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Analysis of 300 Job Listings Reveals What Employers Are Looking For in HIT Positions

 

According to a 2013 report by notable healthcare blog Health Data Management, health IT (HIT) job growth through 2012 was even more significant than had been projected in 2010, and 80 percent of hospitals planned to hire more HIT professionals in 2013. In fact, the analytics segment of HIT alone is projected to grow another 23.7 percent by 2017.

This is great news for job seekers specializing in HIT. But many educational and professional backgrounds may lead to a career in HIT, and the HIT field itself encompasses a range of job functions. So job seekers may wonder: What types of companies are hiring for roles in this field, and what types of roles are they looking to fill? What experience, degrees or certifications are required?

To answer these questions, I’ve analyzed 300 U.S. job openings for HIT professionals posted on the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) JobMine site. Here, I report on the discoveries that analysis unearthed.

Key Findings

  1. IT management roles were the most prevalent in our sample. These roles were also more likely than other types of positions to prefer a graduate-level degree.
  2. HIT roles were more likely to prefer candidates specialized in non-healthcare fields (such as those with computer science or business degrees, or project management certifications).
  3. Medical service providers, such as hospitals and ambulatory clinics, are the predominant organizations hiring HIT professionals.

Less than 10 Percent of Positions Require Advanced Degrees

Of the 300 job postings in our sample, just over 70 percent required candidates to possess a bachelor’s degree.

Minimum Required Level of EducationMinimum Required Level of Education

Many job postings list both a minimum education requirement and a preferred level of education; among those listing a preferred level of education, more than 50 percent preferred a bachelor’s degree.

Preferred Level of EducationHIT Preferred Level of Education

The bachelor’s degree was mentioned most often in both the required education category and the preferred education category. That makes a bachelor’s degree the most valuable pursuit for most HIT candidates.

Among preferred degree types, the master’s degree also has a sizeable showing of 33 percent, making it the next most valuable degree type for candidates to possess. But it’s interesting to note that altogether, less than 10 percent of HIT jobs in our sample required an advanced degree, and only 1 percent required or even preferred clinical licensure.

IT Management Roles Most Likely to Prefer Master’s Degrees

As mentioned, nearly one-third of job postings listed a master’s degree as the preferred level of education (though only 6 percent of postings required candidates to possess one). The roles most likely to prefer a master’s degree included IT management positions (34 percent), analyst positions (12 percent), healthcare informatics positions (10 percent) and project management positions (9 percent). Thus, candidates looking to increase their chances of being hired in those fields should consider pursuing a master’s degree.

Roles Where a Master’s Degree Is PreferredHIT Roles Where Master’s Degree Is Preferred

Non-Healthcare Degrees Preferred Over Health Concentrations

Most job postings (68 percent) did not specify what kind of degree program—i.e., major or field of study—they preferred candidates to have completed. However, nearly one-third (32 percent) did specify one or more desired degree programs or specializations.

Among job postings that listed a preferred degree program, computer science was preferred most often, with some 58 percent mentioning this specialization. The next most common degree program mentioned was business or business administration.

Preferred Degree ProgramsHIT Preferred Degree Programs

Health-specific concentrations were surprisingly low on the list, with 15 percent of postings mentioning health sciences and just 9 percent mentioning health information management. It seems those interested in a career in HIT are often best served by degree programs outside a health concentration.

A 2012 InformationWeek article highlighted the shortage in candidates specifically trained in HIT and commented that organizations would likely need to follow one of two routes: take someone with a clinical background and train them in IT principles, or take someone with an IT background and train them in clinical principles. Given the nature of degrees sought by the job postings in our sample, it would seem many employers are trending toward the latter.

Medical Service Providers Offer Most Job Opportunities

Among the 300 job postings in our sample, nearly three-quarters (74 percent) were posted by medical service provider organizations: hospitals, integrated delivery networks and ambulatory care facilities.

Types of Organizations Hiring Health IT CandidatesOrganizations Hiring HIT Candidates

Healthcare consulting firms and academic medical centers also posted with some frequency, accounting for 7 percent and 5 percent of our sample, respectively. But hospitals and ambulatory care facilities were far and away the most prevalent employers seeking HIT job candidates on the HIMSS JobMine board.

HIT Applicants Should Gain Pre-Professional Experience

Of the 300 job postings we analyzed, only one identified its position as “entry-level.” The vast majority of jobs required at least one year of experience. A plurality (31 percent) of postings sought candidates with four to six years of professional HIT experience.

Required Years of ExperienceHIT Required Years of Experience

It’s worth mentioning that 8 percent of job postings did not specify a required number of years of experience. However, every one of those postings identified the jobs as “non-entry-level roles.”

Candidates seeking employment in the HIT space would, therefore, be well served by shoring up as much experience as possible before looking for their next job. For example, college students planning to enter the HIT workforce should seek relevant internships.

Employees currently working in a clinical capacity who plan to transition into a HIT specialization should look for opportunities to work with their organization’s health information management systems and staff in order to gain experience ahead of that transition. And those already employed in the HIT field should get a few years’ experience under their belts before moving on to a new position.

IT Manager Roles Are Most Common

One reason most of the HIT roles in our sample require multiple years of experience is that the most commonly-sought position was “IT manager.” Nearly 30 percent of job listings in our sample were for an IT management role.

Health IT Job FunctionsHIT Job Functions

Analyst positions were also common, representing 19 percent of our sample. Healthcare informatics positions came in third, accounting for 13 percent of the sample, followed by engineering/programming positions (10 percent) and project management positions (8 percent).

Project Management Certifications Are Most Valuable

Of the 300 job postings we analyzed, 38 percent required or preferred some sort of certification. This included a few cases where a successful candidate would be required to earn a specific certification within a specified period of time after being hired (e.g., within six months).

Nearly 40 percent of these types of postings listed project management certifications, making it the most common preference.

This is particularly interesting given that only 8 percent of HIT jobs were for project management roles—suggesting that employers value those skill sets even in roles outside the project management scope. In addition to project management roles, analyst, IT management and programming/engineering roles were most likely to require (or prefer) project management credentials.

Most Commonly Preferred Certification CategoriesCommonly Preferred HIT Certification Categories

In addition to project management certifications, employers also sought vendor- or product-specific certifications. The most commonly mentioned certifications in this category included certifications in Microsoft, IBM, Cisco and Juniper administration or development, or in Epic electronic medical record (EMR) systems.

HIT Professionals Earn Above-Average Salaries

The most recent Census Bureau data lists the median annual household income in the U.S. as $51,371 (as of 2012). Meanwhile, the median annual salary for a HIT professional in our job posting sample is significantly higher: around $74,000.

Health IT Annual SalariesHIT Annual Salaries

The average annual salary among our sample postings was $84,000. The lowest annual salary in our sample was $39,000, and the highest was $205,000.

It is important to note that only about a quarter of job postings provided a salary. Most of these provided a salary range; in making our calculations, we used the midpoint of each salary range.

Conclusions

Our analysis of 300 job postings reveals that HIT job seekers are best served by educational or certification backgrounds in fields other than the traditional health sciences. Additionally, to be best positioned for success, job seekers should possess a bachelor’s degree and at least one year of professional experience.

Medical service facilities such as hospitals and ambulatory clinics are most likely to hire HIT employees, and the roles these employees are most likely to fill are IT management or analyst positions. (It is worth noting, however, that the HIMSS JobMine job board may be utilized more heavily by some types of organizations than others, which may influence our findings in these areas.)

To further discuss this report, or obtain access to any of the charts above, feel free to contact me at melissa@softwareadvice.com.

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Melissa McCormack

About the Author

Melissa McCormack is the Managing Editor for the The Profitable Practice. She conducts primary research on the challenges and benefits of implementing healthcare IT solutions. Her work has been cited in many notable publications, including Quartz, InformationWeek, Electronics Weekly, and CIO.com.

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