New accelerated degree programs at IUPUI speed students to in-demand, well-paying jobs

May 6, 2015

Students will save thousands of dollars, graduate a year earlier and be positioned for in-demand and well-paying jobs thanks to academic career paths being created by the IU School of Informatics and Computing and other schools at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Beginning with its own programs, including bioinformatics, health informatics, human-computer interaction and media arts and sciences, the informatics school developed accelerated programs that enable students to earn an undergraduate degree and a master’s in five years, instead of six. That move would save Indiana students $7,000 in tuition and fees and save out-of-state residents $18,000.

With a master’s and advanced informatics skills, students in these degree programs will be prepared for jobs paying an average of $71,000.

Similar programs are being developed that will allow students in other IUPUI schools -- including health and rehabilitation science, public health, business, public affairs, science, physical education and tourism management, philanthropy and law -- to complete undergraduate degrees in their respective schools in four years and then complete an informatics master’s degree in one year.

“It is clear from our discussion with other schools at IUPUI that informatics has become not only an integral part of many disciplines and professions but also an essential skill to enhance greatly their graduates' career prospects,” said Karl MacDorman, an associate professor in human-computer interaction and associate dean of academic affairs in the School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI. “There is a desire to pair a graduate degree in informatics with existing undergraduate programs in other disciplines to provide the advanced information management skills needed in each of those specific disciplines.”

Informatics is the application of information technology to other fields. Among the degree programs that have been developed or are under development are:

  • Bachelor of Science in health science and Master of Science in health informatics.
  • B.S. in tourism, convention and event management and M.S. in informatics.
  • B.S. in informatics and Master of Jurisprudence.
  • Bachelor of Science in Public Health in community health and M.S. in health informatics.
  • B.S. in marketing and M.S. in informatics.
  • B.S. in informatics and M.S. in criminal justice.
  • B.S. in biology and M.S. in bioinformatics.

“The accelerated five-year degrees aren’t designed to turn everyone into a computer scientist or technologist,” MacDorman said. “We want students to be able to follow their passion, and informatics can help them do that.”

That’s exactly what Anwar Eaton, a School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI student, expects to do. Eaton will be the first informatics student to complete the undergraduate portion of the program. He will receive his undergraduate degree in May and his master’s, focusing on human-computer interaction, a year later. 

Under accelerated five-year programs, students forgo taking undergraduate elective classes. Instead, they begin taking master’s classes that apply to their undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Eaton said he chose the human-computer interaction program because he likes the ability to research technology, exploring why people flock to one application or game and ignore another. After he receives his master’s, he intends to do user experience research, looking at how people interact with technology. 

As for his future job prospects, Eaton said he will have a broad portfolio that will make him a strong job candidate.

Each of the accelerated programs offers substantial returns in terms of jobs and pay.

The B.S. in biology and M.S. in informatics program, for example, provides a seamless integration of a biology background in the B.S. program with the depth of M.S. coursework on applying software tools to biological data, including its structure, acquisition, warehousing and analysis.

Those who graduate from the B.S./M.S. program will be highly skilled informaticians, MacDorman said, essentially professionals with a strong biology background, as well as the knowledge and experience on how to apply this background in bioinformatics, the interdisciplinary science that applies computer technology to the analysis and management of biological information.

A typical entry-level position for a graduate with a B.S. in biology is a job as a biological technician, which has a median annual wage of $39,750. Employment of biological technicians is projected to grow 10 percent from 2012 to 2022. By comparison, the starting salary for B.S./M.S. graduates is $64,000, and job growth in bioinformatics and biomedical informatics  is expected to jump 21 percent in the same time period. Graduates with a B.S./M.S. might work as computational biologists, bioinformatics systems analysts, bioinformatics application specialists, or in other related professions.

“This is an accelerated program that will, like the other B.S./M.S. programs, dramatically increase the employment prospects of individuals receiving the degrees,” MacDorman said.