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.
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Steps to Become a Health Information Technician
If you want to pursue a career in this field, consider using these steps as a guide.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
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:
Wherever you work as a health information technician, your responsibilities will largely remain the same: organizing, managing, analyzing, and securing patient data and records.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Median Salary: $44,090
Top 10%: $73,370
Projected job growth: 8.5%
|State||Median Salary||Bottom 10%||Top 10%|
|District of Columbia||$57,490||$35,820||$87,900|
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 Area||Annual 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|
|Trenton, New Jersey||$56,100|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California||$54,850|
|Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, Connecticut||$54,530|
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.
|District of Columbia||970|
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.
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.