Pursuing Higher Education in 2021

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2021 is a year that I’m looking forward to, as is everyone else. A significant number of events occurred this year unrelated to covid-19, and to be frank, I’m exhausted. 2020 was supposed to be a big step in my life by returning to school, but the same week I was visiting campuses, that’s when things broke out and changed my entire routine. 

If you have ASD, a daily regimen is essential to keep you grounded and balanced and everything being uprooted was quite significant. This month I would like to outline my educational prospects and future goals. 

Higher education would be a gigantic leap in my immediate family. I would be the first with an advanced degree. My parents came from a generation where higher education wasn’t a requirement for employment. 

I had a father who served in the military and then went on to work at GNC, a Pennsylvania-based American company selling health and nutrition-related products. My mother was a local seamstress until she decided to stay at home, fostering and taking care of their children and household. 

Today without a degree or certifications in a specialized field (I have the latter), you usually get passed over for someone with more education when you are compared to someone without those. 

When I decided to go back to school, I examined fields of study and asked myself these questions: 

Does it interest me? 

Is it in demand/have job growth opportunities? 

Does the school that I’m going to have transfer agreements with other colleges and universities in the area? 

Can I start working with the said degree at an Associates’ level rather than a Master’s? Is it a course of study that is broad but also specialized? 

How much will it cost? 

I considered many other things, but I listed six different factors, which enabled me to look at options that would best fit me. And perhaps this small list can give you an idea of what to keep in mind when looking at going to a university. 

As a Certified Peer Specialist, working with individuals with mental health conditions or educating the general public on mental illness is something I have a passion for doing. I love learning new things about psychiatric and life factors that can impact people’s lives and how I can help them. So what would be the best course of study for me? Nursing? Psychology? Something healthcare related? It took me a long time to research and contemplate my options. I ultimately decided on studying Healthcare Informatics.

“Health informatics is an evolving specialization that links information technology, communication, and healthcare to improve the quality and safety of patient care.” 

“Health informatics applies informatics concepts, theories, and practices to real-life situations to achieve better health outcomes. This includes collecting, storing, analyzing, and presenting data in a digital format.” – usfhealthonline.com 

Why did I decide to study health informatics? As a patient, I always wondered why things were so complicated or poorly explained when it came to insurance or looking at my medical records, or figuring things out with the broader healthcare system. 

As an informatics specialist, you help design and implement technology so people get the most out of their healthcare. Electronic Health Records (EHR) are standard today in the medical field, but how well are those implemented in hospitals or private practices? 

An informatics specialist helps ensure that a company or hospital gets the most out of its technology to help its patients. Informatics is the backbone of our healthcare system, and I would like to be a part of implementing and streamlining the system that everyone uses. 

“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of health information technicians is projected to grow 13% through 2026, nearly double the average growth rate for all occupations in the U.S.” 

Several other fields incorporate informatics, such as nursing informatics specialists, IT consulting, or clinical data analysts. You can also work from home or even take traveling informatics jobs to go to different states and help implement EHR’s. 

Healthcare Informatics is a field that enables me to build an educational resume and increase my overall knowledge base even if I don’t work in the same role forever. 

2020 is a year that I hope is one we never have to deal with again. I’ve had family members pass away or get sick, and I would like to focus on my future and continuing to help others. Getting a higher education is part of that. And I believe studying healthcare informatics will help me reach my goals. Here’s to a better 2021! 

I wish everyone a wonderful Holiday and a Happy New Year!


Ziggy is a Certified Peer Specialist in PA and currently resides in Pittsburgh. He is a member of the Let’s Act committee, a group of peers devoted to raising awareness about mental health care. In his downtime, he enjoys reading novels and watching nature documentaries.

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