Medical Office Administration

What Does a Medical Records Manager Do? (And How Do I Become One?)

What Does a Medical Records Manager Do? (And How Do I Become One?)
How much do medical records managers earn for handling all those files? Keep reading to find out. Image from Unsplash
Mary Kearl profile
Mary Kearl October 24, 2019

Looking for an entry point into medicine that doesn't require an advanced degree? Medical records managers play an essential role in medical practices. The position is typically open to those who hold an associate degree or proper certification.

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The work of medical record-keeping is essential to delivering quality healthcare, according to the American Medical Association. In its Code of Medical Ethics on the management of medical records, the AMA states: “Medical records serve important patient interests for present healthcare and future needs, as well as insurance, employment, and other purposes.”

The medical journal Breathe puts it more succinctly. Answering the age-old question “Why do I need to keep good records?” the journal cautions: “If you did not write it down, it did not happen.” Incomplete or inaccurate documentation can cause real harm to patients. That’s why records management is an essential function within any medical practice.

For those who want their work to benefit the wellbeing of others, the role of a medical records professional has numerous advantages: low minimum education requirements, a healthy job outlook—with much faster growth (11 percent) than the overall average for workers in the U.S.— high satisfaction with work-life balance, and an average hourly rate of almost $20.

In the guide ahead, we’ll cover more details about how to become a medical records manager, including:

  • What does a medical records manager do?
  • Education needed to be a medical records manager
  • Schools with the best programs in medical records management
  • Career outlook for a medical records manager

What does a medical records manager do?

Here are some of the typical tasks of a medical records manager, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Documenting patient health information, including histories, symptoms, and exam results
  • Reviewing patient records, checking for errors, and making sure everything’s complete
  • Keeping company medical databases and registries organized
  • Coding records for the purpose of insurance reimbursement and reporting
  • Ensuring best record-keeping practices for patient confidentiality
  • Managing electronic health records (EHRs) and computer software

Those who excel in this field typically demonstrate acute attention to detail, work accurately, exert effective quality control, have strong interpersonal skills, and are computer-savvy.

Education needed to be a medical records manager

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals working as medical records and health information technician employees typically need certification to work in the field. Some employers may require an associate’s degree or higher, but it is not a prerequisite to enter the field.

How long does it take to become a medical records manager?

It is possible to find a job in medical records management with just a high-school diploma or GED, especially if accompanied by work experience in another medical profession (e.g., medical office receptionist). However, most positions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, require some amount of post-high school education, such as an associate’s degree, which usually takes two years to complete.

For a faster track, a medical coding certificate program may only take six months to one year to complete, according to the professional organization the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Both Drexel University and Cornell University offer this certification online.

What should you study to become a medical records manager?

As early as high school, students can begin preparing for a career in medical records management by studying health, computer science, math, and biology.

As students progress to certificate programs or associate’s degree tracks, medical records coursework usually covers such topics as:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Coding systems
  • Communication
  • Computer skills
  • Healthcare reimbursement
  • Health data requirements and standards
  • Medical terminology
  • Statistics

Those looking to advance beyond the medical records management role may want to consider a master’s degree in healthcare administration. This degree will position you for higher-paying jobs in information management, medical office administration, and health services management. You might also consider a master’s health informatics in order to pivot your career toward the growing medical technology sector.

How can you get funding for becoming a medical records manager?

The U.S. Department of Education’s Financial Aid offers information about FAFSA and other sources of aid.

Schools with the best programs for medical records management

Not sure what to look for in a medical records management program? AHIMA accredits programs at the associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degree level and offers resources on:

In most instances, an associate’s degree will be sufficient to qualify for a medical records management position. Your local community college likely offers the most affordable and convenient opportunity to earn this degree. Online associate’s degrees tend to be much more expensive than on-the-ground community colleges.

Career outlook for a medical records manager

Aging populations in the U.S. and elsewhere are driving a healthcare shortage. The aging trend doubly impacts healthcare availability. First, older healthcare workers are retiring, reducing the healthcare workforce. Second, older patients—who make up an ever-increasing proportion of the population—require additional care.

Now factor in an increase in chronic diseases and insufficient educational programs, and what results is a shortage of 15 million healthcare professionals worldwide.

This growing demand for professionals in the medical field has a direct impact on the career outlook for medical records managers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks employment outlook across professions, the job market for medical records and health information technicians should grow by 11 percent job growth from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average expected growth for employment as a whole.

According to the BLS, the best candidates to become a medical records manager have:

  • A certification in health information, such as the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) or the Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR), for those specializing in cancer-related medical records
  • Computer skills necessary to navigate digital medical records keeping, also known as EHRs
  • Cancer medical-record-keeping experience, because as the overall population grows older, there’s expected to be a rise in cancer-specific medical registries

How much will you earn as a medical records manager?

According to salary-tracking website PayScale, the average salary of medical records managers is $45,830 per year, which works out to about $16.51 an hour—more than two times the national minimum wage. Professionals with 10 to 19 years of experience may see that rate jump to $18.57 an hour, per PayScale data.

The BLS listed median pay for the position at $40,350 per year or $19.40 per hour in 2018. Hospitals and physicians’ offices are the two top employers in the field; according to the BLS, hospitals pay significantly higher wages.

Where are the most jobs for medical records managers?

The top employers of medical records managers and health information technicians, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are:

  • Hospitals (state, local, and private): Where medical record employee median pay is $46,690 (approximately 32 percent of all jobs)
  • Physicians’ offices: Where medical record employee median pay is $37,720 (approximately 19 percent of all jobs)
  • Nursing care facilities: Where medical record employee median pay is $40,750 (approximately 5 percent of all jobs)
  • Private companies and enterprises: Where medical record employee median pay is $49,470 (approximately 5 percent of all jobs)
  • Outpatient care centers: Where medical record employee median pay is $44,6300 (approximately 4 percent of all jobs)

Top states and cities for medical records manager jobs

The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the following as the top states and cities for medical records jobs:

Employment stats in the top 5 states

  • California: Nearly 22,000 employed; mean hourly wage is $24.94
  • Texas: Over 17,000 employed; mean hourly wage is $20.17
  • Florida: Nearly 14,000 employed; mean hourly wage is $19.87
  • New York: Over 10,000 employed; mean hourly wage is $22.80
  • Ohio: Nearly 10,000 employed; mean hourly wage is $21.14

Employment stats in the top 5 metro areas

  • New York City: Over 8,500 employed; mean hourly wage is $24.52
  • Los Angeles: Nearly 8,000 employed; mean hourly wage is $24.37
  • Chicago: Nearly 6,000 employed; mean hourly wage is $22.79
  • Dallas: Nearly 5,000 employed; mean hourly wage is $21.20
  • Phoenix: Nearly 5,000 employed; mean hourly wage is $19.63

If you’re looking for a recession-proof, depression-proof, pretty-much-anything-proof profession, it’s hard to beat healthcare. No matter what happens, people will need to see doctors. As long as they do, doctors will need to keep records to track treatments and receive reimbursement from patients and insurers. That means medical records managers aren’t going anywhere. And it’s one of the few jobs in the medical profession that’s open to people whose highest degree is a high-school diploma. If working in a medical facility and managing records appeals to you, this is a role well worth considering.

(Last Updated on February 26, 2024)

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Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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