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How a Health IT Certificate Can Help You Decide on a Degree

The healthcare industry is expected to grow by 6.5% between 2014 and 2024, adding 9.8 million new positions to the workforce, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And six of the 10 fastest-growing jobs in the U.S. are all within the healthcare sector, including home health aide, diagnostic medical sonographer and physical therapy assistant.

More than that, however, is the work-life balance that healthcare provides. Recent surveys show that 80% of healthcare professionals are satisfied with their chosen career, according to the Jobs.net website.

While doctors face at least eight years of school, most healthcare professions don’t require that sort of educational commitment. Graduates with just an associate’s degree can earn more than $70,000 in certain healthcare fields. Also, recent changes to U.S. law, such as the Affordable Care Act, have created a need for more skilled workers.

The Emergence of Health IT

As medical facilities — hospitals, private physician practices, nursing homes and more — transition to meet the requirements of mandated electronic health records, fields such as health informatics, which involves the acquiring, storing, retrieving and shared use of medical information between providers, pharmacists and other health professionals, should continue to grow.

Health IT positions often can be secured with just a college certificate. Prior experience in healthcare as well as an understanding of health-related databases may be necessary to successfully complete the program.

Benefits of a Graduate-Level Certificate in Health IT

Certificates require professional and/or academic experience and can be obtained online or through a traditional brick-and-mortar institution. Compared to degree programs, certificate programs often cost less, take less time to complete, and involve a more subject-specific field of study. Many programs allow certificate credits to be transferred toward a full degree. Certificates also are available in both undergraduate and graduate programs, although graduate certificates require a bachelor’s degree prior to enrollment. Some schools will waive this requirement for students with relevant work experience.

For workers interested in advancing within the healthcare field, a certificate program offers a more compact schedule, usually taking a year or less to complete, with three to seven total courses. Graduate certificates often are more focused than a full master’s degree, according to websites such as Bankrate.com, because they allow for immersion in a specific job field without extraneous coursework. Also, they often help meet state or national licensing criteria.

Certificates are not a substitute for a degree. Rather, they offer a more streamlined path to gain education and experience about a particular career and often put recipients in line for a job more quickly than a degree program.

Online certificate courses provide flexibility and can be taken during weekends and at night so students don’t have to stop working while they study.

Health informatics specialists also can qualify for desirable salaries. According to Monster.com, the average annual salary for a health informatics specialist is $61,050.

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