Entry-Level IT Job in a High-Growth Industry

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In last month’s column I wrote about the need for IT professionals to take a look at high-growth job sectors in our economy to ensure that their skills are kept up-to-date and in demand. This month, I am directing my thoughts at new entrants to the IT industry who may be struggling with how they can get an entry-level job in one of these high-growth sectors. Fortunately, there are a number of exciting opportunities for those who just want to get started on their IT career path within one of the fastest-growing occupations in the country. That is the area of health care information management.


In July 2003, IDC issued a report predicting that there would be a $2.2 billion increase in IT spending by health care providers by 2007. The increased spending is in large part due to the fact that new technology is emerging that can greatly reduce costs and increase the quality of care and the efficiency of our health care system. These initiatives have become especially important as the large baby-boomer population is reaching retirement age.


One particular area gaining a lot of attention is health care information management. According to the U.S Department of Labor, the field of health care information management is expected to grow 28 percent by 2010. Clinics, hospitals, insurance companies, HMOs, health data organizations, government agencies, IT consulting firms and more are actively recruiting skilled professionals who have an understanding of both health care and information technology environments. Due to the great demand for these individuals, salaries in the health services industry are projected to increase more than 25 percent through 2010, compared with an average of 16 percent for all industries.


Health care information management professionals have become critical due to their ability to assemble patient information and use software to record and analyze diagnoses. As a technician or specialist, you are able to gain great entry-level exposure to the systems and software used in the health care environment. An entry-level position in this field may involve database management, using specialized software to record and analyze data, storage, retrieval, coding, statistics and securing the confidentiality of patient records. This knowledge will be a huge advantage in getting the higher-level IT jobs in the health care field.


For example, the next level within this field is typically the position of health care information administrator. These are the individuals who actually design and manage the systems that record and analyze patient data. Some of the other roles that can be found in the health care information management field include clinical data manager, information security manager, manager of patient information systems and systems analyst. This is just a selection of the many IT-related positions available to a skilled professional with knowledge of information technology within the health care environment. This career path can eventually lead to the position of chief information officer of a health care organization.


Health care or IT industry experience is not normally required for the entry-level positions; however, most employers will require training involving a combination of or all of the following: medical terminology, legal aspects of health information, coding and abstraction of data, statistics, database management and computer science. To advance into an administrator or management role, a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field is usually required. Due to the increasing demand for health care information technology staff, there are a number of colleges, technical schools and for-profit training companies that are now offering specialized training, even certification, to fully prepare you for these positions, such as the Computer Systems Institute, TechSchools, New Horizons Computer Learning Centers and Bryman College.


For many people already in the IT industry, a technician or specialist role in this field may not be attractive. But for those of you who are looking for a way to get started in the area of IT, and in a specialization that is in enormous demand, I encourage you to take a look at this area as a starting point for your career in information technology management.


Martin Bean is the chief operating officer for New Horizons Computer Learning Centers, the world’s largest independent IT training company.

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