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Health Care IT Careers: What to Know for 2015

The outlook for health care jobs over the next eight years, and possibly beyond, is bright. Health care is one of the few job sectors that continued to see growth even during the recession. The reason for continued health care job growth, including jobs in health care IT, can be attributed to three major factors, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis: an aging Baby Boomer population, the adoption of the Affordable Health Care Act and increased health care spending.

Health Information Technology

Health care IT jobs: worth serious consideration

IT careers include professions such as computer and information research scientists, computer network architects, computer programmers, computer support specialists, database administrators, project managers, and software developers and Web developers.

A recent salary report on HealthITJobs.com states that healthcare IT professionals garnered a national mean annual salary of $89,879.43 as of August 2014, while 30 percent of those workers also received an average bonus of $13,100.52. What's more, the survey also revealed that 80 percent of those working in this space are satisfied with their job. Those are some powerful numbers, and it's not hard to see why this profession is so appealing and worthy of serious consideration.

The surge in the need for healthcare IT workers in particular is also the result of the industry embracing technology. James T. Gibson, president of Gibson Consultants, a health care IT recruiting firm, says trends driving the industry include analytics (i.e., putting electronic data to use); security (concern in the development and implementation of solutions); consumerism and patient engagement (creating a more responsible and aware healthcare consumer); alternative methods of care delivery (e.g., virtual consultations, virtual readings, remote monitoring, telemedicine); and mobile technology (incorporating devices into solutions and workflows).

Another growth driver is the fact that supply and demand are out of balance in the labor market for health care IT. "Employers have to compete for staff," Gibson says. "This competition has led to higher salaries, more sign-on bonuses and more flexible work conditions, such as fewer demands for relocation and greater tolerance of remote workers and long-distance commuters."

Favorable health care IT salaries drive interest among tech workers

Taking a closer look, the HealthITJobs.com survey reports salaries close to six digits across the United States; the lowest salary was in the Midwest at $81,255.67 and the highest was in the mid-Atlantic region at $105,923.00.

Project managers had the highest salaries of all, at an average of $111,648.73 in 2013. Among the other highest paying jobs were health care informatics ($94,275.05), systems analysts ($81,574.31) and implementation consultants ($80,907.41).

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov) reports similar salaries for individuals working in the computer and information technology industry, it doesn't provide data for these professions specifically in the health care space. For instance, computer systems analysts earned a national average yearly salary of $85,320 in 2013.

Level of experience may make a big difference in determining salary. An about.com article regarding the survey noted that the average salary of a professional with prior health IT experience was $89,241.53, while an inexperienced professional in the industry earns an average of $54,237.98 annually. Staff with applicable certifications garnered about $10,000 more, and being knowledgeable and experienced with certain software also had an impact.

Other important numbers from the HealthITJobs survey:

  • The profession tends to attract younger professionals. In its survey, 52 percent of respondents were age 44 or younger. On average, they had eight years of experience.
  • Men in health care IT make somewhat more than women -- an average of $99,566.68 versus $82,036.39 to be exact. That's a difference of $17,000 annually. No reason for the gap was provided.

IT tech growth spurt will continue

In addition to having a considerably higher wage than the average wage for all occupations, professions in healthcare IT are expected to grow at a rate that's much faster than the average of all occupations. According to the BLS, employment of computer systems analysts is projected to grow 25 percent from 2012 to 2022. These professionals are hired to design and install new computer systems. Growth in cloud-computing, wireless and mobile networks will create a need for new systems that work well with these networks.

Regarding computer programmers, many of which work in computer system design and related services, the profession is expected to grow somewhat slower at 8 percent from 2012 to 2022 due to an increasing demand for new computer software, according to BLS.gov. This includes software offered over the Internet, which should lower costs for firms and allow for more customization for users. In addition, new applications will have to be developed for mobile technology and the health care industry. In 2013, this profession's median pay was $80,930 annually.

Getting a health care IT gig

So how can someone break into the health care IT space? The BLS reports most computer programmers have a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field. Most specialize in a few programming languages and have the aptitude to learn new ones easily. Programmers who work in specific fields, such as health care or accounting, may take classes in their specialized area to supplement their degree. Experience, such as an internship, is valuable as well.

Gibson says the process of landing a health care IT job is similar to that of any other field. "The surest path requires four things: understanding the industry and trends at a high level; packaging yourself in a compelling way; defining a target list of companies or providers; and simply going for it," he says.

Sources

Computer Programmers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151131.htm

Computer Programmers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-programmers.htm

Computer Systems Analysts, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151121.htm

Computer Systems Analysts, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-systems-analysts.htm

Healthcare IT Salaries by Job Function, Region, Employer and More, About Careers, Andrea Santiago, Accessed December 2, 2014, http://healthcareers.about.com/od/compensationinformation/fl/Healthcare-IT-Salary-Report-2014.htm

Healthcare Workforce Outlook to 2022, NAS Insights, NASRecruitment.com, Accessed December 2, 2014, http://www.nasrecruitment.com/uploads/files/healthcare-workforce-outlook-to-2022-72.pdf

2014 HealthITJobs.com Salary Report, http://www.healthitjobs.com

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