New Member Profile Results Show HIM Careers Expanding

Can your credential, level of education, and job title affect how much you earn? A look at AHIMA’s 2005 member profile data shows that all these factors and more can affect an HIM professional’s career. As the future of the profession continues to evolve and HIM professionals carve out new roles in an increasingly electronic environment, factors such as work setting, job title, location, credential, and level of education influence changing HIM careers.

The information in this article comes from data provided and updated by AHIMA members in their online profiles. This data set represents the profile data of more than 22,000 active, associate, and new graduate members of AHIMA as of May 2005. It represents 52 percent of this segment of the membership.

AHIMA membership continues to grow beyond the 50,000 mark. Although some of this growth represents HIM professionals in entry-level roles (for instance, those who have earned Certified Coding Associate credential), salary levels of AHIMA members continue to push forward.

The Member Salary Trends graph shows how salaries have grown during the past six years. In that time, the percentage of those reporting earning at least $40,000 annually has nearly doubled and now represents more than six of 10 of the members represented. Correspondingly, the number of respondents earning on the lower end of the spectrum (>$30,000 annually) has decreased 28 percent during this same time frame. At the upper end, 16 percent of this group report earning at least $70,000 annually—a four percent increase in two years’ time.

Work Settings Impact Salary

An increasingly diverse HIM work force is employed in a variety of healthcare settings. The Work Setting bar chart shows the 10 main setting categories for HIM professionals. The profile allows members to indicate whether their work takes place in more than one setting or if they hold more than one job. Increasingly, HIM professionals are working in more than one setting—the data indicates an average of 1.6 settings per member.

Clearly there are more HIM professionals in some settings than others, and the proportions continue to change. While the movement is not dramatic, over the last couple of years there has been some slight shifting of settings. The data shows slight decreases in percentage of those working in hospital and ambulatory care settings and increases in integrated delivery systems, physician offices, and HIM specialty settings.

Work setting can affect salary level, as the Work Setting and Salary graph shows. For instance, more than half (51 percent) of those in the consultant/vendor setting report earning at least $60,000 annually—more than double the percentage of respondents in the long-term care and physician office settings who report earning at that salary level. In addition, a high number of members (44 percent) who work in integrated delivery systems earn salaries in the $60,000+ range. More members are reporting salaries in the upper categories in all settings compared to a year ago.

Job Functions Guide Salaries

Job functions clearly drive salary levels. The pie charts illustrate, in a rather dramatic way, where salaries are concentrated among AHIMA members by title. For instance, 62 percent of coding professionals and 67 percent of supervisors represented earn between $30,000 and $50,000 per year. In contrast, managers are likely to make a bit more, with nearly half (49 percent) reporting earnings between $40,000 and $60,000.

Director and privacy officer titles show similar patterns, with 48 percent and 51 percent respectively, spread out rather evenly between $40,000 and $70,000. Consultants show a widely distributed earning pattern, with strong potential to earn in the upper salary ranges (14 percent of consultants report earning $100,000 or more per year). Executive titles have the highest salary potential. This group represents three percent of this sample, and one third of them report earning in the $100,000+ range annually.

Education Proves Key to Advancement

Lifelong learning is a solid approach to advancing one’s career. Increased knowledge through earning a degree, a credential, or other means, can provide tangible results. The charts below illustrate the level of education reached by AHIMA members and how education impacts salary levels.

Current data shows that more than half (51 percent) of members represented have a minimum of a baccalaureate degree, and that 12 percent have earned a post-baccalaureate degree. The bar charts show the impact in terms of salary. While 57 percent of those with a high school diploma and 54 percent of those with an associate degree report earning less than $40,000 annually, this percentage drops to 28 percent for those with a baccalaureate degree and to just 11 percent for those with a master’s degree or higher.

The impact is also seen at the high end of the salary spectrum. A small number (less than seven percent) of those with an associate degree or less report earning $70,000 or more per year. That percentage triples to 21 percent for those with a baccalaureate degree and nearly seven fold (47 percent) for those with a post-baccalaureate degree.

The Value of Credentials

Earning credentials is another way HIM professionals have traditionally distinguished themselves in the industry. The charts below illustrate how AHIMA credentials—specifically multiple AHIMA credentials—impact earning potential.

The first bar chart compares AHIMA members who have an RHIT credential to those who have earned both an RHIT and a mastery-level coding credential (CCS and/or CCS-P). For instance, 25 percent of members with only an RHIT credential report earning $50,000 or more annually. That percentage jumps to 40 percent with those who have the additional specialty credential.

The second bar graph compares members with an RHIA to those who have also earned the privacy or privacy and security credential. Again, the impact is clear. While 42 percent of those with an RHIA (without the additional credential) report earning $50,000 or less, only four percent of those with the CHP/CHPS fall in that range. At the high end, half of those with multiple credentials earn at least $80,000, while just 18 percent without the additional credential can say the same.

Regional Impact

Geography is also a contributing factor. Where HIM professionals choose to live and work can make a difference to their careers. In the charts below, salaries of coders and directors are compared among six regions of the country.

For coding professionals, while each region shows that the majority are earning in the $30,000 to $49,999 range, variances are most apparent at the ends of the salary spectrum. Only five percent of those reporting in the northwest region and seven percent in the north central region indicate earning more than $50,000 annually. This level of earning is indicated by 32 percent in the southwest, 18 percent in the northeast, and 15 percent in the southeast.

The southwest is also paying directors the highest salaries. Forty-one percent of those represented from this region report earning $80,000 or more per year. The northeast is next in line, with 27 percent at that level, followed by the north central and southeast at 20 percent. Fewer directors are earning that same salary level in the northwest (15 percent) and south central (14 percent) regions.

The data provided here offer some food for thought as you consider how to shape your future career. Factors such as education, credentials, work settings, geography, new roles, and more can make a difference. Keep them in mind as you move ahead.

As an AHIMA member, you should also commit to completing and updating your online profile. The data shared here is all derived from that source, so a more complete data set yields the most accurate and useful report.

You can access your confidential profile by going to the “Members Only” section at and clicking on “Update My Profile.” This article will also be available online to reference throughout the year under the “Member Profile Data” tab also under “Members Only.”

Source: AHIMA Advantage 9:4 (June 2005)