Employability of HIT associates degree graduates

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Carmen in Reno, Nevada

44 months ago

I am looking at shifting career, and considering the current job market in Nevada, it seems that the way to go is the medical/healthcare industry. I am now planning to enroll in an associates degree in Health Information Technology at Career College of Northern Nevada here in Reno, Nevada. It is an 18-month program, and it is quite expensive.

I would like an objective opinion and I would like to learn from actual experiences (esp. from those in Reno and neighboring towns) as to the employability of HIT graduates.

(1) Is it worth it to spend one and half year as well as a lot of money in this program?

(2) Or will it do me the same if I take a shorter program like a certificate or diploma, say, Medical Coding or Billing that will qualify me to a take CAC and such other certifications. DO YOU HAVE A SUGGESTED SCHOOL WHERE I CAN GET THE NECESSARY LEARNING IN A SHORTER TIME AND AT LESSER COST?

(3) Also, I really have no idea about how employers treat online education. Are graduates of online programs treated equally as those who graduate from instructed courses? What about career schools versus traditional colleges and universities?

(4) I've also seen some job ads posted by hospitals requiring clinical coders to be graduates of AHIMA-accredited programs. The problem is there are no AHIMA accredited programs here in Reno, in fact there is only one in the entire Nevada which is in Southern Nevada College. Would it serve me better if I just enroll in AHIMA's online program?

As a background, I have a Bachelor of Arts in Economics degree from another country. I have never worked in the medical industry. I also have no work experience here in the US. I have been working as executive/administrative assistant in another country for more than a decade.

I would really appreciate your help. Thank you very much.

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Valentine in Salt Lake City, Utah

44 months ago

Your questions are very complex and hard to explain, but I will try my best.

1) It all depends on what type of HIM career you want. Health Information is an all around encompassing HIM, they focus on HIPPA, medical records, legal issues, regulations, etc. with a very small empahsis on coding. HIT's tend to work in ROI (release of information) and medical records. However, after awhile, many switch over to coding and hospitals do prefer HIT's over just plain coders, since they have a more "well rounde" education. However, they still do employer coders.

Where I work, to be a manager/supervisor, you pretty much have to be a RHIT or RHIA, but I have ZERO interest in management, so that isn't a problem for me. I have different career goals. So I am fine with "just being a coder".

So it comes down to where you want your career to go.

2) this also ties in with #1, you can get a job with a certificate, but again, if you aren't really interested in coding (which many are not) than you are better off getting a HIT. I don't have any interest in medical records, etc. so that is why I am a coder.

I always suggest your local community, technical or vocational school. They teach the same curriculum as the private for profit schools and are WAY less.

3) online schools have tripled in number in recent years, and I have not had any employer really care where someone went to school. (They care more about experience) I have been in this field for 6 years and no one has cared where I have gone to school, they never ask "so where did you go to school?"

4) MOst hospitals require AHIMA credentials, but thats because AHIMA is the main organization that offers the RHIT, the RHIA and the CCS (which is the inpatient/facility coding certification) so they prefer AHIMA just because they have the credentials that most hospitals need. I hope that made sense lol

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Valentine in Salt Lake City, Utah

44 months ago

You do not need to attend an AHIMA approved school, I am not sure who started that rumor, no doubt it was for monetary reasons. I did not go to an AHIMA approved school, and have not had any trouble getting a job. Like I said, no one cares where you went to school.

I have heard good things about both AHIMA's and AAPC's (they are the leader in outpatient/professional coding certifications) online programs, however, your local school will teach you the same stuff. Pretty much every program teaches enough for new grads to sit for the CCA, CCS-P or the CPC. Even if you took AHIMA's online program, you will not know enough to sit for the CCS, that is a common misconception.

I will also tell you that this field has become over saturated with new grads, with no experience and most employers are looking to hire experienced personnel. So if you decide to pursue either a HIT degree or a coding certificate, you will probably have to take a lower job than you trained for. There is no shame in doing that, we all started at the bottom and worked our way up, I did as well.

After you get your foot in the door, you can leverage for the job you want.

Like I said, it all depends on what you want to do, if you are most interested in coding, compliance or education, like I am, then coding is your path. But if dislike coding, then HIT might be better for you.

If you have other questions, let me know, I love this field, I love what I do and love to talk about it :)

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Carmen in Reno, Nevada

44 months ago

Thank you for your comprehensive response, Valentine. I really appreciate it. Your thoughts made realize I want to pursue an HIT program.

There is one problem though in case I would enroll in the HIT programs available here in Reno; none of them would qualify me to sit in the Registered Health Information Technician test of AHIMA. That means I won't be an RHIT, which is what employers require (based on job searches I made). Unlike in other certification tests conducted by AHIMA such as CCA, RHIT test takers must have graduated from an AHIMA accredited program to qualify. It's really sad, and I'm having second thoughts now. The very reason I'm hesitating about online classes is because it does not provide on-job training, which someone with no US job history (like me) really needs. But it seems online programs are my only option now--I don't want to be in debt in a program that I won't be able to take outside of Reno.

Considering your experience and since you know RHITs actually practicing, do you think my concerns are real and reasonable or am I just being too analytical about it. Do you suggest that I just go for it, because my future job experiences would be the one that would primarily determine my career path and not being RHIT?

Thank you so much for the time you're giving me.

Valentine in Salt Lake City, Utah said: You do not need to attend an AHIMA approved school, I am not sure who started that rumor, no doubt it was for monetary reasons. I did not go to an AHIMA approved school, and have not had any trouble getting a job. Like I said, no one cares where you went to school....)

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debk1 in Westbrook, Maine

44 months ago

I went the less expensive route, and recently completed a Certificate Training program in Medical Billing & Coding (really a crash course to prepare you for the CPC exam). I'm newly enrolled as a member of the AAPC and passed the CPC exam that I took on DEC 4, 2010. I am now finding that no employers will consider me as a candidate for ANY medical job (billing, coding, records clerk, whatever) due to my lack of previous experience. I worked as a computer programmer and systems analyst for the last 30+ years, and decided to make a change at the beginning of 2010. It is starting to look like my decision may have been a waste of time, energy and money. Maybe things will look better in the new year, but I'm beginning to wonder if pursuing the RHIT might have been a better option.

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valentine2 in salt lake city, Utah

44 months ago

debk1 in Westbrook, Maine said: I went the less expensive route, and recently completed a Certificate Training program in Medical Billing & Coding (really a crash course to prepare you for the CPC exam). I'm newly enrolled as a member of the AAPC and passed the CPC exam that I took on DEC 4, 2010. I am now finding that no employers will consider me as a candidate for ANY medical job (billing, coding, records clerk, whatever) due to my lack of previous experience. I worked as a computer programmer and systems analyst for the last 30+ years, and decided to make a change at the beginning of 2010. It is starting to look like my decision may have been a waste of time, energy and money. Maybe things will look better in the new year, but I'm beginning to wonder if pursuing the RHIT might have been a better option.

Honestly, if you had pursued the RHIT, you'd be facing the same problems you are now. You have to remember that every field (not just HIM) is facing the same problems. There are 100s of applicants for each job that becomes available. And unfortunately, employers have the luxury of being picky since they have a large applicant pool.

Don't give up, someone will give you a chance.

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valentine2 in salt lake city, Utah

44 months ago

Carmen in Reno, Nevada said: Thank you for your comprehensive response, Valentine. I really appreciate it. Your thoughts made realize I want to pursue an HIT program.

There is one problem though in case I would enroll in the HIT programs available here in Reno; none of them would qualify me to sit in the Registered Health Information Technician test of AHIMA. That means I won't be an RHIT, which is what employers require (based on job searches I made). Unlike in other certification tests conducted by AHIMA such as CCA, RHIT test takers must have graduated from an AHIMA accredited program to qualify. It's really sad, and I'm having second thoughts now. The very reason I'm hesitating about online classes is because it does not provide on-job training, which someone with no US job history (like me) really needs. But it seems online programs are my only option now--I don't want to be in debt in a program that I won't be able to take outside of Reno.

Considering your experience and since you know RHITs actually practicing, do you think my concerns are real and reasonable or am I just being too analytical about it. Do you suggest that I just go for it, because my future job experiences would be the one that would primarily determine my career path and not being RHIT?

Thank you so much for the time you're giving me.

Yes, you are correct, if you are going to pursue a HIT degree, you need to go to an AHIMA approved school. I meant to say you don't need an AHIMA school if you are going for a certificate or diploma. I had a few different thoughts in my head and didn't explain myself well.

If you don't have a CAHIM school in your area, you will have to find one online. You are hesitant to take online classes because they don't offer job training, you mean like an externship? Actual classroom programs don't offer on the job training, usually just an externship, just like online programs.

I have heard good things about Santa Barbara City College.

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valentine2 in salt lake city, Utah

44 months ago

It cut off the rest of my response:

I have heard good things about Santa Barbara City College. They offer an AHIMA approved HIT program. Where I work, we have had a couple of interns who were doing their masters HIM program through SBCC and they spoke very highly of it.

But, I would imagine that any school that is approved will be good.

I honestly don't know how you not having work experience in America will effect your job search, but if this is something you are truly interested in, a door will eventually open and it will all be worth it.

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Christy in Canton, Ohio

44 months ago

What exactly can you do as a RHIT? I thought is was all about coding, I wouldn't want to just file records all day. Isn't coding where they make all the money?

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valentine2 in salt lake city, Utah

44 months ago

Christy in Canton, Ohio said: What exactly can you do as a RHIT? I thought is was all about coding, I wouldn't want to just file records all day. Isn't coding where they make all the money?

RHIT's can code, it is part of the program, however, it is not a main emphasis like it is with a certification. This is from AHIMA's website:

"Professionals holding the RHIT credential are health information technicians who:

-Ensure the quality of medical records by verifying their completeness, accuracy, and proper entry into computer systems.

-Use computer applications to assemble and analyze patient data for the purpose of improving patient care or controlling costs.

-Often specialize in coding diagnoses and procedures in patient records for reimbursement and research. An additional role for RHITs is cancer registrars - compiling and maintaining data on cancer patients.

With experience, the RHIT credential holds solid potential for advancement to management positions, especially when combined with a bachelor's degree."

medical records, statistics, HIPPA is a major part of being a RHIT, it is called Health Information Technician for a reason, they maintain patient's medical information) especially in the beginning until they gain experience and can start coding.

Like I mentioned to the original poster, I have ZERO interest in any of that, which is why I am just a coder. But there are many who prefer that aspect of HIM and it is a perfect fit for them.

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Lisa91866 in Springfield, Massachusetts

43 months ago

valentine2 in salt lake city, Utah said: RHIT's can code, it is part of the program, however, it is not a main emphasis like it is with a certification. This is from AHIMA's website:

"Professionals holding the RHIT credential are health information technicians who:

-Ensure the quality of medical records by verifying their completeness, accuracy, and proper entry into computer systems.

-Use computer applications to assemble and analyze patient data for the purpose of improving patient care or controlling costs.

-Often specialize in coding diagnoses and procedures in patient records for reimbursement and research. An additional role for RHITs is cancer registrars - compiling and maintaining data on cancer patients.

With experience, the RHIT credential holds solid potential for advancement to management positions, especially when combined with a bachelor's degree."

medical records, statistics, HIPPA is a major part of being a RHIT, it is called Health Information Technician for a reason, they maintain patient's medical information) especially in the beginning until they gain experience and can start coding.

Like I mentioned to the original poster, I have ZERO interest in any of that, which is why I am just a coder. But there are many who prefer that aspect of HIM and it is a perfect fit for them.

Hi Val.. Just a simple question, are the RHIT jobs only looking for experienced canidates like the coding jobs do?

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valentine2 in salt lake city, Utah

43 months ago

Yes, if you have a RHIT most hospitals will want you to have experience before they hire you for coding, but, hospitals prefer RHITs and tend to hire them to start out in medical records, again with that start at the bottom thing, but hospitals really do prefer to hire from within, so if you are already "in the system" your chances of getting the job when a coding position opens is pretty good, its definitely much better than if you were an external candidate.

I realize that was a kinda rambly mess, sorry.

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Lisa91866 in Springfield, Massachusetts

43 months ago

valentine2 in salt lake city, Utah said: Yes, if you have a RHIT most hospitals will want you to have experience before they hire you for coding, but, hospitals prefer RHITs and tend to hire them to start out in medical records, again with that start at the bottom thing, but hospitals really do prefer to hire from within, so if you are already "in the system" your chances of getting the job when a coding position opens is pretty good, its definitely much better than if you were an external candidate.

I realize that was a kinda rambly mess, sorry.

Thank you very much Val.. Actually Med Records was something I did years ago and at this point I would be more than happy to grab a job in that field, but I do realize that they like to hire/promote from within. Also, you had said in other posts that you love your job because among other things, you dont have to deal with the public and I wanted to tell you HOW MUCH I agree with that, LOL!! my reasoning for wanting a job in the billing/coding world is that Ive been in mostly retail for way too many years, and Im totally beat and burned out from people. My favorite saying these days after a hard days work is "I hate humans" I am SO happy that there is another person that feels the same way and is honest about her feelings, thank you sista!!

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Lisa91866 in Springfield, Massachusetts

43 months ago

valentine2 in salt lake city, Utah said: Yes, if you have a RHIT most hospitals will want you to have experience before they hire you for coding, but, hospitals prefer RHITs and tend to hire them to start out in medical records, again with that start at the bottom thing, but hospitals really do prefer to hire from within, so if you are already "in the system" your chances of getting the job when a coding position opens is pretty good, its definitely much better than if you were an external candidate.

I realize that was a kinda rambly mess, sorry.

Ok,Val, last post I promise :) Another reason I wanted to get into coding~billing is because my husband made me promise that I would do anything and everything to break in to a medical office/hospital job of some sort. He kept me promising until his death. Anyways, anything you can think of any position in a med office/hospital setting? Thanks!!

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valentine in Salt Lake City, Utah

43 months ago

Lisa91866 in Springfield, Massachusetts said: Ok,Val, last post I promise :) Another reason I wanted to get into coding~billing is because my husband made me promise that I would do anything and everything to break in to a medical office/hospital job of some sort. He kept me promising until his death. Anyways, anything you can think of any position in a med office/hospital setting? Thanks!!

I sent you a message through medicalbillinglive.com's website

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lshearin in Reno, Nevada

43 months ago

Hello,
I just found this blog and wanted to comment on the orig posting. I am a grad from the 1st class of HIT at CCNN in Reno. So far out of 17 of us only 3 are working. We are all getting the same run around looking for jobs and being told that employers want experience not recent grads. I also am looking into becomming an RHIT and am having trouble finding a class to be certified. Anyone know how to start???

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valentine2 in salt lake city, Utah

43 months ago

okay this is ridiculous, I tried to put some links in my response, but apparently that is considered inappropriate.

I just searched RHIT boot camp and came up with a couple of options, but not as many as I thought I would get. Boot camps are so common with all the other certifications, I thought this one would be the same way. Guess not.

You may be stuck with just using study guides.

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Carmen in Reno, Nevada

43 months ago

lshearin in Reno, Nevada said: Hello,
I just found this blog and wanted to comment on the orig posting. I am a grad from the 1st class of HIT at CCNN in Reno. So far out of 17 of us only 3 are working. We are all getting the same run around looking for jobs and being told that employers want experience not recent grads. I also am looking into becomming an RHIT and am having trouble finding a class to be certified. Anyone know how to start???

I checked with AHIMA and they told me that one can only sit in the RHIT certification exam if he/she completed an AHIMA-accredited HIT program. CCNN’s HIT program is not yet accredited. Since you've already finished the course, I guess one of your option is to check which schools in AHIMA's list would accept credits from CCNN. Say, check with Santa Barbara City College and College of Southern Nevada (though I've made initial checking here and the registrar people say the school doesn't accept career college credits). When you've found a school, then just take the minimum credits required to finish their program. After that you can sit in the RHIT certification exam.

Another route is to be patient and wait for CCNN to get its accreditation, then seek its assistance for possible inclusion in the roster. My guess is that they would possibly formulate a scheme to allow their former graduates to be considered for the RHIT. I'm just guessing though, this might have to be decided by AHIMA not CCNN. I hope they could because the program is really expensive for any graduate to end up not being RHIT.

You might also want to decide to just specialize in medical coding. CCNN graduates are qualified to take the CCA exam of AHIMA.

The Health Information Careers website can also be helpful to you in defining your path. I can't paste the link here, but you can google it. You might find the RHIA path interesting, but that means spending about the same amount again that you spent to get your HIT education.

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Carmen in Reno, Nevada

43 months ago

lshearin in Reno, Nevada said: Hello,
I just found this blog and wanted to comment on the orig posting. I am a grad from the 1st class of HIT at CCNN in Reno. So far out of 17 of us only 3 are working. We are all getting the same run around looking for jobs and being told that employers want experience not recent grads. I also am looking into becomming an RHIT and am having trouble finding a class to be certified. Anyone know how to start???

Continuation of response...

I'd like to believe though that being an HIT graduate gives you the flexibility to work in any entry level administrative medical job. That's what they say, even if you have CCA credentials already, if you're only a new grad you won't be asked to do coding until you've earned enough experience. I would personally not mind that, that's how it goes.

What's bothering me is that many of you are not getting employed at all--even for entry level positions? Shouldn't your externship help you with getting the necessary experience to be employable in an entry level admin position in a hospital or medical facility? Or is the market just too crowded for healthcare technicians here in Reno? I hope not, because I was made to believe by the researches I've made the health information and administration is the way to go. :)

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Lisa91866 in Springfield, Massachusetts

43 months ago

valentine in Salt Lake City, Utah said: I sent you a message through medicalbillinglive.com's website

HI Valentine, just wanted to belatedly (if thats a word)thank you BIG TIME for those job threads that you sent me. Thanks for taking the time out of your day to do that for me. I will certainly let you know if anything sticks, Ive been throwing my resume to many of those threads, so many thank you's again!!

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Chelzhi in Las Vegas, Nevada

42 months ago

Hello everyone,

I Would like to take the Biling and Coding course, but 1 day I was watching a video in youtube that says, in a period of time they will replace this with computers.. Is that true? That's why I was thinking of HIT program instead of Billing and Coding... Cause, if eventually If I am a graduate of Billing and Coding then in a period of time they will look for people who are more trained in techonology, which is HIT, I would rather get that..

but I was thinking that I can get the Billing and coding then, if the employers really needs a HIT, I can still continue my education and get credited for what I have already received.. Cause I like the Billing and coding...

So my main question is,, are the medical billers and coders will be phased out soon?

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Grsta618 in La Palma, California

10 months ago

Hello

I just wanted to know why do you enjoy coding? Can you give me a day in the life like how your day goes as a coder? Is it a repetitive job? Does it get boring? I'm thinking about going to school for HIT Associate Degree (my college is accredited. I just want to know more about it.

If you become a RHIT do you use that associate degree towards managing people or you can do coding too? I noticed you said your not interested in managing people would you be managing coders? or who do you manage if someone decides to manage?

So do you have your own office? And you work by yourself or a team of people? I'm sorry for the dumb questions but I've been trying to research more about this job. Thank you for your time.

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almazghebremicael@gmail.com in East Orange, New Jersey

10 months ago

how much do u really start of with a RIHT? And will u be able to get a job with a medical coding certicate? How much is the starting wage for a RIHT and a medical coding certificate in n.j?

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heather in Charlotte, North Carolina

9 months ago

I have another question. All of this information is fabulous by the way! What is the average salary for rhit starting and say 5 years into the career?

Thanks in advance!!

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