Home Blog What you need to know if you want to work in health data science

What you need to know if you want to work in health data science

March 11, 2022
Male health care professional working with virtual health data

The field of health care is bursting with job opportunities for clinical and non-clinical professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment in health care occupations is projected to grow 16 percent by 20301 and data scientists are ranked first among roles identified as increasing in demand within health care organizations.2

Marquette’s online Master of Science in Health Care Data Analytics (HCDA) was designed with these stats in mind. With a curriculum of 30 credits divided equally between health care and data science, you can take a role at the electrifying heart of health care’s latest technological and scientific innovation. As a health care data analyst you can work at the center of it all, pulling the pieces together to drive the transformation of health care with dynamic skills.

What analytics skills does a healthcare data analyst need?

Fifteen credits of Marquette’s online M.S. in HCDA are concentrated on the mathematical and analytics skills you need to accurately collect and scrutinize data. The following skill groups are typically requested in job descriptions for health data analyst roles.


Statistics, the science of collecting, analyzing, presenting, and interpreting data,3 is at the core of any data science profession. Marquette’s statistics courses will cover topics like probability, statistical inference and hypothesis testing, data mining, forecasting and data partitioning and model selection.

The online M.S. in HCDA will provide you with a foundation of key statistical skills so that you can:

  • Understand the appropriate statistics usage for cases such as study design, level of measurement and interpretation of results
  • Use statistical software to conduct non-parametric and parametric bivariate statistics
  • Accurately report and interpret non-parametric and parametric bivariate statistics
  • Use foundations of text and data mining techniques commonly used for classification, clustering and prediction
  • Evaluate and interpret findings from empirical research and clinical assessment
  • Understand the benefits and limitations of statistical methods, conduct research and quality improvement studies
  • Recognize the methodological strengths and weaknesses of published research

Online HCDA courses covering statistical skills:

  • COSC 6520: Business Analytics
  • HEAL 8015: Applied Statistics for Health Sciences

Data management

The challenge of managing and processing big data is faced by nearly every industry today and health care is no exception. Students in the online health data analytics program will learn powerful technical skills to manage big data as well as the ability to communicate and justify their recommendations.

The online M.S. in HCDA data management curriculum enables students to:

  • Understand different types of data and data structures including key-value, wide-column and graph databases
  • Apply techniques of codebooks, specifications, and relational schema to data management
  • Apply methods for data summaries to time series data for regression analysis, correlation, and prediction
  • Understand and evaluate the information systems foundations for business intelligence such as data quality and data governance
  • Evaluate the performance of data management systems

Online HCDA courses related to data management:

  • COSC 6520: Business Analytics
  • COSC 6570: Data at Scale
  • COSC 6510: Business Intelligence

Data visualization and analytics platforms

Once data is amassed and interrogated for patterns, health data scientists have the important task of communicating these findings to leadership to make recommendations and point out opportunities for improvement. Data organization and visualization through programming is critical for presenting information to non-data science professionals.

The online health care data analytics curriculum will enable you to share your ideas, preparing you to:

  • Create relevant quality dashboards, scorecards, and tools for improvement of individual and organizational performance.
  • Use SQL to query data
  • Use Apache software including Hadoop and MapReduce to process data
  • Propose and implement visualization solutions that carry high information intelligibility
  • Understand and apply a process to uncover and present performance evaluations using business intelligence technology
  • Construct justifications of efforts to build solutions

Online HCDA courses teaching data sharing practices:

  • COSC 6510: Business Intelligence
  • COSC 6520: Business Analytics
  • COSC 6570: Data at Scale
  • HEAL 6830: Quality Improvement Science

What health care knowledge does a health care data analyst need?

Previous health care experience can be helpful for those interested in a health data science role but it’s not necessary. The other half of Marquette’s curriculum gives students the opportunity to become more familiar with the health care sector. Many of these courses are also required for nursing students so you’ll be learning right alongside clinical professionals, gleaning critical relevant information about the field. The following topics are key to understanding the unique challenges a data analyst may encounter.

Modern topics in health care and delivery models

As a health care data analyst you'll need to have a solid understanding of the environment you work in to be able to make informed recommendations whether you find a job at a hospital, clinic, health insurance company. Although some on-the-job learning is to be expected in any role, Marquette’s HCDA program will prepare you with a solid background on professions and processes you should be familiar with to get started.

Delve into health care specific topics and workflows including:

  • Concepts of disease management, health status, and case management to healthcare technology
  • Health professional roles and current workforce issues
  • Evolving organizational structures for delivering and financing healthcare
  • Understand logistics behind public reporting of quality and patient safety data
  • Explicate internal and external regulatory processes in health care, such as peer review, benchmarking, pay-for-performance, and credentialing.
  • Analyze the legal, political, ethical, economic and socio-cultural factors influencing health policy and healthcare delivery.
  • Potential unexpected outcomes of data models, algorithms, and related systems
  • Ethical and social implications of data in health data

Online HCDA courses that will provide key health care context:

  • COSC 4820/5820 - Ethical and Social Implications of Data
  • HEAL 6830: Quality Improvement Science
  • HEAL 6835: Health Care Informatics, Technology and Professional Issues
  • HEAL 6840: Environment of Healthcare Delivery

Technology used in health care settings

The field of health care is rich with technology from electronic health record software spanning entire health systems, devices for standard biological measurements in doctor’s offices, machines to constantly monitor vitals on patients in operating rooms to patients’ at-home wearable devices like heart monitors and fitness trackers. This technology produces lots of data but you first need to learn the ins and outs of what information you have at your disposal and where it comes from.

The online health data analytics curriculum covers key technological knowledge including:

  • Existing technology to address contemporary issues and delivery, such as informatics, telehealth, quality improvement, patient safety, simulation, and consumer-centered care
  • How to apply models of quality improvement and evidence-based strategies to reduce variations in performance
  • How to analyze current laws and ethical standards regarding electronic delivery, transmission, storage, and management of healthcare information
  • Ethical principles as applied to technologies and data professionals

Online HCDA courses that will review technology and its applications:

  • COSC 4820/5820 - Ethical and Social Implications of Data
  • HEAL 6835: Health Care Informatics, Technology and Professional Issues

Ready to develop your health data scientist skills?

Combine your innovative mindset with your passion for service to improve the world of health care through data analytics. Parse information and find patterns that can be put into action to decrease costs, support clinical decisions, cut down on fraud and abuse, help with better patient care coordination, improve patient wellness, and more effectively predict or drive the use of resources.

The online Master of Science in Health Care Data Analytics brings together Marquette’s expert faculty from the Department of Computer Science and the College of Nursing to help you fortify your data analysis skills while gaining a deeper understanding of the field of health care.

  1. Retrieved on March 3, 2022, from www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm
  2. Retrieved on March 3, 2022, from weforum.org/reports/the-future-of-jobs-report-202
  3. Retrieved on March 4, 2022, from britannica.com/science/statistics