RHIA vs. RHIT Certification

If you’re looking at earning professional credentials after your health information management program, you may be a bit confused about HIM certification. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) is the national professional organization, and the Commission on Certification for Health Informatics and Information Management (CCHIIM) oversees the certification exam. There are basically two credentials you should learn about: RHIT vs. RHIA certification.

First, What is HIM Certification?

HIM certification is the credential awarded by AHIMA to those who have completed a specific course of education, experience and examinations that meet the highest standards of the industry. Because it is coveted by employers, your HIM certification can be your key to higher salary, greater success in your chosen field, an enhanced career, and a wider choice of employment possibilities.

Certification Standards

If you already have your bachelor’s degree you can qualify for certification by taking a health information management certification program, which is the fastest route approved by AHIMA. Because the field of HIM is focused on the medical industry a certificate program may be adequate for someone already employed in a health care position as they already have a solid knowledge base of medical terminology and physiology. The main thing to look for when choosing a HIM certification program is to verify it meets AHIMA standards as well as the licensing and certification requirements for the state you plan to work in.

Focusing Your Degree Program

Because health information management certification requires at minimum a bachelor’s degree you may wish to focus your college education on a HIM certification path when you begin your schooling. AHIMA grants certification on both the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels, so you can customize your degree program to take the exact courses required for certification, use your internship hours for experience and be ready to take the certification exam as soon as you graduate.

RHIT vs. RHIA Certification

AHIMA grants two types of HIM certification: Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) and Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT). As the titles suggest, RHIA is involved in overseeing the administrative duties and RHIT the technical aspects of the information systems that handle patient records and other information in a medical facility. Both certifications require the applicant to have completed an HIM program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM), so it is vital that you verify the accreditation of your school of choice before you enroll in a HIM program.

Why is Certification Important?

Health information management certification is vital because it is something your future employer will take into consideration during the hiring process. Professional certification shows how knowledgeable you are in your chosen field.

Because the criteria for certification are so strident, being certified puts you in the forefront of employ-ability and will give you more flexibility in your choice of jobs. HIM certification is also a clear pathway to higher salaries as well as future advancement. Certification is so important, some employers will only interview those who have earned it, as it demonstrates the level of education, experience and proficiency in the HIM field.

Exams for Certification

The exams for HIM certification run from three and a half to four hours. According to AHIMA, a certification examination is based on “an explicit set of competencies. These competencies have been determined through a job analysis study conducted of practitioners.” The exams are given at Pearson VUE Test Centers located throughout the country; your testing location will be determined by where you live or attend school.

Once you narrow your choice of profession in the HIM field you’ll find specific information on the health information management certification requirements. While certification for RHIA and RHIT are given by the same organization and are similar in requirements, there are differences in the two processes as well as separate exams for each type of certification. An in-depth look at the RHIA program will give you insight into the certification process and requirements, and the RHIT program will do the same.


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