Associate degree programs are a 2-year course of study, giving students a look at the health care system in the United States, along with coursework in communications and ethics for medical professionals. Students choose an area of specialization, such as medical assisting or pharmacy technology, and qualify to apply for national certification.
Bachelor's degree programs in allied health technologies offer a broad range of specializations, including respiratory care and vascular technology. Some programs only accept students with associate degrees. Classes vary, depending on the specialization, but most include instruction in medical terminology, medical ethics, and anatomy. There are clinical requirements as well. Most graduates are prepared to seek certification in their area of specialization.
In a health care informatics master's degree program, students learn to utilize technology to maintain health care records. They study business management, budgeting and methods of analyzing and storing data. These programs also require students conduct research in information technology management. Graduates are qualified for careers in health information and clinical data management.
Associate of Applied Science in Health Technology
Some Associate of Applied Science in Health Technology programs specifically prepare students to take certification exams upon graduation, such as the Registered Health Information Technician credential offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Many programs culminate in an internship experience in a particular area of specialization. Admittance requires a high school diploma or GED certificate.
Coursework covers a wide range of science subjects, including psychology, sociology, and biology, as well as significant training in computer and coding skills. Students learn medical terminology, human anatomy, and physiology. Depending on the area of specialization, curricula focuses on health technologies, such as laboratory equipment, drug classification systems, and medical coding. Students receive training in first aid, CPR, business writing, and health care management. Discussion topics include:
- Medical billing
- Community health
- Alcohol, tobacco and drug use
- Environmental health
Bachelor of Science in Allied Health Technologies
Bachelor's degree program curricula are designed to train non-professionals and associate degree-prepared students in specializations such as nuclear medicine technology and diagnostic medical sonography. Students take traditional classroom courses and receive hands-on training in the lab with medical instruments and equipment. Some schools prepare for national certification examinations in a particular specialty prior to graduation. Applicants are required to hold a high school diploma or GED certificate and need to complete general education courses before declaring the major.
Bachelor's degree classes include introductory health care, anatomy, and chemistry courses followed by intensive coursework in the areas of statistics and physics. Studies in health care include a survey of U.S. health care policies, reform, and the financing of health care programs. Other course topics include:
- Managed care
- Health care procedures
- Health care law
Master of Science in Health Informatics
Master's programs in health informatics combine studies of health care and information technology. Health care technologies are utilized in the maintenance of health records, databases, and reimbursement systems, as well as the cataloging of diseases, treatments, and medical procedures. Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree, and limited admissions programs require a minimum GPA for undergraduate coursework.
Courses cover subjects in business management, national health care, and advanced topics in health information systems. Studies in information technology familiarize students with computer information systems and methods of analyzing and improving the storage of electronic health records. Research topics include the design and implementation of health databases and information technology management. Courses include:
- Budget planning
- Clinical data
- Human resource management
Popular Career Options
Graduates could qualify for employment in health care and related institutions, such as hospitals, physicians' offices or insurance companies. Depending on the area of specialization, graduates can pursue the following careers:
- Medical assistant
- Pharmacy technician
- Medical office specialist
Graduates can usually find jobs in community health, residential services and long-term care. Possible job titles include the following:
- Surgical technologist
- Nuclear medical technologist
- Respiratory care technician
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Medical records and health information technicians hold 318,010 jobs in the U.S. as of 2020, and the BLS anticipates an 8% increase in employment between 2019 and 2029. The BLS reported that medical records and health information technicians earned a median annual salary of $44,090 as of May 2020, and management positions earned a median annual salary of $104,280. Primary employers for both professions included general and surgical hospitals, private doctors' offices and nursing care institutions.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
Depending on a chosen career path, graduates could choose to earn voluntary certification through the National Board for Respiratory Care, the Nuclear Medicine Technology Board or the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), those seeking employment in these professions usually improve job opportunities with certification (www.bls.gov). Graduates should check with each organization for specific certification options and requirements.
Bachelor's and master's graduates of accredited schools can earn AHIMA's Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) credential. Professionals with a degree and five years' experience can qualify for AHIMA's Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA) credential. RHIA and CHDA certifications separately require 30 continuing education (CE) units every two years to maintain the designations, though professionals with both credentials can renew with 40 combined CE hours.
Various career paths are available for students who pursue a degree in health care technology at either the associate, bachelor's, or master's level. Upon completion, graduates may choose to earn additional certification to secure better job opportunities by advancing their skills in health care.