A look into your career as a population health analyst

May 18, 2018 · 5 min read · By ASU Online
Population health analysts find data-driven solutions to complex problems in healthcare. Learn more about this career path and how you can be at the forefront of innovation in healthcare.  

The health care industry collects a large amount of data that must be analyzed properly to improve operations and the patient experience. Interpreting data to influence strategies that drive better clinical outcomes, lower costs and improve operational efficiency are all ways these analysts may participate in improving health care.

Becoming a population health analyst gives you an opportunity to not only mine complex data, but also use it to provide systems-related advice benefiting your organization. In this role, you can design new ways to incorporate data through IT-focused solutions as you create different models based on your evaluation of statistical population and public health data. Developing data-driven solutions to improve difficult business challenges within health care can place population health analysts at the forefront of industry innovation.

Pursuing a career as a population health analyst requires the right combination of technical knowledge, previous work experience and education. Typically, hiring managers look for candidates with a master’s degree. Earning an online Master of Advanced Study in Health Informatics can give you both the technical background and industry knowledge you need to pursue a career as a population health analyst regardless of whether or not you have previous experience in health care.

Such programs can provide an innovative approach to combining information technology, computer science and knowledge management to improve the health care industry. Designed for professionals both within and outside of the field, a MAS in Health Informatics can help enhance the analytical skills of those looking to transition into this rapidly expanding field while giving those already working in the industry an opportunity to advance their careers in a wide range of settings.

A health analyst collecting data on his computer and tablet.
A health analyst collecting data on his computer and tablet.

A typical day in the life of a population health analyst

Regardless of the project specifics, population health analysts utilize analytical, statistical and programming skills to collect, analyze and interpret large data sets to drive business solutions. It’s a highly collaborative position, requiring you to work with key stakeholders and different functional departments as well as your immediate team members.

Population health analysts may oversee the creation and implementation of survey tools in addition to the management of data collection and the use of that data to consult on population health initiatives for an organization. By processing research for easy consumption, they are able to transform their findings and insights into actionable plans that add value to a business.

On a typical day, a population health analyst could be called upon to work in a number of areas aligned with data processing, organization or model design. Specific tasks may include:

  • Designing and building population health data set processes for purposes such as modeling, production or mining.
  • Developing prototypes, proofs of concept, algorithms, predictive models or custom analysis.
  • Performing and interpreting population health data studies to learn more about new data sources or new uses for existing sources.
  • Strategizing to improve population health data and search quality as well as predictive capabilities.

Throughout these daily activities, population health analysts develop the processes and tools which monitor and analyze data accuracy and model performance to ensure the integrity of the results. This requires coordinating with others to implement models and monitor outcomes.


A closer look at the professional landscape of population health analysis

Career opportunities in this field, and related fields like data science, are seeing substantial growth, according to Forbes, which is leading to a shortage of candidates with the right qualifications. Many companies report difficulty finding highly skilled candidates for open data science positions. Projected growth for data science roles from 2016 to 2026, of which population health analysts are closely related is estimated at 19 percent, much greater than the national average for all professions, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Dr. Adela Grando, Assistant Professor of the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Arizona State University states, “Population health is huge now. Everything has to do with big data – analyzing it, finding trends and so on. The industry has moved from a service-oriented to value-based model. Organizations are focused on what kind of value they give to the patients and they do all of that through collecting data from medical records, insurance and other areas. We see a big need for that type of work.”

Ideal candidates should have both technical and analytical skills, professional experience and the right level of education. Typically, a master’s degree in a field such as health informatics is preferable, as employers often target candidates with backgrounds in health care data analysis.

The median wage for population health data analysts is $60,946, according to Payscale.

Becoming a population health analyst

Qualifying for a career as a population health analyst requires a higher level of technical acumen than many other professions. Technical experience and knowledge are huge components of this role, and those interested in becoming population health analysts should be comfortable using statistical computer languages like Python and SQL and working with or even creating data architecture. They also need to be knowledgeable in a variety of machine learning techniques and advanced statistical concepts as well as coding in several languages.

Other skills that can be helpful for population health analysts include:

  • Attention to detail: Paying close attention to one’s work as a population health analyst ensures catching programming errors before they cause issues or identifying important data among vast quantities of information.
  • Problem-solving: A key component of this position is looking at how to improve the efficacy and efficiency of population health initiatives within an organization. This can be achieved through data analysis across multiple systems to find ideal solutions.
  • Verbal and written communication: Population health analysts must be able to communicate effectively both with co-workers who have a technical background and those who do not. Being able to clearly explain conclusions to any audience is very important in this role, especially when translating population health data to stakeholders.

Learn more about your potential career as a population health analyst

Those looking to pursue a career as a population health analyst should not only have an in-depth technical background but also the right combination of professional experience and education. The online MAS in health informatics degree, offered by Arizona State University, combines core courses in clinical informatics with electives focused on clinical workflow to give students a well-rounded education. Modern health technology is taught in conjunction with data analysis to prepare graduates for a variety of careers in health informatics.


Enroll in ASU Online's health informatics program to become a population health analyst
A population health analyst looks at data on a tablet. 


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