Exploring Health Information Technology Degree Programs & Careers

Real-life healthcare, unlike in the movies and TV shows, is not all about doctors and nurses. There is no doubt they play a large role, but there are more people behind the scenes than most realize. Every hospital and clinic needs a full healthcare team to ensure everything goes smoothly and patients receive the best possible care.

FACT: HIT and medical records jobs are projected to increase by 22 percent through 2020.

One integral, often over-looked member of a healthcare team is the health information technician or technologist. This person uses medical codes to document and organize patient data. This is just scratching the surface of the daily duties of these healthcare professionals, but this responsibility can seem intimidating to someone on the outside looking in.

Memorizing medical codes and the proper procedures in recording patient data can be tricky at first. But a formal education can help prepare you for this responsibility. Health information technology (HIT) degree programs are intended to provide you with the knowledge and experience you need to be a critical piece of the healthcare puzzle.

So how can you be a part of the team that impacts patients in a medical facility? We used government information and real-time job analysis data to find the answers you’re seeking.

HIT careers: Education and certification

Falling in love with a career you only have some vague notions about can be risky when it comes to education and other credentials. Will the job require two years in school? Four? Seven?!

Luckily, the education needed to enter the HIT industry is pretty reasonable. Joining this field usually means having a certificate or associate’s degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). If you want to become a registered health information technician (RHIT), you will need an associate’s degree to be eligible to take the exam.

So what’s an RHIT? Put simply, it’s an HIT credential that indicates to potential employers that you possess the skills the exam tests, like how to ensure the accuracy of medical records and analyze patient data. The RHIT exam lasts 3 ½ hours and consists of 150 multiple choice questions. This credential isn’t required by all employers, but the BLS notes that some do prefer it.

HIT careers: Job duties

It’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the typical job duties before pursuing a new career. It’s important to note that if you’re interested in a position where you interact with patients daily and are in the center of the action, HIT may not be the right fit for you. However, if you’d consider yourself detail-oriented and don’t mind solitary work, it could be a perfect match.

The main responsibility for HIT professionals is making sure medical records are accurate. This includes inputting data, organizing databases and assigning clinical codes, as well as reviewing records and tracking patient outcomes, according to the BLS.

HIT careers: Skills needed to succeed

Now that you know what the position entails, you’re probably wondering what skills you’ll need to get the job done. As it turns out, it’s more than just coding, coding and more coding. This is definitely the skill HIT pros employs the most, but there are several others that should accompany it.

We used real-time job analysis software from Burning-Glass.com to identify the HIT skills in highest demand. Take a look at the top 10 skills employers are seeking:

Health Information Technology Degree Programs

Some of these skills, like data entry or medical billing, probably seem like a no-brainer now that you know what HIT professionals do daily. Still, it can be reassuring to know that your job skills and job duties will match up!

HIT careers: Salary and career outlook

It’s always wise to review all of the facts before you make a life-changing career decision. After all, what good is earning a degree for a higher-paying job if the field is stagnant? Fear not, because that’s not the case for HIT!

HIT and medical records jobs are projected to increase by 22 percent through 2020, according to the BLS. While 22 percent is a promising number, high job growth can never guarantee that you’ll have a job, but the odds are certainly better in HIT than in more slowly-growing professions.

The spike in HIT positions is partially a result of some pretty big healthcare trends that are currently impacting medical coding: the transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10, the Affordable Care Act and CPT code updates. Additional reasons for HIT job growth include an aging population which requires more medical care and more healthcare facilities utilizing electronic medical records, as stated by the BLS.

Your career in HIT likely won’t be all about the salary you could earn, but it’s important nonetheless. The BLS reports the median annual salary for health technologists and technicians in 2012 was $40, 380, which is more than $5,000 above the average for all occupations.**

Are you ready for an HIT career?

You now have in-depth knowledge of the HIT field—from daily duties and necessary skills to job growth and earning potential. This is all important information needed to make a decision. So does it sound like HIT is the right fit for you?

If you’re ready to take the next step on this rewarding healthcare career path, learn more about health information technology degree programs by exploring Rasmussen College’s HIT degree page.

*Source: BurningGlass.com (analysis of skills required in HIT job postings, Feb. 1, 2014 to Jan. 31, 2015)  

**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. 

External links provided on Rasmussen.edu are for reference only. Rasmussen College does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced.

Elizabeth is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She enjoys writing engaging content to help former, current and future students on their path to a rewarding education.

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