Female Health Information Technician at work

How to Become a Health Information Technician

Duties, Responsibilities, Schooling, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

Female Health Information Technician at work

Behind the fast-paced emergency rooms, doctors’ offices, and every other patient-facing healthcare facility, there’s an entire world of healthcare information that plays a major role in providing quality patient care. If you’re excited by the idea of collecting and tracking information that helps drive decision-making for doctors, nurses, and other professionals, there’s a good chance you might thrive in a new career as a health information technician.

This career guide will teach you everything you need to know about becoming a health information technician, including the educational requirements, certifications, day-to-day duties, and how long it generally takes to launch your new career as a health information technician.

Not sure if becoming a health information technician is right for you? Click here to see our full list of the best entry-level medical jobs.

Health Information Technician Definition

What is a Health Information Technician?

Accurate patient records and medical databases inform everything from individual patient-care decisions to public health policy. Health information technicians collect and verify patient data, including symptoms, medical histories, and more. They also use electronic health record (EHR) software to help analyze bigger-picture trends in healthcare data.

Health Information Technician: Job Description

What Does a Health Information Technician Do?

Health information technicians don’t work with patients directly, but they do work with registered nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals to clarify diagnoses or get additional information as necessary. In addition to verifying and classifying patient data, health information techs also work with administrative staff to collect and analyze data that helps healthcare facilities improve operating procedures and run more smoothly.

Health Information Technician Duties

Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of health information technicians include:

  • Tracking treatment and follow-up information for individual patients
  • Organizing and updating information in healthcare software and registries
  • Categorizing important data so it’s easy to find and analyze
  • Performing data analysis to assist management or administration teams
  • Maintaining confidentiality of patients’ private medical information
  • Responding to record requests, authorizations, or other legal requests

Health Information Technician Skills

To succeed as a health information technician, you’ll need solid analytical skills and good attention to detail. As a health information tech, you’ll be interpreting medical information that must be precisely verified and categorized, both for the benefit of individual patients and for the success of your healthcare facility. You’ll also need the interpersonal and communication skills to talk about patient information or data discrepancies with everyone from doctors and nurses to finance or administrative teams. Having a strong sense of ethics is also a must, as you’ll be dealing with patient information that’s subject to strict privacy laws.

Where Do Health Information Technicians Work?

The majority of health information technicians work in hospitals or private physicians’ offices. However, there are also a good number of jobs available within healthcare management or at health insurance companies, and even with the federal government. Most health information techs work full-time, 40 hour work weeks. While standard business hours are relatively common, facilities that provide round-the-clock care may require evening or overnight shifts.

Woman handing a piece of paper to a man

Health Information Technician Schooling & Certification

How Long Does it Take to Become a Health Information Technician?

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Health Information Technician?

One of the best ways to get started as a health information technician is to complete an Allied Health program from an accredited college or university. By earning your associate’s degree in Allied Health, you’ll be well-equipped to launch your career as a health information tech, with a versatile skill set that can transfer to any number of other roles in the healthcare industry. While many associates degrees can take years to earn, if you’ve already got your Allied Health diploma, it’s possible to complete your Associate of Applied Science in Allied Health in as little as 30 weeks!

Like any long-term goal, working toward a new career as a health information technician seems much more attainable when you break it down into individual steps.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to the education, experience, and certifications you’ll need to become a health information technician:

1. Enroll in an Allied Health Degree Program

Earning your associates degree in allied health will make you a great candidate for health information technician jobs. It will give you a well-rounded knowledge of the healthcare industry that will bring plenty of opportunities to advance your career once you get your foot in the door.

If you’ve already got an allied health diploma, stepping up to an Associate of Applied Science degree is a great way to stand out in a competitive job market. It’s also surprisingly accessible. For example, to enroll in the Associate of Applied Science in Allied Health program at Brookline College, all you’ll need is a passing score on a Scholastic Level Exam and a computer literacy exam, plus a high school diploma or GED (assuming you’ve already completed your Allied Health diploma, of course.)

2. Earn Your Associate’s Degree in Allied Health

Since you’ll be transferring credit hours from your Allied Health diploma, much of your associate’s degree program will involve helping you become a well-rounded professional with a greater understanding of the healthcare industry. Not only will this help you succeed as a healthcare information technician, but it will open up many doors when it comes to getting promotions or moving into management.

Like any associate’s degree program, your Allied Health degree will include general-education courses in subjects like Math, English, and Social and Behavioral Sciences. These will help you hone the necessary analytical and communication skills to thrive in your new career in the medical industry.

As for the courses that make up your Allied Health program concentration, you’ll learn about finance, marketing, accounting, and management—all through the lens of the healthcare industry. This will ensure you’re well-prepared for your career as a health information technician and provide you with a versatile knowledge base that serves as a major advantage as you rise the ranks.

Wherever you decide to pursue your associate’s degree in allied health, you may want to consider colleges or universities that offer job placement assistance to students after finishing their degree. As you make the transition from finishing school to starting your first job as a health information technician, having somebody on your side who knows what employers are looking for can be a major stress-reliever.

Smiling healthcare professional giving a thumbs up

3. Stand Out By Earning Certifications

Many employers will strongly prefer to hire health information technicians who have been certified as a Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT). It’s a fantastic way to show you’ve mastered the essentials of healthcare information management. The RHIT exam is a timed, computer-based test, usually containing 130-160 questions over 3.5 hours. Exam topics will cover categories ranging from data best practices to privacy laws and compliance regulations.

You can learn more about RHIT certification and the specifics of the exam from the American Health Information Management Association.

How Much Does it Cost to Earn an Allied Health Degree?

Many colleges and universities charge over $20,000 per semester—and that’s just for tuition. That often doesn’t even cover the cost of books and other course materials or those hidden fees that always seem to pop up. That price tag adds up even more over the course of multiple semesters. However, thanks to the rise in online colleges, prospective students have many more options for accredited degree programs that are much more affordable than traditional institutions. For example, the Allied Health program at Brookline College comes in at a total cost of around $30,000, including all books, lab fees, and any other course materials you’ll need. Wherever you choose to earn your Allied Health degree, make sure it’s with a school that’s upfront about how much you can expect to spend.

Health Information Technician Salary

How Much Do Health Information Technicians Make?

According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, health information technicians bring home an average salary* of over $44,000 per year, which is equivalent to more than $21 per hour. Health information techs in the top 25% of earners average nearly $53,000 annually, and salaries in the 90th percentile can reach $66,000 and up.

Highest Paying Industries for Health Information Technicians

According to the BLS, these industries are where you’re most likely to find the top-paying jobs for health information technicians:

Industry Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
Health Insurance Companies $25.40 $52,830
Federal Executive Branch $24.19 $50,320
Healthcare Management Companies $23.78 $49,470
Specialty Hospitals $22.69 $47,200
General Medical & Surgical Hospitals $22.45 $46,690

Highest Paying States for Health Information Technicians

According to BLS data, health information technicians earn the highest average wages in these states:

Location Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
New Jersey $25.97 $54,020
Washington, D.C. $25.69 $53,430
California $24.94 $51,880
Connecticut $24.71 $51,400
Hawaii $24.49 $50,940

Highest Paying Cities for Health Information Technicians

According to the BLS, health information technicians earn the highest average annual pay in these cities:

Location Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
Atlantic City, NJ $30.06 $62,520
San Jose, CA $28.82 $59,940
Yuba City, CA $28.05 $58,350
Riverside, CA $27.59 $57,390
Danbury, CT $27.53 $57,260
Trenton, NJ $26.97 $56,100
Sacramento, CA $26.75 $55,630
San Francisco, CA $26.37 $54,850
Hartford, CT $26.22 $54,530
Longview, WA $26.16 $54,410

Health Information Technician Job Outlook

What is the Job Outlook for Health Information Technicians?

According to job-growth projections from the BLS, the total number of health information technicians employed in the U.S. is estimated to increase 8% by the year 2029. That’s double the average growth rate for all jobs in the same time frame (4%). The overall demand for healthcare services is projected to rise as the baby-boom population ages. The ongoing shift toward electronic health records is likely to result in excellent long-term career stability for health information technicians.

Woman using a laptop while wearing headphones

Ready to Start Your Career as a Health Information Technician?

Medical care in the modern world will continue to become increasingly data-driven, and health information technicians are at the forefront of that shift. If you’re excited about making a difference behind the scenes—both for individual patients and for bigger-picture organizational success—a career as a health information technician could be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for.

Click here to learn more about the Allied Health program at Brookline College, and start taking steps toward your new career as a health information technician today.