In an associate's degree program in health information technology, students learn the basics of storing, organizing and retrieving medical records. They must complete general education courses as well. Associate degree programs require incoming students to have a GED or high school diploma, be proficient in English and math, and sometimes have knowledge of medical terminology and biology.
Bachelor's degree programs usually are more focused on management of healthcare records and how it affects the delivery of medical services. Prerequisites for bachelor's degree programs also require a GED or high school diploma, and completion of courses in statistics, anatomy, physiology, biology and medical terminology is often recommended. Some even require an associate's degree.
Master's degree programs in health information technology are aimed at healthcare professionals who want training in this field. Courses may cover topics such as healthcare leadership, financial analysis for healthcare systems and using statistics to make decisions. Master's degree programs require a bachelor's degree with at least a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale for admission.
Associate of Health Information Technology
Associate's degree programs in health information technology are typically a two-year endeavor to study and train in the growing field of health information. Students in this type of program learn about the many ways healthcare information and medical records are stored, organized and retrieved to use for billing, reimbursement and research as well as assisting doctors and nurses in providing care. An associate's degree program is typically tailored for individuals who do not have a college degree and require students to take general education classes. In addition to general education classes, the program focuses on specific areas related to health and healthcare information. Most programs include a clinical or internship. Possible class titles include:
- Health data information basics
- Storing and using health data information
- Statistics in health
- Medical coding
- Basic and advance study of computerized medical records
Bachelor of Health Information Management
At the bachelor's degree level, the degree title changes slightly to health information management or health informatics to reflect a shift in focus to management of health information. Schools may design their programs for professionals who have an associate's degree in health information technology and are seeking to move into a management position. Students in this type of program learn the basics of medical coding and healthcare information, but also explore advanced study in how health records can affect the delivery and cost of healthcare services. In addition to healthcare information coursework, most programs include courses in general education, such as math, arts, humanities and history. Most bachelor's degree programs also include an internship or work-related project. Class titles may be:
- Clinical applications in health information
- Health information privacy and security
- Managing health information services
- Financial implications in healthcare
- How information and technology is changing in society
Master of Health Information Technology
Many colleges and universities offer this graduate level program for healthcare professionals who want to have an advanced understanding of health information technology or other professionals looking to launch a new career. This type of program provides opportunities to research into the system of healthcare and the impact of information technology on the quality of the system. As with the other degree programs, the master's degree program is a unique blend of computers, information technology, healthcare and management training. Many schools offer their master's degree programs online. Coursework for this type of master's degree program is focused on the advanced study of healthcare information. Most programs include a thesis or similar graduate research project. Some possible class titles include:
- Healthcare management and leadership
- Managing healthcare data
- Healthcare database design and security
- Using statistics in decision-making
- Financial analysis of healthcare systems
Popular Career Options
A person who earns an associate's degree in health information technology is prepared to work in a variety of healthcare settings, such as a doctor's office, hospital or continuing care center. People who have earned a master's degree in health information technology take on administrative, managerial and executive positions. They may work for educational institutions, technology firms, the government, healthcare companies, physicians or hospitals. Some possible job titles are:
- With an Associate's Degree:
- Health data analyst or insurance claims analyst
- Records technician specialist or clinical coding specialist
- Patient information coordinator
- With a Master's Degree:
- Research data analyst or data quality manager
- Health information management department director or system manager
- Health information management college instructor
- Information security officer
Continuing Education and Certification Information
At the associate's degree level, professionals in health information technology may sit for the Registered Health Technician certification exam overseen by the American Health Information Management Association. Earning certification generally involves a having a degree from an accredited institution and passing an exam. Professionals with a bachelor's may seek certification as a Registered Health Information Administrator from the American Health Information Management Association. This certification is also available to graduates of a master's program.
Professional organizations, such as the American Health Information Management Association and American Medical Informatics Association (www.amia.org), also provide resources for continuing education for professionals. Much of the information and training is available online.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected that health information and medical records technicians will see 15% job growth for the years 2014 through 2024. In May 2015, these workers earned $37,110 as a median annual wage.
Students interested in entry-level health information technology positions can learn about the various ways health information is stored and organized through an associate's program in the field. Students looking for more advanced leadership or research positions in the field may seek a bachelor's or even a master's degree in the health information technology.