How to Become a Health Information Technician


Updated February 13, 2023

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Health information technicians, also known as health information technologists, medical records specialists, medical registrars, or health information software specialists, handle digital healthcare records. Interested professionals wondering how to become health information technicians can follow several pathways to the profession.

Individuals looking to work with data and information while providing essential support across the healthcare industry may find health information technician roles rewarding and engaging. Use this guide to discover the steps to become a health information technician.

What Is a Health Information Technician?

Tasked with reviewing, organizing, and managing medical records, health information technicians ensure the privacy and accuracy of medical information for patients and medical professionals. These professionals work in hospitals, physician's offices, long-term care facilities, and insurance companies.

Health information technicians must possess expertise with health information software and information technology. They enter medical data regarding diagnoses, procedures, and treatment into healthcare information programs.

Health information technicians ensure that records are complete, accurate, and up-to-date for patients, medical practitioners, and healthcare organizations. On a daily basis, they analyze data to determine ways to improve patient care, lower costs, and increase efficiency.

What Education Do Health Information Technicians Need?

To become a health information technician, you need an associate degree in health information management or a related discipline. A postsecondary certificate may also meet the requirements for some positions, but professional certification through agencies like the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) requires an associate degree.

Through roughly two years of coursework, practical learning activities, and direct experience, individuals gain essential knowledge and skills to work as health information technicians. Coursework typically covers medical coding, health information software, and topics relating to healthcare systems and patient record-keeping.

Along with medical and healthcare fundamentals, students learn about data privacy and security governance. Additional classes in data analysis, revenue management, and communication prepare individuals for work in the field.

Experience and education can lead to advancement in health information roles. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that medical record specialists, a position that does not necessarily require a degree, earned an annual median salary of just over $46,600 as of 2021. Health information technologists and medical registrars, positions that require an associate degree, earned over $55,500 as of 2021.

How Much Experience Do Health Information Technicians Need?

During an associate degree or certificate program in health information technology, aspiring health information technicians may complete internships or other practical experiences. Capstone projects and research activities can also add valuable knowledge for aspiring professionals.

Entry-level positions as medical transcriptionists, medical coders, and medical assistants can offer a pathway to roles in health information technology. Previous work in entry-level computer and information technology roles as information clerks or other record-keepers allows prospective health information technicians to gain valuable experience.

One or two years of experience benefits information technicians in the workforce. Some organizations may require experience to earn certifications.

Certifications for Health Information Technicians

Certifications from bodies like AHIMA demonstrate mastery of specific professional domains to employers and peers. The registered health information technician® (RHIT) certification from AHIMA ranks among the top credentials held by working health information technicians. An RHITmay be required or preferred by some employers.

AHIMA offers other certifications for health information professionals. These credentials cover areas like medical coding, documentation improvement, and health data analysis. For all certifications from AHIMA, credential-holders must complete continuing education requirements and recertify every two years.

Registered Health Information Technician: The RHIT certification covers six domains. The certification exam includes questions on data content and information governance; data access, privacy, and security; data analysis; and compliance and leadership. To sit for the RHIT exam, each candidate must have an associate degree accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Information and Information Management Education.

Certified Coding Specialist: The CCS credential, offered by AHIMA, demonstrates expertise in coding inpatient and outpatient records. The examination covers coding knowledge and skills, documentation, and regulatory compliance. The four-hour exam includes multiple-choice and medical scenario questions. AHIMA recommends previous health-related coursework and experience in the field to take the exam.

Certified Document Improvement Practitioner: AHIMA's CDIP credential indicates an individual's expertise in clinical documentation. The examination includes questions on clinical coding practice, record review and document clarification, document improvement metrics and statistics, and compliance. The provider recommended a minimum of two years of experience and a relevant associate degree for the exam.

How Do I Become a Health Information Technician?

To become a health information technician, a candidate needs a degree in health information technology or a related discipline. A certificate in health information technology may suffice for some employers. An associate degree, often the minimum requirement for the field, includes two years of classes and practical requirements, while a certificate typically takes two years or less.

Experience in medical coding, information technology, or healthcare can offer a pathway to careers in health information technology. Earning a professional certification may be required for some health information technician roles. Regardless, a certification can help an individual stand out among job candidates.

Steps to Become a Health Information Technician

Associate degree path

  • Earn an associate degree. Most health information technician positions require an associate degree, which typically takes two years to earn. Majors include health information technology, health informatics and information management, and healthcare informatics.
  • Gain experience. While pursuing degrees, students can complete internships or practical requirements. Previous or concurrent work in medical coding, medical transcription, and data entry can also build valuable knowledge and skills.
  • Pursue industry certifications. Certifications attest to a student's expertise in the field. While not required by any state or federal body, many employers prefer to hire health information technicians with professional credentials.

Certificate path

  • Earn a certificate. A certificate in health information technology, health informatics, health information management, or related fields can prepare students for jobs as health information technicians. Certificates may last as little as six months or up to two years.
  • Gain experience.
  • Pursue industry certifications.

Should I Become a Health Information Technician?

Health information technician work blends information technology and healthcare. Individuals who excel in these areas can thrive professionally in this field.

Becoming a health information technician takes time and dedication. Individuals need degrees or certificates, experience, and certifications for most health information technician jobs. Gaining experience may be difficult without a degree, but jobs in coding, transcription, and information technology support can help.

Among the many individuals needed for the healthcare system to function, health information technicians get to work in healthcare from a data-oriented and computer-focused vantage point. The BLS projects a 17% employment growth rate for medical information technologists and medical registrars from 2021-2031.

The Job Hunt

Prospective professionals can use many resources to pursue health information technician jobs. Job boards like Indeed and Glassdoor, Google searches, and healthcare facility websites offer several options. Networking with peers, engaging with mentors, and attending job fairs can also help students find potential employment opportunities.

Professional organizations associated with health information technology may also offer career resources. AHIMA's career assistance aids employers and job-seekers in posting and finding health information technology positions. Individuals may need membership to access some job-related content.

  • AHIMA Career Assist: With search tools and featured health information technology jobs, the career center at AHIMA also includes information about the organization's annual job fair. AHIMA also offers career guidance and planning insights.
  • Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Resource Center: HIMSS provides a career center with global job listings in health information and technology.
  • Indeed: Indeed accommodates job-seekers and employers. Individuals can post resumes, search for positions by region, and find information about salaries and specific companies.
  • Glassdoor: This site provides information about jobs, companies, and salaries. Individuals can set up profiles and quickly apply for jobs. Additional resources include example interview questions, blog advice, and economic research data.
  • ZipRecruiter: ZipRecruiter provides information for job-seekers and employers. Users can cross-post openings to other job boards, increasing their reach.

FAQ About Becoming a Health Information Technician

  • What skills do you need to be a health information technician?

    To become a health information technician, you need to know medical coding and medical record-keeping. This allows you to gain data entry, data analysis, patient record maintenance, and data compliance skills needed for the role.

  • Is health information technology a good career?

    Health information technology is a good career for individuals looking to work in healthcare and information technology all at once. The BLS also projects a 17% growth employment rate from 2021-2031, indicating a bright outlook for the field.

  • How long does it take to become a health information technician?

    It takes about two years to become a health information technician. You need to complete an associate degree, gain experience, and earn professional credentials for most health information technician jobs.

  • Can you learn how to be a health information technician without a degree?

    In some cases, you can learn to be a health information technician without a degree. This requires earning a certificate, gaining experience, and pursuing professional health information certifications. However, some employers may require formal education.

Page last reviewed on Jan 13, 2023

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