A health information technology associate degree can be the first step toward an exciting and lucrative career. Since the insurance industry is constantly changing and older populations need advanced medical care, the need for professionals with expertise in health information management is growing. An associate degree will make you more competitive for entry-level jobs and set the stage for you to earn a bachelor's degree. This guide will help you decide if a health information technology associate degree is right for you and show you how to get started on that journey.

Should I Get an Associate in Health Information Technology?

Health information technology programs are suited to people comfortable working with computers, learning terminology, and observing details. Students learn codes used in reporting healthcare information and the computer systems used to input and manage that information for later use. If you want to be a part of the healthcare industry but aren't sure medical school is the right fit, a health information technology associate degree can get you into the industry with minimal investment.

Associate in health information technology programs offer other benefits as well, such as networking and job placement. As you take classes, you will meet others in the industry who can help you succeed during college and afterward. Classmates, teachers, and guest speakers could all facilitate your future job. Some programs also offer internships that can turn into full-time employment.

While some entry-level careers in health information management can be obtained without an associate degree, the degree makes you a more competitive candidate. It also may enable you to advance to better-paying positions. You'll be able to show that you know the ropes, and if you decide to earn a bachelor's degree, you'll have most of your general education requirements already fulfilled.

What Can I Do With an Associate in Health Information Technology?

Since all degrees have general education requirements that provide at least some transferable skills and knowledge, they can prepare you for a variety of careers. This is certainly the case with healthcare information technology, which can lead to similar careers with a variety of different names.

Health Information Technician

These professionals organize and manage health information, using various codes and systems to ensure the quality, security, and accuracy of medical documentation. These positions often require certification, an associate degree, or both, and they are expected to increase at a rate higher than most other jobs as the population continues to age.

Median Annual Salary: $39,180

Projected Growth Rate: 13%

Medical Assistant

These professionals do a variety of work within healthcare facilities, including clinical duties and administration. While no specific degree is required for this career, having one in healthcare information technology can give you an advantage over other candidates.

Median Annual Salary: $32,480

Projected Growth Rate: 29%

Information Clerk

These professionals collect and manage data, interact with customers, and perform other clerical duties. The skills gained in your degree will transfer easily to this or similar careers.

Median Annual Salary: $33,680

Projected Growth Rate: 3%

How to Choose an Associate in Health Information Technology Program

When choosing a health information technology associate program, there are a couple of factors to consider. First, the time it takes to complete a program generally comes down to whether you are attending full- or part-time. If you attend school full time, you will likely finish sooner; if you attend part time, it will necessarily take longer.

Second, the cost of tuition is a major consideration when choosing a program. Look for options like paid internships, job placement assistance, or individual projects that can get you more value for your money, hands-on experience, or help you find a job. Also, remember that online programs and online classes are usually less expensive than those offered on-campus.

Programmatic Accreditation for Associate in Health Information Technology Programs

Accreditation is key to a good college education. An accredited school is one that has been reviewed and certified to teach students and offer degrees. A school without accreditation cannot legally offer degrees, and anything from such a school will be worthless. If you cannot easily find the accreditation information about a school on it website, be suspicious.

Schools are accredited by regional or national accrediting agencies. Regional accrediting agencies tend to accredit nonprofit degree-granting institutions within their jurisdiction, while vocational and for-profit schools are usually evaluated by national accrediting agencies.

Many fields, including healthcare information management, have accrediting bodies specific to their individual disciplines. While this form of accreditation isn't essential, it is a good mark for the school. Keep an eye out for programs accredited by Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education.

Associate in Health Information Technology Program Admissions

Admissions is the process by which schools decide who can attend. The section below describes commonly required admissions materials. Many students apply to multiple schools at once to improve their chances of getting accepted to one of them, and while this is a good idea, don't go overboard: Stick to only a handful of schools, and make sure that you put in effort with each application.

Admission Materials

  • Application: This is usually an online form that covers basic information about you, mostly used for eligibility and billing information.
  • Transcripts: These show your previous academic experience and can be sent from your high school or other colleges you've attended. They usually have a small fee associated with them.
  • Application Fee: This is usually a small fee that serves to make sure you're serious about applying to the school and that processing your application isn't a waste of time.

Educational Paths for Online Health Information Technology Associate Programs

While a health information technology associate degree can get your career started, some students decide to complete a bachelor's degree after working in the field. Many schools that offer an associate degree also offer related bachelor's degrees and may provide special options for transferring into these programs.

Healthcare Information Management

This is an advanced version of the associate degree and builds upon the same information while teaching students knowledge and skills for a successful career.

Healthcare Administration

These degrees make use of many of the same skills, but they include leadership and other management skills as well. These professionals handle broader administrative affairs so that medical professionals can focus on providing care.

Medical Billing and Coding

Building on some of the same concepts, billing has more to do with making sure medical providers get paid and focuses more on the insurance side of healthcare.

What Else Can I Expect From an Associate in Health Information Technology Program?

Below, you'll find information on the kinds of courses you can expect to take for your health information technology associate degree, how long it could take to complete, and how much it will cost. This information varies from one program to the next, but there are several common factors to keep in mind.

Courses in an Associate in Health Information Technology Program

Every health information technology degree program differs, but they generally cover the same subjects, examples of which you can find below.

Basic Medical Terminology

This course covers medical terms and phrases.

Health Services and Information

These courses cover the history and development of healthcare delivery and associated information systems, and how those interact. They also cover certification, licensing, and other necessary information for people in this field.

Classification and Coding

These courses teach students how to utilize the International Classification of Diseases-10-Procedural Coding System, standard within the field. Due to the complexity of the system, most programs offer a sequence of these courses.

Legal and Regulatory Issues

These courses cover guidelines to which healthcare information must adhere. They cover a variety of applicable laws and regulations, legal processes, and legal terminology.

Health Insurance and Reimbursement

Insurance is a complicated part of U.S. healthcare, and mistakes made while inputting information can lead to increased costs to patients or medical providers. Courses like this give students the knowledge they need to avoid such mistakes.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate in Health Information Technology?

An associate degree in health information technology is one of the quicker degrees you can earn, requiring only 90 credits to complete. A typical associate degree takes about two years to complete if you're attending classes full time. Some programs, especially those online, offer accelerated or intensive programs you can complete in as little as a year.

Even in a standard program, you might reduce your time by taking extra credits, although most school have rules about how many credits you can take at a time. The less time it takes to finish your degree the lower the cost, since you don't have to spend as much on fees or housing before entering the workforce.

How Much Is an Associate in Health Information Technology?

The cost of your health information technology associate degree can vary. Attending a school in the state where you are a resident can decrease tuition costs, as can taking classes online. Luckily, community colleges offer associate degrees, and they tend to have much lower tuition rates and fees than four-year schools. Beyond tuition, other costs like activities fees and textbooks can add up quickly.

Finding affordable housing can sometimes be a challenge, depending on the cost of living or median income of the area and other factors. You might ask the following: Will you need roommates in order to afford housing? Can you work while in the program, and can you find a job nearby? Can you find a job in the area after you graduate, or will you need to move again?

Professional Organizations in Health Information Technology

Joining a professional organization once you have your health information technology associate degree can be a boon to your career. These organizations offer networking, resources, and continuing education opportunities. They also manage conferences and help professionals find the right certifications to advance their careers. Finally, many offer scholarships and other funding opportunities for students looking for more advanced degrees, as well as job postings and help with job searches.

American Health Information Management Association

With over 100,000 members, AHIMA was founded in 1928 and has been working to improve the quality of healthcare records ever since.

Healthcare Information Management Systems Society

Operating on a global scale, HIMSS works to improve healthcare information through the application of new technology, bringing together over 75,000 members in order to do so.

American Medical Informatics Association

AMIA is dedicated to using information to improve healthcare and its delivery by promoting the continuing education and professional development of its members.