You may think that the career options available to you with an associate’s degree in health information technology – one of the fastest online associate’s degree programs out there – would be limited. In fact, this quick program of study opens up more opportunities than you would expect – in an occupation for which the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a median wage above that of all occupations. There are many different job titles in this occupational field, according to the American Health Information Management Association. Despite differences in job titles and settings, there is a good deal of overlap in job duties. Some of the positions you might consider applying for once you earn your associate’s degree in health information technology include medical coder and cancer registrar.
One common job title for health information technology professionals is medical coder. Sometimes called a medical coding specialist, this career is closely tied with medical billing. Your job duties as a medical coder would include assessing the preexisting conditions listed in patient paperwork and medical records and use that information to code patient diagnosis and procedure data accurately, the BLS reported.
If you choose to go into medical coding and billing, you might pursue professional certification specific to this career path. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), the organization that offers the prevalent Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT), also provides the Certified Coding Associate (CCA) credential. To attain this certification, you will take an exam that covers competencies in the domains of Clinical Classification Systems, Reimbursement Methodologies, Health Records and Data Content, Compliance, Information Technologies and Confidentiality & Privacy.
The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) offers a Certified Billing & Coding Specialist (CBCS) designation. Acquiring this certification requires successful completion of a test that covers the content areas of regulatory compliance, claims processing, front-end duties, payment adjudication and knowledge of coding guidelines and practices.
Another certification to consider is the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC)’s Certified Professional Coder (CPC) credential. The CPC exam primarily takes the format of coding scenarios that evaluate your knowledge of diagnosis, procedure and supply codes across 17 different areas of knowledge.
Medical coders and medical billing specialists need to have a strong grasp of the ICD (International Classification of Diseases), CPT (Current Procedural Terminology), and HCPCS (Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System) codebooks.
A more specialized job role in the health information technology field is cancer registrar. Rather than focusing on matter pertaining to medical billing, cancer registrars manage information pertaining to cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery. This work encompasses tasks like ensuring the medical records of cancer patients are complete and applying codes from the International Classification of Disease for Oncology (ICD-O) and other relevant codebooks to the diagnosis and treatments of cancer patients, according to the BLS. You might also review patient data on an ongoing basis to better observe survival and recovery patterns, maintain databases and perform the data analyses used for research. Through its ability to impact cancer research and the development of cancer screening practices and treatments, as the AHIMA reported, the work of a cancer registrar is fulfilling for those who want to make a difference through their careers.
How do you leverage your associate’s degree in health information technology to become a cancer registrar? Historically, most cancer registrars have come from this academic background, according to the BLS. They may have some prior work experience in oncology departments or treatment centers, but they primarily learn the specialized job skills of a cancer registrar on the job. Today, you can also prepare for this career path by taking post-associate’s degree online coursework offered as a collaboration between the National Cancer Association Registrar Association (NCRA) and the AHIMA. No matter how you get into the career path, you can often benefit from pursuing the NCRA’s Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR) credential.
If you haven’t yet started your college education, you could also consider a specialized associate’s degree program in cancer registry management. As of 2020, the NCRA accredits seven associate’s degree programs and 12 certificate programs in this field.
Other Job Titles in Health Information Technology
The potential job roles available to graduates of an associate’s degree in health information technology program aren’t limited to medical coder and cancer registrar, although these are among the most notable subspecialties of the field. In addition to general roles as health information technician – and, with a professional credential, Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) – you should keep your eyes open for a number of other job titles when you search for job listings. You may find that you qualify for opportunities with titles like medical records coordinator or technician, document imaging specialist, patient access representative, electronic health record specialist, data integrity specialist and health information clerk.
Some health information technology workers move into analyst roles, including clinical health data analyst, medical records analyst and quality improvement analyst. If you work on the insurance company side, you might find a job with a title like insurance claims analyst, while jobs in physicians’ offices and hospitals are more likely to include job titles like medical secretary and medical office administrator.
Moving up to managerial level roles may require you to advance your education, but if you do so, you could become a health information manager or a medical records supervisor.