Guide to Healthcare IT Careers

As the American healthcare industry continues its rapid expansion—a phenomenon brought on in part by the aging Baby Boomers and increased medical coverage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—the industry has been intersecting with technology and creating fresh opportunities in interdisciplinary careers.

By illustration, CIO long-ago anticipated this explosion of job openings, stating that, “A convergence of mobility, new legislation, HIPAA compliance, and emerging technologies are creating a market that is hungry for talent that not only knows IT but has a solid understanding of healthcare.” As of April 2021, there were over 179,000 U.S. jobs posted under “healthcare technology” on Indeed. This trend shows no signs of abatement.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2020) reports that job openings in healthcare occupations—including health information technology careers—are expected to grow 15 percent between 2019 and 2029, more than quadruple the rate anticipated for all occupations during that time period (4 percent).

The projected addition of 2.4 million jobs in this sector—more than any other industry—offers roles across a variety of subfields, such as those who work with electronic health records (EHRs). In fact, Kevin Holloran—a director in Standard & Poor’s nonprofit healthcare group—observed that health IT once accounted for 5 to 10 percent of a hospital’s IT budget, but this sector has now swelled to between 25 and 35 percent (Becker’s Hospital Review 2014).

Healthcare IT News adds that 83 percent of doctors in the US use EHRs, and many of these healthcare IT jobs are considered “middle skills” (i.e., requiring moderate education and training), a category comprising over half of all American job openings and a key to American competitiveness.

So what are some of these careers that combine healthcare and technology? And what kind of education does an individual need to break into these fields? Health informatics jobs are on the rise—positions related to the collection, processing, and secure storage of health information to preserve clinical histories and processing medical billing. The report notes the emergence of many difficult-to-fill positions in subfields such as medical coding, clinical applications, clinical analyses, and leadership roles across the healthcare IT spectrum, with some requiring a two-year associate degree or less.

Read on to discover the hottest careers in healthcare IT, including the typical education required, job responsibilities, and salaries.

Please note that due to the dynamic nature of healthcare IT, some of these careers have overlapping competencies, certifications, and training. The thriving careers below are organized from those requiring the least postsecondary education to the most.

University of Cincinnati Online
BS - Health Information Management
Cancer Registry Management Certificate
Rasmussen University - Online
Health Information Technician (Associate's)
Health Information Management (Bachelor's)
Medical Billing and Coding (Certificate)
Southern New Hampshire University
BS in Health Information Management
Ashworth College
Online Medical Billing and Coding Career Diploma
Capella University
BS - Health Information Management
RN to MSN - Nursing Informatics (for RNs)
*sponsored

Become a Medical Records Clerk

Typical education required: Associate’s degree or less

What they do: Also referred to as medical records technicians or health information management (HIM) clerks, these detail-oriented professionals organize medical records; perform simple coding; track patient outcomes; convert physical medical records to computer-based ones; and maintain the confidentiality of these records under HIPAA. Medical coders and clinical analysts (careers profiled below) are increasingly replacing medical records clerks, although there are overlapping competencies and job responsibilities across all of these occupations.

Recommended professional certifications: Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT); Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR)

Salary: According to PayScale (2021), among the 576 health information management (HIM) clerks responding, they had the following salary ranges:

  • 10th percentile: $25,000 annually
  • 50th percentile (median): $35,451
  • 90th percentile: $60,000

Become a Medical Coder

Typical education required: Associate’s degree or less

What they do: Closely related to medical records clerks, these healthcare IT professionals not only organize medical records but also are experts in medical coding systems, assigning codes for specific diagnoses and treatments. This is important not only to preserve easily searchable medical records and to facilitate billing but also for “big data” tracking of healthcare trends across the country. Aspiring medical coders are encouraged to be familiar with ICD-10 (i.e., the tenth edition of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems [ICD]), basic medical terminology, and billing systems.

Recommended professional certifications: Certified Coding Associate (CCA); AAPC’s medical coding certifications (Certified Professional Coder [CPC]; Certified Outpatient Coder [COC]; Certified Inpatient Coder [CIC]; Certified Risk Adjustment Coder [CRC]; Certified Professional Coder – Payer [CPC-P]; and a variety of specialty credentials)

Salary: According to PayScale (2021), among the 3,210 medical coders responding, they had the following salary ranges:

  • 10th percentile: $30,000 annually
  • 50th percentile (median): $42,314
  • 90th percentile: $61,000

Become a Medical Records and Health Information Technician (HIT)

Typical education required: Associate’s degree

What they do: Health information technicians (HIT) organize and manage medical records. They ensure the accuracy, accessibility, confidentiality, security, and orderliness of medical data, working with both paper and digital files. They employ coding systems to categorize patient conditions and treatments to maintain medical records and assist with billing. AHIMA (2021) recommends that prospective HIT students should seek out educational programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management (CAHIIM).

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2020) estimates that the demand for medical records and health information technicians will grow 8 percent between 2019 and 2029, much faster than the average growth for all occupations anticipated over that time period (4 percent).

Recommended professional certifications: Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT); Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA); Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR); Certified Coding Associate (CCA); AAPC’s medical coding certifications (Certified Professional Coder [CPC]; Certified Outpatient Coder [COC]; Certified Inpatient Coder [CIC]; Certified Risk Adjustment Coder [CRC]; Certified Professional Coder – Payer [CPC-P]; and a variety of specialty credentials); Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) certifications

Salary: According to PayScale (2021), among the 201 HITs responding, they had the following salary ranges:

  • 10th percentile: $28,000 annually
  • 50th percentile (median): $35,537
  • 90th percentile: $51,000

Become a Medical Records & Coding Supervisor

Typical education required: Bachelor’s degree (although experience, professional certifications, and an associate’s degree may be sufficient in some settings)

What they do: These managerial healthcare IT professionals oversee the maintenance, upkeep, organization, security, and transfer of paper and electronic medical records. These supervisors are responsible for ensuring compliance with standards and coordinating with departments and healthcare institutions. They may manage less experienced medical coders or records clerks and are tasked with training staff on the implementation of new procedures. The Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management (CAHIIM) provides a list of accredited bachelor’s programs in health information technology and related fields across the country, including distance-based (i.e., online) programs.

Recommended professional certifications and training: Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT); Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA); Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR); Certified Coding Associate (CCA); AAPC’s medical coding certifications (Certified Professional Coder [CPC]; Certified Outpatient Coder [COC]; Certified Inpatient Coder [CIC]; Certified Risk Adjustment Coder [CRC]; Certified Professional Coder – Payer [CPC-P]; and a variety of specialty credentials)

Salary: According to PayScale (2021), among the 188 medical records supervisors responding, they had the following salary ranges:

  • 10th percentile: $37,000 annually
  • 50th percentile (median): $47,417
  • 90th percentile: $61,000

Become a Clinical Informatics Specialist and Nursing Informatics Specialist

Typical education required: Bachelor’s degree and registered nursing (RN) license (particularly for nursing informatics specialists)

What they do: Clinical informatics specialists—the “big data” professionals in healthcare IT—examine medical data to make treatment more effective and efficient. The application of data science to healthcare is one of the hottest new fields since they make clinical data actionable, speaking to desired trends and outcomes in healthcare. Clinical informatics specialists—also referred to as health informatics specialists—build user-interfaces; mine data; manage and incorporate evidence-based research; train staff; and coordinate efforts between those who enter data (i.e., medical coders) and healthcare workers who use it.

Finally, there are several resources for people interested in this field, including the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society’s (HIMSS 2021) examination of the subfields of healthcare informatics, as well as the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), which “aims to lead the way in transforming healthcare through trusted science, education, and the practice of informatics.” A closely related career is a nursing informatics specialist, registered nurses (RN) who also have experience in healthcare informatics and technology.

Recommended professional certifications: American Nurses Credentialing Center’s (ANCC) Informatics Nursing Certification; AMIA’s Advanced Interprofessional Informatics Certification; Epic systems certification (generally provided through employers)

Salary: According to PayScale (2021), among the 610 clinical informatics specialists responding, they had the following salary ranges:

  • 10th percentile: $55,000 annually
  • 50th percentile (median): $77,651
  • 90th percentile: $107,000

For the 58 responding nursing informatics specialists, the figures were (PayScale 2021)

  • 10th percentile: $63,000 annually
  • 50th percentile (median): $84,744
  • 90th percentile: $115,000

Become a Clinical Analyst

Typical education required: Bachelor’s degree

What they do: Clinical analysts are increasingly replacing medical records clerks. These professionals work to improve the workflow and integration of health records and patient care by collecting data; running targeted reports; creating databases; training staff to work with computerized health informatics systems; and liaising between various medical personnel.

They are employed either in a general health care setting or to help manage clinical trials. They must be strong communicators as their primary responsibility is to turn mountains of data into actionable items healthcare administrators can implement.

Recommended professional certifications: American Health Information Management Association’s (AHIMA) Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA), Epic systems certification (generally provided through employers)

Salary: According to PayScale (2021), among the 484 clinical analysts responding, they had the following salary ranges:

  • 10th percentile: $50,000 annually
  • 50th percentile (median): $70,045
  • 90th percentile: $92,000

Become a Clinical Applications Specialist

Typical education required: Bachelor’s degree

What they do: Clinical application development—a field closely related to clinical analyses—involves the installation, maintenance, and management of rapidly evolving healthcare software and applications. These professionals are well-versed in the coding systems (e.g., ICD-10), medical billing procedures, and HIPAA confidentiality legislation. They may have expertise using various healthcare informatics tools such as Epic Systems, Cerner, Meditech, AllScripts, and Athena Health.

They can work for medical equipment manufacturers and marketing groups, keeping health informatics personnel across hospitals up-to-date on software and applications. Additionally, it’s recommended for clinical application specialists to be familiar with HL7, the organization (and affiliated standards), which promote the successful interoperability of health data from around the world.

Recommended professional certifications: Epic systems certification (generally provided through employers); HL7 certifications (Clinical Document Architecture [CDA], Version 2, Version 3, Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR)); International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety (IAHSS) certifications

Salary: According to PayScale (2021), among the 61 clinical applications specialists responding, they had the following salary ranges:

  • 10th percentile: $55,000 annually
  • 50th percentile (median): $77,651
  • 90th percentile: $107,000

Become a Health information Manager/Director

Typical education required: Bachelor’s degree (MBA preferred)

What they do: Health information managers and directors—executive leaders in the healthcare IT industry—generally have not only a bachelor’s degree but also ample experience in advanced clinical billing, medical coding, institutional auditing, HIPAA compliance, and a solid understanding of health informatics. They manage large teams—including the coding and medical records departments—ensuring the smooth processing of contracts and upholding best practices in health information and technology.

According to the BLS (2020), this is one of the most in-demand subfields of healthcare IT, with a projected 32 percent increase in jobs in this field between 2019 and 2029.

Recommended professional certifications: They should ideally be experts in the same fields as the people they manage, successfully achieving credentials such as the Certified HIPAA Professional (CHP); Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA); Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR); Certified Coding Associate (CCA); AAPC’s medical coding certifications; AHIMA’s; Epic systems certification (generally provided through employers); ISC2 certifications

Salary: According to PayScale (2021), among the 602 health information management directors responding, they had the following salary ranges:

  • 10th percentile: $46,000 annually
  • 50th percentile (median): $74,168
  • 90th percentile: $127,000

Become a Chief Security Officer

Typical education required: Bachelor’s degree, master’s preferred

What they do: With the increase in the use of EHR, healthcare facilities and clinics must be keenly observant of the security surrounding those records. Most large health care organizations now have Chief Security Officers (CSOs) or Chief Information Security Officers (CISO). These executive-level positions manage information security, including compliance with state and federal regulations, security breach monitoring, researching best practices, and implementing security procedures.

Professionals in this role typically report directly to the CEO and can significantly influence the path of records management within a given organization. CSOs often are responsible for managing a team of healthcare IT professionals such as clinical analysts, registered health information officers, and clinical informatics specialists. This job requires candidates to have extensive experience in healthcare IT and security management, in addition to formal education in IT.

Recommended professional certifications: Ideally, professionals in this field will have certifications similar to those they supervise. These include: Certified HIPAA Professional (CHP); Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA); Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR); Certified Coding Associate (CCA); AAPC’s medical coding certifications; AHIMA’s; Epic systems certification (generally provided through employers); ISC2 certifications.

Salary: According to PayScale (2021), among the 786 chief information security officers responding, they had the following salary ranges:

  • 10th percentile: $105,000 annually
  • 50th percentile (median): $165,467
  • 90th percentile: $229,000
University of Illinois at Chicago
Online MS - Health Informatics
Post-Master's Certificate - Health Informatics
Post-Baccalaureate Certificate - Health Informatics
University of Cincinnati Online
Master of Health Informatics (MHI)
BS - Health Information Management
AAS - Health Information Systems
Cancer Registry Management Certificate
Rasmussen University - Online
Health Information Technician (Associate's)
Health Information Management (Bachelor's)
Medical Billing and Coding (Certificate)
*sponsored
Kimmy Gustafson
Kimmy Gustafson Writer

Kimmy Gustafson is a freelance writer with a passion for sharing stories of bravery. Her love for world-traveling began when her family moved to Spain when she was six and since then, she has lived overseas extensively, visited six continents, and traveled to over 25 countries. She is fluent in Spanish and conversational in French. When not writing or parenting she can be found kiteboarding, hiking, or cooking.