Earning an online degree from one of the best online colleges for health information technology can be a great way to enter the field. Most degrees in health information technology are available at the associate or bachelor’s degree level and are also referred to as health informatics degrees. Associate degrees in the field will provide students with a handful of prerequisite courses in mathematics, English, and composition before getting into courses that teach the fundamentals of the position. Courses like this typically include basic medical terminology, introduction to information systems, basic disease coding, and health care law.
Students at the bachelor’s level will usually see more basic-level courses that can include English, mathematics, composition, and social and physical sciences. Most bachelor’s degree programs will also provide students with an extensive knowledge of modern medical billing and coding, as well as how to properly use and manage the software systems that support the industry. Most associate degree programs can be completed in two to three years, while bachelor’s degree programs generally take four to five years.
Typically, an individual hoping to gain a career in the field will need at least an associate degree in health information technology, health informatics, or a related discipline, and hold a professional certification. However, some advanced positions, or jobs in areas where there are high levels of completion, may prefer applicants to possess a bachelor’s degree. In most environments, individuals working in the field work almost exclusively in hospitals and physician’s offices. Individuals holding a degree and professional certification can usually find employment with a health insurance provider as well.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 40% of all health records and information technicians work in state, local, and private hospitals, while an additional 23% were employed in physician’s offices. Most usually spend their days working at a desk in an office environment where they spend several hours at a time using a computer. Only about 15% of employees in the field worked part time in 2010, and some positions at 24-hour health care facilities require employees to work overnight shifts. The BLS also reports that job growth is expected to be faster than average compared to all occupations at 22% through the year 2020.
While no licensure is required to pursue a career as a medical records and health information technician, most employers will prefer employees to be certified. The unique thing about health care IT is that there are several organizations that offer certification in the field. While certification requirements can vary by organization, most require either a degree from an accredited program, the completion of an exam, or both. Once of the most common certifications is the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT), which is administered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). This certification requires individuals to possess at least an associate degree from an approved school, as well as the completion of an exam. Once certified, technicians must renew their certification regularly by participating in continuing education courses.
When considering any type of degree, particularly one in health care, it is essential to ensure that the degree you get is accredited. The best online colleges for heath information technology should be accredited by a national or regional accrediting organization that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. This will not only show potential employers that the education you received met an acceptable level of quality, but is also essential if you plan on earning a higher-level degree. In most cases, a properly accredited degree is an essential prerequisite for any postgraduate program.
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