Increased demand for healthcare services and the proliferation of technology in healthcare has led to an explosion of opportunities in health information management (HIM). Finding qualified HIM professionals to oversee and manage patient records is critically important to the success of many of today’s hospitals and healthcare organizations.
In evaluating new candidates for HIM positions, employers will consider an applicant’s education, their skills related to HIM and industry certifications, especially those granted by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). According to AHIMA, certified HIM professionals are in high demand, but many students don’t realize the importance of industry credentials in advancing their future careers.
Certification is not required for all HIM professionals, but will certainly give you an advantage in seeking employment. Whether you’re just beginning your health information management career, or looking to unlock new opportunities for advancement, AHIMA certifications play a critical role in your professional growth and development.
Why should I get certified?
Obtaining an industry certification not only helps you deepen your knowledge and expertise in your field but also shows employers that you are committed to your work and continued education. AHIMA offers credentials in HIM and coding, as well as specialty certifications to help HIM professionals achieve greater success in their chosen profession.
Two credentials in particular—RHIA and RHIT—can play an instrumental role in helping you land your first job out of college or advance your HIM career.
How do I know which certification to get?
While RHIT and RHIA credentials may look and sound similar, each lends itself to a different career track. Before you begin your HIM career, you’ll want to make sure that you know which track is better suited to your educational and professional goals:
RHIT—Registered Health Information Technician
If you’re just beginning your career in HIM and looking to become a health information technician, the RHIT certification might be the right track for you.
Registered Health Information Technicians (RHITs) often hold technical jobs and specialize in managing medical records. As an RHIT, you’ll focus on ensuring the completeness and accuracy of patient records, as well as coding diagnoses and medical procedures for reimbursement and research.
Many RHITs work in hospitals, but there are also opportunities for RHITs in other healthcare settings, such as office-based physician practices or nursing homes, and organizations that collect patient data, such as pharmaceutical companies or health insurance firms.
RHIT applicants must complete an accredited associate’s level HIM degree program before they may sit for the exam. With additional experience, RHIT-certified professionals may advance to management positions, especially if combined with a bachelor's degree in HIM or related program.
RHIA – Registered Health Information Administrator
If you’re seeking a position that focuses on computer information systems, collecting patient information and analyzing patient data, then you might consider applying for your RHIA certification.
Registered Health Information Administrators (RHIAs) work as a liaison between healthcare providers, insurance companies and the patient. RHIAs often hold leadership positions, such as HIM directors or managers, and oversee the management of patient health information and medical records.
As an RHIA, you’ll interact with several different levels of an organization, facilitating communication and collaboration between clinical, financial and administrative branches. RHIAs work in hospitals and healthcare facilities, such as clinics, physician practices and ambulatory care settings. There are also significant opportunities for RHIAs in the insurance, consulting and pharmaceutical industries.
In order to sit for your RHIA certification, you’ll need to complete the degree requirements of a programmatically accredited bachelor’s or master’s program in HIM.
How getting certified helps you on the job market
Earning your RHIT or RHIA certification makes you more employable in a wider variety of roles. A degree in health information management and a certification makes you highly qualified for many job opportunities in health information management.
We broke down the numbers to find the average salary for health information management careers based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
No matter your HIM career goals, obtaining your RHIT or RHIA credentials is important for your continued career success. Understanding how these career tracks may differ—in educational prerequisites as well as opportunities for future growth and advancement—is the first step toward finding your niche in the HIM field.