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RHIA Certification: What Is It? Should You Get Certified?

UW Extended Campus Blog Team March 25, 2015

By Lisa A. Eramo

With so many career options in health care, it’s difficult to narrow down the choices. However, given the increasing cost of higher education, today’s graduates need to think about return on investment. Health information management—a profession dedicated to ensuring the integrity, privacy, and security of medical records—continues to be in high demand as patients gain access to healthcare services and as technology shapes the ways in which data is captured. The Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA®) credential is one of many options for those seeking to enter this demanding area of health care.

What is the RHIA credential?

The RHIA credential—awarded by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)—denotes one’s competency in the management of protected health information, including its input, security, transmission, and storage. Although this information was once stored in paper files, it’s increasingly stored in an electronic health record (EHR). EHRs make it possible for healthcare organizations to perform complex monitoring, tracking, and trending like never before. Those with RHIA certification help tell the stories behind this data, including its limitations and its potential uses.

Why is RHIA certification beneficial?

Those with an RHIA credential are extremely valuable to any healthcare organization because they understand the business of health care—that is, how coded data translates to payment, quality indicators, patient safety scores, and more. Given the importance of coded data, organizations increasingly hire those who not only have a bachelor’s degree but who have also taken steps to achieve a formal RHIA certification. This certification demonstrates one’s expertise as well as one’s commitment to the profession. It also increases one’s earning potential and career mobility.

RELATED: RHIT vs. RHIA Certification: Which Is Right for You? 

In what settings does a certified RHIA work?

Those with an RHIA credential can work in a variety of settings, including hospitals or physician practices. Others may land jobs working for an insurance company, software vendor, consulting company, government agency, pharmaceutical company, or educational institution. Common job titles include HIM director or manager, coding supervisor/manager, privacy/security officer, and compliance analyst. New and emerging titles include patient information coordinator, data quality manager, data integrity analyst, project manager, and EHR implementation specialist.

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How can one obtain RHIA certification?

To get an RHIA credential, individuals must 1) complete an on-campus, online, or hybrid bachelor’s program in health information management or health information technology (HIT) that’s accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM), or 2) graduate from an HIM program approved by a foreign association with which AHIMA has a reciprocity agreement. Bachelor’s programs in HIM or HIT typically include courses on medical ethics, medical law, data analysis, data collection tools and methods, health data management, reimbursement methodologies, and healthcare information technology.

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, individuals must successfully pass a 180-question certification exam that includes topics such as health data management, privacy and security, database design, human resource management, and information technology systems. Those with an RHIA credential must recertify every two years by earning 30 continuing education credits.

Curious about how many people pass the RHIA certification exam in Wisconsin? Read this.

RELATED: 10 Ways to Feel Better Prepared for the RHIA Certification Exam

How do I know whether the RHIA credential is right for me?

The RHIA credential is an ideal option for those who are interested in the role that data plays in health care. Today’s healthcare administrators help organizations understand how data can be used to improve clinical care, outcomes, and population health. The role of healthcare administrators and mangers will continue to evolve with technology. Those holding an RHIA credential must be willing to evolve and adapt in this dynamic profession.

HIMT_headshot_Lisa_Eramo_blog_March_2015Lisa A. Eramo is guest writer for Experience UW HIMT. As a freelance writer, she regularly contributes to healthcare publications, websites, and blogs with a particular interest in health information management, medical coding, ICD-10, clinical documentation improvement, and healthcare quality and efficiency. Visit for more about Lisa.

RELATED: Q&A with Katie Eichman: HIMT Graduate, RHIA, Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society Member

What’s Next?

Interested in starting or advancing your HIM career? University of Wisconsin offers an online Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management and Technology. Start your journey here.

Questions about the University of Wisconsin degree program or HIMT field? Contact an enrollment adviser at 608-800-6762 or Enrollment advisers are available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. CST, or by appointment.

Programs: Health Information Management and Technology