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 (2013) 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 December 2015, there were over 141,000 U.S. jobs posted under “healthcare IT” on Indeed, and this trend shows no signs of abatement.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2015) reports that jobs openings in healthcare occupations—including health information technology careers—are expected to grow 19 percent between 2014 and 2024, nearly triple the rate anticipated for all occupations during that time period (7 percent). The projected addition of 2.3 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 five to ten percent of a hospital’s IT budget, but this sector has swelled to between 25 and 35 percent (Becker’s Hospital Review 2014). Healthcare IT News (2015) 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 (Accenture 2014).

So what are some of these proliferative careers which pay thought to the twin juggernaut employment sectors: healthcare and technology? And what kind of education does an individual need to break into these fields? Burning Glass (2014) has traced the rise of health informatics jobs which are related to the collection, processing, and secure storage of health information for the purposes of preserving 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 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.

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 in accordance with HIPAA. Finally, Burning Glass (2014) has noted that 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 certificationsRegistered Health Information Technician (RHIT); Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR)

Salary: According to Payscale (2015), among the 608 health information management (HIM) clerks responding, they had the following salary ranges:

  • 10th percentile: $21,000 annually
  • 25th percentile: $25,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $30,828
  • 75th percentile: $39,000
  • 90th percentile: $45,000

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. According to Burning Glass (2014), job postings in this field stayed online for an average of 40 days—substantially longer than postings for medical clerks at 18 days—which indicates a strong demand in this subfield.

Recommended professional certificationsCertified 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 (2015), among the 2,555 medical coders responding, they had the following salary ranges:

  • 10th percentile: $27,000 annually
  • 25th percentile: $31,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $37,969
  • 75th percentile: $45,000
  • 90th percentile: $53,000

ICD-10 Project Manager

Typical education required: Associate’s degree or less

What they do: After a one-year delay, the tenth edition of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10) was adopted in 2015, requiring that medical coders and health IT personnel develop an understanding of the updated ICD data definitions and structures. InformationWeek (2015) reports that among medical coders, there’s a profound shortage of professionals who are familiar with the newest standards, and a period of conversion is necessary. Similar to coders, these project managers use electronic coding systems to enter patient data, and may even work remotely.

Professional training: AHIMA—one of the primary professional certification organizations in healthcare IT—has developed an ICD-10 training program.

Salary: Since ICD is in transition, the most recent salary data comes from ICD-9 coders. According to Payscale (2015), among the 119 responding ICD-9 coders, they had the following salary ranges:

  • 10th percentile: $31,000 annually
  • 25th percentile: $36,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $43,598
  • 75th percentile: $61,000
  • 90th percentile: $71,000

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 (2015) 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 2015) estimates that the demand for medical records and health information technicians will swell 15 percent between 2014 and 2024, much faster than the average growth for all occupations anticipated over that time period (7 percent). For additional information on this booming career, check out the state of Virginia’s comprehensive Career Guide for Medical Records and Health Information Technicians.

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 (2015), among the 192 HITs responding, they had the following salary ranges:

  • 10th percentile: $22,000 annually
  • 25th percentile: $25,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $32,372
  • 75th percentile: $39,000
  • 90th percentile: $49,000

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, especially with the recent adoption of ICD-10. 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); AHIMA’s ICD-10 training program

Salary: According to Payscale (2015), among the 137 medical records supervisors responding, they had the following salary ranges:

  • 10th percentile: $31,000 annually
  • 25th percentile: $36,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $40,916
  • 75th percentile: $48,000
  • 90th percentile: $57,000

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 2015) 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, a registered nurse (RN) who also has 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 (2015), among the 380 clinical informatics specialists responding, they had the following salary ranges:

  • 10th percentile: $48,000 annually
  • 25th percentile: $58,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $68,414
  • 75th percentile: $81,000
  • 90th percentile: $98,00

For the 54 responding nursing informatics specialists, the figures were (Payscale 2015)

  • 10th percentile: $50,000 annually
  • 25th percentile: $60,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $73,902
  • 75th percentile: $84,000
  • 90th percentile: $95,000

Clinical Analyst

Typical education required: Bachelor’s degree

What they do: Burning Glass (2014) reports that 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.

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 (2015), among the 490 clinical analysts responding, they had the following salary ranges:

  • 10th percentile: $45,000 annually
  • 25th percentile: $54,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $65,382
  • 75th percentile: $77,000
  • 90th percentile: $90,000

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 2.7, Version 3 RIM 2.36); International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety (IAHSS) certifications

Salary: According to Payscale (2015), among the 336 clinical applications specialists responding, they had the following salary ranges:

  • 10th percentile: $43,000 annually
  • 25th percentile: $53,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $67,830
  • 75th percentile: $81,000
  • 90th percentile: $91,000

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 Burning Glass (2014), this is one of the most in-demand subfields of healthcare IT, with job postings remaining online for an average of 41 days. InformationWeek (2015) echoed the the sizzling demand for health information directors who oversee the seamless coordination of electronic health records (EHR) and the functioning of patient care.

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 ICD-10 training program; Epic systems certification (generally provided through employers); ISC2 certifications

Salary: According to Payscale (2015), among the 536 health information management directors responding, they had the following salary ranges:

  • 10th percentile: $44,000 annually
  • 25th percentile: $56,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $71,840
  • 75th percentile: $89,000
  • 90th percentile: $110,000
Barry Franklin
Barry Franklin Editor

Barry is the Editor-in-Chief of MedicalTechnologySchools.com, operated by educational web publisher Sechel Ventures Partners LLC, which he co-founded. Previously, Barry served as a VP at a Silicon Valley software company. In addition to running editorial operations at Sechel, Barry also serves on the Board of Trustees at a local K-8 school, and graduated from Carnegie Mellon University, where he also met his wife.