Electronic health records (EHR) are now being used by most health care providers, medical facilities and insurance companies in the United States. Due to this and the fact that the number of jobs for health information specialists is quickly increasing, more people are choosing to study health information technology in school. With a health information technology degree, a person will know how to collect, organize and analyze patient data for their employers. The career options available with this degree are many, and salaries will vary depending on the path chosen.
Health Information Technicians: Salaries
The most common career path for people with a degree in health information technology is to become a technician. In 2009, the average salary of a health information technician or a medical records technician was $33,880 a year, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest earners made less than $20,850 a year, composing the bottom 10th percentile, but those in the top 10th percentile made more than $51,510 a year. Not only will the number of information technicians needed increase over the next several years, but salaries are expected to raise accordingly as well, according to the BLS.
In the bureau report, Mississippi was the lowest-paying state in the United States, with an annual mean wage of $26,460. Oklahoma came in below the national average at $30,190. A low cost of living in these two states may have been the primary influence on these lower-than-average wages. Several states paid much higher than average. Health IT specialists in Maryland; Alaska; Washington, D.C.; and Hawaii earned between $39,330 and $41,340 a year on average. According to the report, New Jersey was the highest-paying state in the United States; health information-technology specialists in those states boasted an annual mean wage of $45,750. The Newark-Union metro area specifically was the highest paying in the nation, at $51,390 a year.
In 2009, general hospitals hired more health information techs than any other employer, and paid an average salary of $35,870 a year. The offices of physicians also hired a large number, but only at $28,460 a year on average. The federal government hired more than 5,000 medical records technicians and was one of the highest payers, averaging $45,120 a year. However, by far the highest wages were made in jobs with pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing companies. Health information technicians working in this industry averaged $61,210 a year.
Many who obtain degrees in health information technology specialize in medical coding. Depending on education and certification, these coders can significantly increase their wages. For example, the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) stated in a 2009 salary survey that the average certified coder made $44,740 a year. Those who were certified to work in hospitals made $51,980 on average, and coders with multiple specialty certifications earned even more. According to the AAPC report, a health information technician who specializes in coding and possesses more than 20 years of experience averaged $54,477 a year.
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