Medical Records Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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Learn about careers in medical records. Get job description, salary and education requirement information. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a career in medical records.
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Pros and Cons of a Medical Records Career

The health information and medical records field provides opportunities for individuals handling patient records and for managers overseeing facilities' health information systems. Job titles in the medical records field include medical coder, health information manager and medical secretary. Below is a glimpse at these jobs:

Medical Coders Health Information Managers Medical Secretary
Career Overview Medical coders maintain healthcare records and convert medical information into clinical codes Health information managers oversee the information and medical records department in a healthcare facility Medical secretaries provide clerical and administrative support in healthcare facilities and physicians' offices
Education Requirements Certificate or associate degree Bachelor's degree No formal education required, but certificate programs are available
Program Length One to two years Four years One year
Certification Certification is not required, but employers prefer certification from the American Academy of Professional Coders and the American Health Information Management Association Certification is not required, but organizations like the American Health Information Management Association offer credentials Voluntary certification is available through the American Association of Medical Assistants
Experience Requirements None; entry level Varies by position None; entry level
Job Outlook for 2012-2022 41,100 additional jobs expected (22% increase)* 73,300 additional jobs expected (23% increase)* 189,200 additional jobs expected (36% increase)*
Median Salary (2014) About $36,000* About $93,000* About $32,000*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Medical Coders

Medical coders work in physicians' offices, hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities, organizing patient records, entering medical data and ensuring the confidentiality of information. The job requires coders to review patient records and ensure the information is complete and accurate, which may require consulting with physicians and medical professionals. These workers translate medical data into codes and manage such data using health record indexes as well as storage/retrieval systems.

Requirements

Entry-level positions in medical coding usually require the completion of a certificate or associate degree program. In one of these programs, you can expect to take courses in medical terminology, coding systems, anatomy and physiology, health information management principles, procedural coding and reimbursement issues. Select programs may require you to complete a cooperative education experience in the health information technology industry.

Below are some examples of medical coder positions available in December 2012:

  • A New Jersey hospital-based clinical outsourcing company is looking for a medical coder with at least a high school education and one year of experience in medical coding. The employer prefers applicants with certification in the field.
  • An ophthalmology center in Minnesota is searching for a medical coder who has completed a coding course from the American Academy of Professional Coders or the American Health Information Management Association. The employer requires applicants to have at least two years of medical billing experience.
  • A California healthcare company is looking for a contract medical coder who will work with physicians to ensure the accuracy of coding techniques. Applicants must have certification as a medical coder to qualify for the position.

Standing Out

While not mandatory for this career, many employers prefer that medical coders hold credentials from a professional organization. In fact, according to December 2012 job listings, employers often prefer applicants who are certified by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) or the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). The AHIMA, for example, offers the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) credential to candidates with associate degrees from accredited health information management programs. This credential also requires passage of an exam.

Health Information Managers

A health information manager is responsible for the medical records and health information department in a medical facility, such as a physician's office, hospital or clinic. Managers direct the activities of health information workers, create schedules, maintain budgets and report to upper management. These managers must also ensure the facility complies with regulations and laws regarding patient privacy.

Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), managers must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree to qualify for employment. Some employers require health information managers to have a master's degree. A degree in health administration usually includes coursework in health economics, budgeting, human resources management, hospital organization and strategic planning. In some programs, you can focus your studies in a specific type of medical facility, like hospitals, nursing homes or mental health centers.

Below are some examples of health information management positions available in December 2012:

  • An Illinois hospital is looking for a health information manager with a minimum of a 4-year degree from an accredited health information management program. The employer requires applicants to hold the RHIT or Registered Health Information Administrator credential.
  • A Minnesota employer is searching for a health information manager to oversee the facility's health information department and ensure compliance with government regulations. Applicants must have a degree in health information technology and at least 15 years of experience in the field with a minimum of five years in a supervisor position.
  • A surgical management company in South Dakota is seeking a health information services manager with a minimum of a bachelor's degree in business administration or healthcare administration. The employer requires applicants to have a certification as a coding specialist.

Standing Out

December 2012 job postings reveal that employers often favor applicants who hold certification, particularly from the AHIMA. While the organization's RHIT credential may help you stand out in the field, the Registered Health Information Administrator credentials is specially geared toward health information managers. Candidates need to hold bachelor's degrees from accredited health information management programs, as well as passing a certification exam.

Medical Secretary

Medical secretaries provide clerical and administrative support to physicians and healthcare providers in hospitals, clinics and doctors' offices. The duties of a medical secretary include preparing correspondence, taking medical histories and arranging patient appointments as well as insurance billing. These workers also answer phones, greet patients and maintain medical records.

Requirements

According to the BLS, no formal education is required to work as a medical secretary, but some may complete certificate programs through community colleges or technical schools. A medical secretary certificate program may include coursework in medical terminology, insurance and coding, office administration and medical transcription. Some secretaries train for the position on the job.

See below for examples of medical secretary positions available in December 2012:

  • An Illinois obstetrics and gynecology private practice is looking for a medical secretary with a minimum of a high school diploma and at least three years of experience as a medical secretary.
  • A Florida healthcare facility is seeking a medical secretary with experience releasing medical records and prepping patient charts in a high-volume office.
  • A medical school in Maryland is searching for a medical secretary with a high school education and 2-3 year of experience in a medical office.

Standing Out

Medical secretaries can obtain certification to demonstrate proficiency in the field and stand out among the competition. The American Association of Medical Assistants offers the Certified Medical Assistant credential to candidates who have completed medical assisting programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. You will also need to pass a certification exam, and you'll need to renew certification every 60 months by earning continuing education credits or passing a recertification exam.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Health Information Management
      • MBA: Health Care Management
      • Master of Healthcare Admin
      • Master: Management/Health Care Mgmt
      • Master of Health Informatics
    Bachelor's
      • Health Information Management
      • BS in 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. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
    Master's
      • MBA: Health Care Management
      • MS - Healthcare Management
      • MS - Healthcare Management - Informatics
      • Master of Science in Management - Healthcare Management
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Health Care Management
      • B.S. - Health Care Management - Health Informatics
      • BS - Business Administration - Health Care Management
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
    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
  • Online Programs Available
    6. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Healthcare Management
      • Master of Business Admin: Healthcare Admin
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Healthcare Management
      • Bachelor of Healthcare Management - HSA Mgt.
      • Bachelor of Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    7. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Southern New Hampshire University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA in Healthcare Informatics
      • International MBA in Healthcare Informatics
      • MBA in Healthcare Management
      • MS Information Technology: Healthcare Informatics Concentration
      • International MBA in Healthcare Management
      • MSM in Healthcare
    Bachelor's
      • BS Healthcare Administration - Healthcare Info Mgmt
      • BS Business Admin w/conc in Healthcare Administration
      • BS Healthcare Administration
      • BS Health Science
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Health Care Admin
      • PhD in Business Admin - Health Care Admin
    Master's
      • MBA - Health Care Admin
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Health Admin
      • MS - Health Admin Informatics

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master of Health Information Management
  • Health Information Management
  • Medical Office Administration

Which subject are you interested in?

George Mason University

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

What is your highest level of education?

The George Washington University

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

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
  • MBA: Health Care Management
  • B.S. - Health Care Management

Are you a US citizen?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Technology Management
  • Bachelor: Health Information Management
  • Associate: Health Information Management
  • Diploma: Medical Office Admin

What is your highest level of education?

American InterContinental University

  • Master of Healthcare Management
  • Master of Business Admin: Healthcare Admin
  • Bachelor of Business Admin: Healthcare Management
  • Bachelor of Healthcare Management - HSA Mgt.

Are you a US citizen?

American University

  • Master of Science in Healthcare Management

What is your highest level of education?

Southern New Hampshire University

  • MBA in Healthcare Informatics
  • International MBA in Healthcare Informatics
  • BS Healthcare Administration - Healthcare Info Mgmt
  • BS Business Admin w/conc in Healthcare Administration

What is your highest level of education?