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Online Master of Science in Applied Clinical Informatics – FAQs

Have questions about the online master’s in applied clinical informatics (MS-ACI) program at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine? We’re here to help!

Find need-to-know information that will explore key parts of our program and help inform your decision to apply. If you have any questions that aren’t answered here, please contact

What is clinical informatics?

Clinical informatics, or health informatics, is a health care field that focuses on the ways that data can be used to better serve health systems and the patient populations they assist. By analyzing patient data, health care providers and other professionals can leverage insights to improve processes and outcomes, ultimately creating a more efficient system that advances health care administration, delivery, and research.

Who is the MS-ACI program for?

The online Masters in Applied Clinical Informatics (MS-ACI) is a two-year program designed to train physicians, allied health professionals, and those with health IT backgrounds interested in seeking in-depth expertise in clinical informatics. We anticipate our students will have current clinical or administrative responsibilities in health care organizations and vary in their background knowledge.

Entry into the program does not require that students have a background in computer science, though it is recommended that students consider taking at least one entry-level course in the subject if they have no prior computational experience.

Learn more about admissions requirements.

How is this program different from current clinical informatics board certification courses?

  • Online format: Vanderbilt’s Master of Science in Applied Clinical Informatics program is unique in that the entirety of the program can be completed online, allowing maximum flexibility for working professionals. Our online MS-ACI program connects students to industry experts and national health IT leaders at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
  • Distinguished Faculty: All of the educational programs within the Department of Biomedical Informatics (DBMI) are under the oversight of the DBMI Vice-Chair of Education. Teaching faculty are drawn from primary and secondary DBMI faculty with contributions from faculty within other Schools and Clinical Departments within Vanderbilt University Medical Center, a leader in biomedical informatics.
  • Two Pathways: Our program has options for physicians through one of two applications. For physicians, the MS-ACI program has previously met the educational criteria necessary for Board Certification in Clinical Informatics via the practice pathway defined by the American Board of Preventive Medicine.

Currently, licensed physician applicants can apply either through a “practice pathway” or through a “fellowship training pathway.” Beginning with the Clinical Informatics examination in 2023, all applicants for Certification in Clinical Informatics will have to successfully complete a minimum of 24 months in an ACGME-accredited Clinical Informatics Fellowship program.

Additionally, the MS-ACI will provide the curriculum for Vanderbilt’s Clinical Informatics Fellowship but will also be open to health professionals who are not enrolled in the fellowship.

How long is the MS in applied clinical informatics program?

This is a two-year online health informatics master’s program aligned with the Vanderbilt academic calendar for graduate programs.

The program commences with a Fall Semester in August of the first year. Winter Semesters will begin in January, and one Summer Session begins in July after the first two semesters. Students will graduate in May of their second year.

What will I learn in the online MS-ACI program?

In the clinical informatics master’s program, you’ll have 240 hours of practical experience that will allow you to hone your skills in data collection and analysis. The program curriculum is based on published outlines designed to train physicians within the subspecialty of clinical informatics.[1]

Courses will cover a wide range of topics: fundamentals of programming, clinical information systems, workflow and human-computer interaction, clinical decision support, information system lifecycle, and organizational leadership. The courses are complemented by individual and team-based practicum experiences as well as an extended capstone project.

What careers can I pursue with a master’s degree in applied clinical informatics?

Whether you plan to advance in your current position or want to pivot your role entirely, a master’s degree in health informatics can connect you with career opportunities as:

  • Director of Informatics
  • Chief Medical Information Officer
  • Informatics Systems Manager
  • Health Informatics Consultant
  • Clinical Informatics Analyst
  • Health Care Project Manager

As a growing field, the possibilities span far beyond the listed roles. This degree program also serves current physicians and allied health professionals looking to advance health informatics systems in their organizations and workplaces.

How much does the online MS-ACI program cost?

For more information on program costs, please visit our Tuition and Fees page.

What is Brightspace?

Brightspace is the university’s learning management system supported by the Center for Teaching (CFT) and is the MS-ACI’s online teaching platform. Please visit the Brightspace On-Demand Resources page, where you will find more information and answers to frequently asked questions.

What is the capstone project?

The capstone project is a nine-month intensive experience where Vanderbilt faculty work with a trainee and others within their organization to advance the organization’s agenda in ways that confer immediate value.

Students lead planning, implementation, and evaluation of a health informatics initiative in their own workplaces or organizations. This final project is the culmination of advanced and innovative training, taking an identified challenge and transforming it through an actionable solution.

A capstone project is scheduled for the final nine months of the program and is tailored to align formal training with a professional challenge faced by the trainee or their organization. Capstone projects are approved both by Vanderbilt and the trainee’s organization.

Will I work alone on the capstone project?

No, in the capstone project, you’ll connect and collaborate with many colleagues and professionals. The importance of a trainee’s capstone project will necessarily require close collaboration with a diverse array of team members within the organization.

The role and obligations of the trainee as a part of the organizational effort are formally defined as part of the capstone project proposal process. The project reports to two individuals — a project executive from the sponsor organization and at least one Vanderbilt faculty with experience in the topic area.

On what days and times will formal classes be held?

Courses will be taught with the “flipped” classroom model, where didactic lectures and lab exercises or projects are delivered online to be completed on a weekly schedule. Your online courses are complemented by the capstone project, which allows you to address health informatics challenges at your workplace with the skills you gain from the program.

What are the Vanderbilt School of Medicine’s Student Computing Policies?

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine students are expected to have a laptop or desktop computer that meets certain minimum technical specifications. Please visit our Student Computing Policies page to find the most up-to-date policies.

Who can I contact regarding questions about the program?

Please direct questions about the program or admissions process to A program manager or faculty member will reach out to you in a timely manner.

Online MS-ACI Program Resources

Take the next step – apply today!

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine’s completely online Master of Science in Applied Clinical Informatics is the perfect option for a diverse range of students with backgrounds as health care providers who want to face the challenges of their workplace backed with skills in data collection, analysis, and solution implementation. You’ll learn in a format and schedule that works for you while applying your knowledge to real problems your health care institution needs experts to address.

Apply Now


[1] Gardner, Reed M., et al. “Core content for the subspecialty of clinical informatics.” Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association 16.2 (2009): 153-157.