritage objects and to develop solutions to problems in fields such as anthropology, archaeology, conservation, and art and architectural history
- Cognitive Science and Language Processing – computational approaches to intelligence; exploring proposals by cognitive theorists that the mind contains such mental representations as rules, concepts, images, and analogies, and that it uses mental procedures such as deduction, search, matching, rotating, and retrieval
Degrees Similar to Informatics
Mathematics helps companies perform better in our data-driven marketplace. That is the foundation of applied mathematics. Students of the field learn to use theories and techniques, such as mathematical modeling and computational methods, to formulate and solve practical problems in business, government, engineering, and the physical, life, and social sciences.
Bioinformatics is a subfield of biology and computer science concerned with analyzing biological data, most often DNA and amino acid sequences. The field develops methods and software tools for understanding this data, determining gene and protein functions, establishing evolutionary relationships, and predicting the three-dimensional shapes of proteins.
The field of computer science is focused on computer systems and how humans interact with them. Courses cover mathematics for computer science, artificial intelligence, data structures and algorithms, and introduction to program design.
Degree programs in cyber security provide students with foundational knowledge and skills in computer science, computer programming, cloud computing, information technology, big data, and digital forensics. Within the discipline are specializations such as database applications, systems and network administration, and data recovery.
Data science students learn how to combine domain expertise, programming skills, and knowledge of mathematics and statistics to deduce worthwhile insights from data, which analysts can translate into substantial business value.
Management Information Systems
Students who major in management information systems learn how to build systems to retrieve and store information. They take courses in database architecture and management, multimedia systems, and human/computer interaction.
Simulation programmers develop computer simulations that allow us to predict, see, think about, test, and manipulate real-world products, services, systems, processes, conditions, situations, and issues, without taking the risk and incurring the costs of doing so in the real world. Math, engineering, and computer science are the overlapping disciplines that simulation relies on.
Degree programs in the field are made up of courses in these technical and scientific areas, but they are also focused on teaching the skills of abstracting, theorizing, hypothesizing, and intellectualizing. In other words, simulation programming students learn everything they need to conceptualize the world into models that are designed to reach solutions for many of the world’s challenges and problems.
Computer Software Engineering
Degree programs in software engineering teach students how to apply engineering principles to software development. Students learn how to design, build, test, implement, and maintain computer operating systems, as well as applications that allow end users to accomplish tasks on their computers, smartphones, and other electronic devices. The typical curriculum includes several programming languages, operating systems analysis, and website design. Most programs begin with core engineering classes like mathematics, chemistry, and physics.
The degree field of statistics is focused on the study of probability theory and sampling theory. Students use techniques like sample survey theory and variance analysis (the quantitative investigation of the difference between actual and planned behavior) to examine the relationships between groups and measurements. In simple terms, statistics is about collecting data, organizing it, analyzing it, and interpreting it in practical ways that guide decision making in both business sectors and politics.
Skills You’ll Learn
Students of informatics come away from their studies with an impressive array of transferable skills:
- Computer modeling
- Numerical simulation
- Analyzing statistics
- Program design
- Applying quantitative analysis
- Maintaining precision and accuracy
- Mathematical modeling and analysis
- Designing questionnaires
- Developing sample forms
- Operating computer simulations
- Applying statistical packages
- Interpreting data from tables and charts
Analytical / Problem-Solving Skills
- Applying methods to problems
- Projecting from data
- Reasoning critically
- Categorizing data
- Developing theories
- Designing systems for processing data
- Modeling complex systems
- Recognizing types of problems
- Perceiving patterns and structures
- Identifying relationships between problems and solutions
Presentation / Communication Skills
- Communicating abstract concepts
- Transitioning between written text and computations / formulas
- Describing processes in non-technical terms
- Explaining theories and ideas
- Summarizing findings
- Informing and instructing
What Can You Do with an Informatics Degree?
Informatics majors apply their knowledge and skills in retail and service industries, healthcare, education, business, government, and the non-profit sector. These are some of the roles they occupy:
App Developer – translates software requirements into workable programming code and maintains and develops programs for use in organizations; typically specializes in a development field – such as mobile phone applications, accounting software, office suites, or graphics software; has in-depth knowledge of at least one computer language
Business Intelligence Architect – supports the formation of standards and guiding principles necessary for the evolution of the IT system landscape, facilitating business changes and growth
Business Process Analyst – provides business process or systems support that may include duties such as root cause analysis, mapping of current processes or systems, problem definition, and facilitation of organizational change and performance measures
Database Administrator – is responsible for the performance, integrity and security of a database; is involved in the planning and development of the database as well as troubleshooting any issues encountered by users
Digital Marketing Specialist – is the primary leader in the use of digital media for marketing, academic support, and campus-supported endeavors; provides input on leading edge digital media hardware and software.
IT Support Specialist – is a problem solver and troubleshooter; deals with process improvement, software maintenance, software testing, network design and implementation, load balancing and scalability, vendor relationships, software performance tuning, network performance tuning, and database performance tuning
IT Business Analyst – is the link between a firm’s information technology capabilities and its business objectives and profitability
IT Project Manager – plans, budgets, oversees and documents all aspects of IT projects; works closely with upper management and other departments to make sure that the scope and direction of each project is on schedule
Security Systems Administrator – handles all aspects of information security; liaises with users about computer security, checks for security violations, installs protection software, and takes action against cyber-attacks
SAP ERP Administrator / Analyst – SAP, or Systems Applications and Products, is a widely used enterprise resource planning (ERP) software that enables all departments of a business to access and share common data; SAP ERP administrators and analysts assist in analyzing and defining business functions and user needs and in configuring, testing, and maintaining SAP systems according to operational and business needs
Web Developer / Web Designer – creates the look, layout, and features of a website; maintains the website and keeps it up-to-date; the role involves understanding both graphic design and computer programming
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