Imagine flipping a coin and deciding on your degree based on whether it comes up heads or tails. That probably doesn’t sound like a very good way to decide your future, but when you don’t have all the facts it can be hard to choose between two degrees that seem very similar.
There’s no doubt that healthcare degrees can be a little confusing. It’s such a big field and, at a glance, so many seem to overlap. Even though healthcare jobs of all kinds are growing, you don’t want to pick one randomly and hope it’s a good fit. You want to gather all the information you need be confident in your degree choice.
We’re here to help you decipher two of those degrees—health information management (HIM) versus healthcare management (HCM)—so you can have all the facts you need to figure out which is best for you.
HIM vs. Healthcare management: the basics
The biggest and most important difference between HIM and HCM is that the former is a healthcare-related degree while the latter is a business one. In fact, put simply, the one thing HIM and HCM degrees share is that graduates of both are qualified to work in a healthcare setting.
HIM grads work in medical records and they might have some management responsibilities overseeing the department or other coders, says Lynne Croteau, interim dean at Rasmussen College’s School of Business. Professionals in this behind-the-scenes position are crucial to helping facilities run smoothly by making sure medical records are secure are providing nurses and physicians with accurate patient files.
HCM grads, on the other hand, manage the business side of an office environment such as at a clinic or dentist’s office. “They are a true manager that works in a healthcare environment,” Croteau says. “Any small practice needs an office manager.”
HIM vs. Healthcare management: skills required
Knowing what employers are looking for can give you that head start you need to stand out in your chosen field. An analysis of 21,606 HIM and 79,657 HCM online job listings* identified the top skills employers are seeking for these professionals.
Leading a team either in a medical office or of other HIM professionals isn’t easy. Though it’s listed as number two for healthcare managers and number five for health information managers, Croteau says leadership skills are crucial for job success for both professions. Communication skills are also essential for HIM and HCM professionals – whether you’re conferring with a co-worker or explaining something to a physician, you need to be clear and concise.
HIM vs. Healthcare management: salary & job outlook
The average salary of HIM professionals in 2012 was $34,160. The number of HIM jobs in the U.S. is expected to grow 21 percent through 2020, which is faster than average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) attributes this growth to an aging American population that will need more medical tests and procedures, which will result in more medical records and paperwork.
In contrast, HCM professions averaged $88,580 in 2012 and these jobs are expected to grow 22 percent through 2020. This boom in jobs will also be thanks to an aging population—more healthcare facilities will be required to care for them, and thus more managers will be needed, the BLS says. In addition, more healthcare managers will be hired in small practices because better healthcare technology will move procedures from hospitals to clinics, according to the BLS.
Although it sounds like you’ll have a higher salary with HCM, it’s important to ask yourself if you’d really enjoy the day-to-day responsibilities of the job. If you’re a strong leader and enjoy working closely with people, chances are you will. But if not, maybe working behind the scenes with those important medical records is more your thing.
Also, keep in mind that salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.
Now that you know the differences between HIM and HCM such as job responsibilities, required skills, salary and job outlook, choosing your degree doesn’t have to be as random as flipping a coin.
It’s obvious by now that HIM grads go on to work mainly with medical records and HCM grads manage medical facilities. But which is right for you? Which would fulfill your professional goals and your familial obligations? Once you answer those important questions, you’re on your way to a rewarding career!
You’ve got a basic understanding of the differences between HIM versus HCM but that’s only a start. To learn more about these programs, check out the School of Business or the School of Health Sciences.
*Source: BurningGlass.com (analysis of HIM and HCM job postings, Aug. 9, 2013 to Nov. 4, 2013)