Becoming a Healthcare IT Specialist: Job Description & Salary

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a healthcare IT specialist? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary statistics to help you decide whether becoming a healthcare IT specialist is the right move.
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The Pros and Cons of a Healthcare IT Specialist Career

Healthcare IT specialists maintain patient records and keep them secure, as well as keeping up with current computer and software technology and legislative requirements. Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of a career as a healthcare IT specialist.

Pros of a Healthcare IT Specialist Career
Assist in streamlining healthcare system*
Healthy job market (22% growth from 2012-2022)*
Flexibility in job location*
Good salary relative to education (average annual salary around $36,000)*
Work with emerging technologies*

Cons of a Healthcare IT Specialist Career
Long hours are fairly common*
May need to be 'on call'*
Long periods in front of computer can lead to eyestrain and back discomfort*
Potential for high amounts of stress*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Essential Career Information

Job Responsibilities

Since patient data is frequently used for quality management and medical research, healthcare IT specialists must ensure that databases are complete, accurate and made available only to authorized personnel. Protecting patient confidentiality while also ensuring the integrity of data is a delicate balance that must be maintained by anyone working with medical information. As a healthcare IT specialist, you might also play an important role in research support, systems analysis, technical writing and project planning.

Working as a healthcare IT specialist involves interacting with various committees. If you assist in planning projects, you may have to work with steering committees or expert panels to set project timelines, objectives and budgets. Overseeing the implementation of electronic health records is another common task for healthcare IT specialists, with a lot of training often attached. You might also find yourself constantly developing new training materials and evaluating workflow as it relates to new system implementation.

Salary and Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects robust job growth for medical records and health information technicians in the coming years, with overall employment expected to increase by 22% from 2012-2022. As of May 2014, the BLS reported the median annual salary for medical records and health information technicians was about $36,000.

Requirements

Most healthcare IT specialist positions require a bachelor's degree in information technology, computer science or a related field. Many also require a certain amount of experience in health informatics or IT work in another field. Healthcare IT specialists are expected to be well versed in a wide range of computer applications, from basic word processing and database programs to clinical document architecture and software programming. Some positions may prefer some experience with direct patient care in a clinical setting.

If you're interested in pursuing a career as a healthcare IT specialist, you'll need to have strong communication skills along with good problem-solving abilities. The ability to communicate effectively is especially important, since you may find yourself explaining the utility of a new information system to people of varied technical backgrounds. A good deal of patience is also required for training employees in new applications.

What Are Employers Looking For?

If you meet the standard prerequisites for a position as a healthcare IT specialist, you'll likely have the opportunity to work in a wide range of healthcare settings. While responsibilities may vary significantly depending on employer, some job postings open as of March 2012 clarify some of the specific duties of a healthcare IT professional.

  • A not-for-profit healthcare organization in Washington, DC, seeks a technical specialist for its health IT department. The position supports IT projects, workshops and meetings and requires a bachelor's degree in health informatics and one year of relevant work experience.
  • A primary care association in New Mexico is looking for a health IT implementation specialist to oversee the adoption of an electronic health records system for small physician group practices. The position requires a bachelor's degree in a related field and at least two years of experience working in the healthcare IT industry.
  • A large technology company seeks a healthcare IT transition manager in Kansas City, Missouri. Easing the transition to new IT products for staff and customers is the key function of this job. This position requires extensive travel and requires a bachelor's degree.

Standing Out in the Field

One way to make yourself an attractive candidate in the competitive job market for IT specialists is to stay up to date with emerging technologies and software applications. Your responsibilities as a healthcare IT specialist may extend to research and development of new software and systems, so knowledge in these areas is key. Understanding current research and test cases related to healthcare IT systems will be very helpful as a prospective employee.

Certification may be another way to stand out in the healthcare IT field. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) offers credentials in several areas, including certification as a registered health information technician (RHIT). Product-specific certifications offered by software companies may also be appropriate for advancing your IT specialist career.

Alternative Career Options

While many opportunities exist within the broad field of healthcare information technology, spending most of your time in front of a monitor may not be ideal for you. Healthcare organizations feature many administrative career options, some devoted entirely to streamlining patient care and increasing efficiency. One such position is medical and health services manager. As a medical and health services manager, you'll plan direct and coordinate medical services in a healthcare facility. These positions usually require a bachelor's degree, and the BLS projects 22% employment growth from 2010-2020. As of 2011, the BLS reported a median annual salary of about $86,000 for medical and health services managers.

If you'd prefer to pursue an alternative career with a technological focus, you might want to consider a medical transcriptionist position. This occupation involves converting voice recordings of physicians into written reports. Medical transcriptionists also use medical terminology and abbreviations to prepare patients' medical histories and other documents. While these positions generally require only a 2-year degree or certificate, the BLS reported a median salary of only about $33,000 as of 2011. Employment growth is also expected to be slower than average for medical transcriptionists.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA: Health Care Management
      • Master of Health Informatics
      • Master of Health Information Management
      • Master of Healthcare Admin
      • Master: Management/Health Care Mgmt
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Health Information Management
      • Health Information Management
      • Bachelor: Healthcare Admin
      • Bachelor: Health Science
    Certificate
      • Medical Office Administration
      • Medical Billing and Coding Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    2. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
      • Master of Science in Health Informatics
  • Online Programs Available
    3. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSHS in Health Care Quality
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate in Health Care Quality
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Concordia University Nebraska

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MHA Health Information Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    5. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
      • Doctor of Nursing Practice with an Emphasis in Educational Leadership
    Master's
      • MBA: Health Systems Management
      • MS in Health Care Administration
      • MS in Health Care Informatics
      • MS in Nursing: Health Care Informatics
      • Master of Public Administration - Health Care Management
      • MBA and MS in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems (dual degree)
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Health Care Administration
      • BS in Health Sciences: Professional Development & Advanced Patient Care
      • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science
  • Online Programs Available
    7. The University of Scranton

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Health Administration
      • Master of Science in Health Informatics
    Certificate
      • Executive Certificate in Health Administration
      • Health Informatics Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Health Care Administration
      • M.S. Nursing - Associate to Master's - Nursing Administration
      • M.S. Nursing - Nursing Administration (Post-MBA)
      • M.S. Nursing and Master of Business Administration
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. Healthcare Administration
      • B.S. General Studies - Life Sciences
    Associate's
      • A.S. General Studies - Life Sciences
    Certificate
      • Post-Master's Certificate - Nursing Administration
  • Campus Locations:
    9. Brightwood College

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Medical Office Specialist
      • Medical Billing and Coding Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Health Information Management
    Associate's
      • Associate: Health Information Management
      • Associate: Healthcare Management
      • Associate of Science - Insurance Billing and Coding Specialist
    Certificate
      • Diploma: Medical Office Admin

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • MBA: Health Care Management
  • BS in Health Information Management
  • Medical Office Administration

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George Mason University

  • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
  • Master of Science in Health Informatics

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The George Washington University

  • MSHS in Health Care Quality
  • Graduate Certificate in Health Care Quality

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Concordia University Nebraska

  • MHA Health Information Technology

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American University

  • Master of Science in Healthcare Management

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Grand Canyon University

  • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
  • MBA: Health Systems Management
  • BS in Health Care Administration

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The University of Scranton

  • MBA - Healthcare Management
  • Master of Health Administration
  • Executive Certificate in Health Administration
  • Health Informatics Certificate

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Indiana Wesleyan University

  • Master of Business Administration - Health Care Administration
  • B.S. Healthcare Administration
  • A.S. General Studies - Life Sciences
  • Post-Master's Certificate - Nursing Administration

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