They’re two of the most common health information management (HIM) credentials, yet they continue to confuse students and even some HIM professionals. I’m talking about the RHIA (Registered Health Information Administrator) and RHIT (Registered Health Information Technician).
Both credentials are offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), and both denote one’s mastery of the ins and outs of HIM. However, each credential also signals a slightly different specialization that’s important for students to consider as they pave their own unique career paths.
What are the biggest differences between the RHIA and RHIT?
For starters, there are different educational requirements. RHIA applicants must have a bachelor’s or master’s degree from an HIM program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). RHIT applicants need an associate degree from a CAHIIM-accredited program. Accreditation by CAHIIM assures that a program meets the rigorous academic quality and competency standards established by AHIMA.
Another difference is that the RHIA and RHIT denote a different skillset. Those with an RHIA focus on data governance, HIPAA privacy and security, and data analytics. They are primed for management positions, performing duties such as participating in administrative committees, preparing budgets, managing projects, drafting department- and hospital-wide policies and procedures, and much more.
Those with an RHIT tend to dabble more directly in the data itself. RHITs use computer applications to analyze patient information with the goal of controlling costs and improving care. They also tend to specialize in data input and capture, including medical coding data for reimbursement and research purposes.
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Where do RHITs and RHIAs work, what are their job titles, and how much do they earn?
Those with an RHIT or RHIA credential often work in a hospital setting; however, they may also work in physician offices, nursing homes, home health agencies, mental health facilities, public health agencies, or any organization that uses patient data or health information.
Common RHIT job titles include:
- Clinical coder
- Clinical auditor
- Health information technician
- Healthcare data analyst
- Cancer registrar
- Quality improvement specialist
- Clinical data collection and reporting specialist
Common RHIA job titles include:
- HIM director or manager
- Coding supervisor or manager
- Privacy or security officer
- Compliance analyst
- Patient information coordinator
- Data quality manager
- Data integrity analyst
- EHR implementation specialist
The 2012 AHIMA salary survey found that RHITs working as medical coders earn an average of $49,446 in 2012. Those working in other HIM technology roles earn an average of $47,487. In comparison, coding professionals with RHIAs made an average of $56,807 in 2012, and other HIM technology staff with RHIAs made $48,018.
RHIT vs. RHIA: Which will make me stand out more to employers?
It depends on the jobs you apply for and which credentials that job requires. But, keep these two things in mind:
- RHIA certification is more difficult to earn. This makes RHIA-certified professionals more desirable to employers.
- According to AHIMA, in 2015, 20 people passed the RHIA exam in Wisconsin; compare that to 75 individuals who passed the RHIT exam. Fewer people passing the RHIA exam each year means less competition. Those who do earn the RHIA are in a very good position when applying for jobs.
Are RHITs a good fit for an HIMT educational track?
Yes. RHITs often gravitate naturally toward a Health Information Management and Technology (HIMT) bachelor’s degree so they can climb the career ladder toward technical health IT-related roles or HIM leadership roles and earn more money. They’re a good fit for these programs because they already possess a strong foundation in health informatics and information management.
Wil Limp, UW HIMT’s program manager, says, “Professionals who already hold the RHIT and are looking to advance their careers are strongly encouraged to go after their bachelor’s degree and RHIA certification, because employers prefer to hire RHIAs for managerial and leadership roles.”
Does admission to the UW HIMT bachelor’s degree program require an RHIT?
No. You don’t need an RHIT to apply for the online University of Wisconsin Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management and Technology. See if you fit the admission requirements here. Or, explore the UW HIMT curriculum to find out what you’d learn in the program.