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What It Takes to Be a Health Information Technician

Health information technicians manage and analyze patient information and other health data.

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Home » Specialties » Health Information Technician

The Basics

  • What you’ll do: Manage patient records and other healthcare information and make sure data is kept private and secure in accordance with federal and state laws.
  • Where you’ll work: Hospitals, public health agencies, nursing homes, physician’s practices, and more.
  • Degree you’ll need: An associate degree or a bachelor’s degree, depending on your career goals.
  • Median annual salary: $44,090

Health information technology is an interdisciplinary field in which technology is used to manage healthcare information and protect patient privacy. A health information technician’s top goal is to ensure that patient data is accurate and kept secure according to local and national regulations.

Steps to Become a Health Information Technician

If you want to pursue a career in this field, consider using these steps as a guide.

  1. Earn your high school diploma or GED.

    Health information technicians usually need a college degree to compete for jobs, and colleges require a high school diploma or GED for admission. It may be helpful to take classes like statistics or human anatomy in high school.

  2. Earn an associate or bachelor’s degree in health information management.

    At a minimum, most employers will want candidates to have an associate degree in this field. You may find that a bachelor’s degree will make you more attractive to employers when you enter the job market.

  3. Earn certification.

    While certification isn’t required by law, many employers look for candidates with a Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) certification. This credential tells others that you have deep knowledge in health information technology.

  4. Maintain your certification.

    Certifications generally must be renewed every two years. For RHIT certification, you’ll need to complete 20 continuing education units every two years to be recertified.

What Is a Health Information Technician?

Health information technicians use software and apps to organize, analyze, and manage patient data, including exam records, test results, medical histories, treatment plans, and other electronic health records (EHRs).

Some health information technicians also take on medical billing and coding, tasks that ensure healthcare providers are reimbursed for their services.

Job Duties

Health information technicians collaborate with medical professionals to make sure electronic data is accurate and clear, and with administrators to improve information management.

A typical day for a health information technician could involve any or all of these duties and responsibilities:

  • Ensure the quality of medical and other health records by verifying that they are complete and accurate
  • Use computer applications to assemble and organize patient data
  • Assist management or administrative teams with data analysis to improve patient care or control costs
  • Make sure patient records are secure, private, and in compliance with state and federal regulations
  • Code patient diagnoses and procedures so healthcare providers can be reimbursed for their services

While most health information technicians work in hospitals, they’re also found in other healthcare settings. Wherever they work, their typical responsibilities remain largely the same: organizing, managing, and analyzing patient data and records. Workplaces that hire health information technicians include:

  • Physicians’ practices
  • Home health agencies
  • Nursing homes
  • Public health agencies
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Law and insurance firms
  • Health product vendors

Wherever you work as a health information technician, your responsibilities will largely remain the same: organizing, managing, analyzing, and securing patient data and records.

Important Skills and Traits

A successful health information technician needs to be able to think critically and manage and analyze records and data. But there are other skills and traits that are just as important to excel in this role.

Knowledge of medical terminology and coding:

If your role includes medical billing or coding, you’ll need this expertise to document and categorize medical services and prepare billing reports.

Digital expertise:

Health information technicians routinely use, maintain, and update EHRs to make sure patient data is private, accurate, and secure.

Understanding of healthcare law:

You’ll be guarding the privacy of patient and other medical information, so you’ll need to stay on top of the latest state and federal healthcare regulations.

Communication skills:

Health information technologists collaborate with a wide range of people, including medical colleagues, administrators, and insurance company workers.

Attention to detail:

This skill is crucial to maintain the accuracy of healthcare records and assure quality patient care.

Education

You’ll need at least an associate degree to become a health information technician. With a bachelor’s degree, however, you may be eligible for higher-paying jobs and have more opportunities to advance.

“Some employers require managers and above to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree,” says John Richey, MBA, RHIA, FAHIMA, director of academic education services for the American Health Information Management Association.

But, Richey adds, “employers who do not require managers and above to possess a baccalaureate degree are very well-served by professionals who hold the (Registered Health Information Technician) RHIT credential.”

Without a degree, you could pursue a certificate program for medical records specialists. This role is somewhat similar to healthcare information technician, but it has fewer responsibilities and doesn’t require management or analytical skills.

Associate Degree in Health Information Management

Here are some basics about earning this degree.

  • What to Look for in a Program: It’s important to choose a program that’s accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). Otherwise, you won’t be eligible to earn RHIT certification. Also, look at the success rate of students getting jobs after graduation.
  • Prerequisites: While there aren’t any prerequisite classes, you’ll need a high school diploma or GED to enroll in an associate program. You may also need to take a standardized test to fulfill admission requirements.
  • Curriculum: Some classes you can expect to take include:
    Medical terminology
    Healthcare data
    Health information technology
    Medical coding
  • Time to Complete: Associate degrees usually take two years or four semesters of full-time study.
  • Extracurricular Requirements: Most associate degree programs include practical experience as part of their coursework. One example is an externship, which could involve job shadowing or training with health information professionals.

Bachelor’s in Health Information Management

A bachelor’s degree will give students a more in-depth education and a deeper understanding of the intersection of healthcare and technology.

  • What to Look for in a Program: Choose a program that’s accredited by CAHIIM to be eligible to earn the RHIT certification.
  • Prerequisites: You’ll need a high school diploma or GED, and you’ll be required to take a standardized test such as the SAT to fulfill admission requirements.
  • Curriculum: In addition to classes for an associate degree, a bachelor’s includes coursework in:
    Project management
    Organizational leadership
    Healthcare information management
  • Time to Complete: A bachelor’s degree usually takes a full-time student four years to complete. You may find online programs that can be completed within three years.
  • Extracurricular Requirements: This degree may require practical experience and a capstone project, which can include a presentation or research on a specific aspect of health information technology.

Online Programs

There are many online degree programs in health information management. They could be a good choice for people who work while going to school or have family responsibilities and need flexibility.

Some programs offer classes both online and in the classroom. Online classes are often recorded, allowing a student to watch or listen and their convenience. An online option could be best for students who are organized and able to pace themselves and their work.

Certifications

Certification—while not required—demonstrates your expertise and knowledge. One or more of these credentials can give you an edge in your job search and help you move into management.

“In an industry that values education and experience, earning a certification is proof of a robust education and an ongoing commitment to staying relevant in a complex and evolving space,” says Richey.

A certification can give you an edge in your job search and help you move into management.

Here are two common certifications for healthcare information technicians.

Certified Associate in Healthcare Information and Management Systems (CAHIMS), awarded by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS)

Who It’s For: Those who want to demonstrate expertise in healthcare information and management systems
Prerequisites: High school diploma
Exam Prep: A study guide is provided as well as webinars and review courses

Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) Certification, awarded by the AHIMA

Who It’s For: Health information technicians who want a credential that many employers look for in job candidates
Prerequisites: At least an associate degree from a CAHIIM-accredited program or a foreign equivalent
Exam Prep: AHIMA provides an exam content outline to help prepare for the test

Health Information Technician Versus Medical Biller and Coder


These professions share some skills, but they are distinctly different.

Medical billing and coding are specialties within health information management. Billing and coding can be separate jobs or performed by one person. Coders translate medical care into billing codes, and billers prepare service statements and insurance claims so healthcare providers are reimbursed.

Some health information technicians perform billing and/or coding in addition to managing and analyzing data and maintaining the privacy of medical records. Because of these broader responsibilities, health information technicians may enjoy more advancement opportunities and higher salaries.

Salary and Job Outlook

The median national salary for health information technicians is $44,090, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Billers and coders are included in this category, so the education, expertise, and responsibilities of these professionals can vary greatly.

Medical Dosimetrists, Medical Records Specialists, and Health Technologists and Technicians, All Other

National data

Median Salary: $44,090

Bottom 10%: $28,800

Top 10%: $73,370

Projected job growth: 8.5%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alabama $36,390 $24,160 $62,920
Alaska $54,710 $35,640 $86,100
Arizona $41,310 $27,640 $67,600
Arkansas $36,560 $25,480 $60,670
California $49,820 $33,090 $84,490
Colorado $47,450 $32,700 $74,530
Connecticut $49,000 $34,440 $82,440
Delaware $47,520 $31,690 $67,800
District of Columbia $57,490 $35,820 $87,900
Florida $39,080 $27,220 $65,810
Georgia $40,950 $27,700 $76,340
Hawaii $50,590 $35,790 $81,580
Idaho $43,000 $28,520 $63,620
Illinois $46,510 $30,000 $77,810
Indiana $41,430 $28,580 $71,330
Iowa $43,110 $29,210 $64,130
Kansas $40,370 $27,610 $62,350
Kentucky $40,020 $27,340 $64,980
Louisiana $35,880 $23,460 $63,410
Maine $41,590 $29,620 $64,540
Maryland $48,120 $29,110 $78,120
Massachusetts $52,000 $34,300 $84,580
Michigan $42,910 $28,940 $69,100
Minnesota $52,010 $36,920 $79,440
Mississippi $35,300 $21,170 $58,940
Missouri $44,860 $28,310 $69,230
Montana $42,020 $28,060 $64,130
Nebraska $43,540 $29,170 $64,770
Nevada $43,430 $30,260 $68,030
New Hampshire $43,400 $31,960 $69,330
New Jersey $48,080 $34,000 $83,250
New Mexico $42,240 $26,760 $71,110
New York $50,220 $33,060 $83,880
North Carolina $38,490 $27,200 $62,650
North Dakota $50,710 $33,540 $72,660
Ohio $42,620 $28,350 $65,950
Oklahoma $41,130 $26,750 $65,490
Oregon $50,590 $34,500 $79,530
Pennsylvania $42,330 $29,660 $66,430
Rhode Island $49,110 $33,840 $78,470
South Carolina $38,340 $26,360 $63,020
South Dakota $41,500 $28,430 $64,480
Tennessee $40,360 $27,070 $68,780
Texas $39,990 $26,790 $67,570
Utah $42,090 $28,990 $66,200
Vermont $43,080 $31,940 $65,150
Virginia $44,810 $29,220 $71,160
Washington $53,150 $34,890 $84,070
West Virginia $38,950 $26,610 $63,890
Wisconsin $44,260 $32,010 $63,420
Wyoming $45,250 $30,310 $68,600

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2020 median salary; projected job growth through 2029. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

Highest-Paying Metro Areas

One factor that can play a role in a health information technician’s salary is location. According to the BLS, these are the 10 highest-paying metropolitan areas for this role.

Metro AreaAnnual Median Wage
Atlantic City-Hammonton, New Jersey$62,520
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California$59,940
Yuba City, California$58,350
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, California$57,390
Danbury, Connecticut$57,260
Trenton, New Jersey$56,100
Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, California$55,630
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California$54,850
Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, Connecticut$54,530
Longview, Washington$54,410

States with the Highest Demand for Health Information Technicians

Demand also can be a factor in your salary. Here are the states with the highest and lowest number of health information technicians, according to BLS figures. As expected, states with large populations lead the pack.

Highest Employment

StateEmployment Numbers
California38,920
Texas28,500
Florida22,480
Ohio15,000
New York14,280
Pennsylvania13,180
North Carolina11,630
Illinois10,550
Georgia9,580
Washington8,120

Lowest Employment

StateEmployment Numbers
New Hampshire1,230
South Dakota1,200
North Dakota1,150
Alaska1,040
Hawaii1,010
District of Columbia970
Rhode Island960
Delaware920
Vermont790
Wyoming450

Job Outlook

Health information technicians have a promising job outlook. “Demand is on the rise at all levels of education and credentialing of health information,” says Richey.

The BLS projects this job to grow 8% through 2029, twice as fast as the national average for all jobs. The growing baby boomer population is responsible for much of the increasing demand for healthcare.

Professional Resources

As you start your career as a health information technician, professional organizations can help you move ahead. Many provide networking opportunities, conferences, continuing education, and news about trends in your industry.

You may want to consider joining one or more of these organizations to keep your knowledge and skills up to date.

American Academy of Professional Coders:

The AAPC offers members four free webinars per year, networking opportunities with over 200,000 members, and job-search resources.

American Health Information Management Association:

AHIMA membership includes discounts to conferences, career resources, and access to a private Facebook group.

The American Medical Informatics Association:

The AMIA has a membership program that provides educational resources, networking opportunities, and presentation opportunities.

Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society:

The HIMSS offers memberships to local or global chapters. They include networking events and educational opportunities.
sara nguyen

Written and reported by:
Sara J. Nguyen
Contributing Writer

john richey

With professional insight from:
John Richey, MBA, RHIA, FAHIMA
Director of Academic and Education Services, American Health Information Management Association