Electronic Health Records Specialist Career Guide: Skills, Jobs & Salary


Every time a healthcare professional treats a patient, they record the details of the visit, including what they observed, any treatments administered or prescribed, and the results of exams, X-rays and lab tests. Today, these notes are kept and managed digitally in an electronic health records (EHR) system. In fact, the U.S. federal government required all public and private healthcare providers and other eligible professionals to adopt and demonstrate “meaningful use” of electronic medical records (a.k.a., EHR) by January, 2014 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.

As healthcare technology continues to advance, many hospitals and healthcare organizations are seeking to hire candidates with the right technical experience to navigate and improve the function of an EHR system. EHR specialists are an intrinsic part of ensuring patients receive the right care based on their digital records.

What Does an Electronic Health Records Specialist Do? 

Jobs Similar to EHR Specialist

Where Do Electronic Health Records Specialists Work?

Electronic Health Records Specialist Skills

Benefits of Being an Electronic Health Records Specialist

Electronic Health Records Specialist Salary

Electronic Health Records Specialist Career Outlook 

How to Become an Electronic Health Records Specialist

Electronic Health Records Specialist FAQs

What Does an Electronic Health Records Specialist Do?

Sometimes called a health information technologist or electronic medical records specialist, EHR specialists are the data-oriented members of a patient’s care team.

Their responsibilities include:

  • Acquiring, analyzing, storing, and protecting patients’ digital records
  • Documenting important data about the healthcare services patients receive, including their medical history, examination and test results, symptoms and treatments
  • Extracting data from a patients’ medical records and assigning the appropriate diagnosis and procedure codes
  • Ensuring compliance with the laws and regulations established by both the specific healthcare facility and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996)
  • Building, implementing, and supporting the EHR system
  • Ensuring all records are securely kept and easily accessible to healthcare professionals
  • Maintaining the confidentiality of all patient records
  • Training administrative staff on using the EHR system
  • Fixing any technical issues related to the EHR

The procedure codes mentioned above correlate to patients’ diagnoses, symptoms, treatment plans, medications, and more — essentially, any information a healthcare professional, insurance provider, researcher, or public health official needs to translate into a course of action.

EHR specialists predominantly serve as liaisons between healthcare providers and insurance or billing offices, ensuring that physicians and patients are charged or reimbursed accordingly for services rendered. While their jobs are not patient-facing, EHR specialists are still fundamental to improving care delivery and making healthcare more equitable overall.

Jobs Similar to EHR Specialist

The job of an EHR specialist may go by several different names, but there are also some slightly different professions that operate in the same technical space. These include:

  • Medical coder: Reviews clinical statements and assigns standard codes for billing purposes.
  • Medical biller: Calculates costs, issues statements, and collects payments for healthcare services like procedures, tests, or surgeries.
  • Cancer registrar: A data information specialist who captures information pertaining to the complete history, diagnosis, treatment, and health status of all cancer patients registered in the U.S. healthcare system.
  • Medical transcriptionist: Transcribes physicians’ voice-recorded medical reports, including patient histories, discharge summaries, and physical examinations.

Where Do Electronic Health Records Specialists Work?

EHR specialists work exclusively in healthcare, primarily in medical and surgical hospitals or general practices. They typically work in the administrative department, spending the majority of their days at a computer. Some may even work remotely, since they do not need to interact directly with patients.

EHR specialists can be found working in:

  • Private practices
  • Hospitals
  • Home health agencies
  • Insurance companies
  • Government agencies
  • Medical consulting firms
  • Medical labs
  • Mental health facilities
  • Nursing homes
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Outpatient care centers
  • Public health agencies
  • Healthcare software vendors

Electronic Health Records Specialist Skills

While EHR specialists are highly trained on the data management software specific to each employer, there are a number of skills these professionals possess that translate to EHR positions across workplaces. Specific skills and background experience include:

  • Computer sciences
  • Information technology
  • Data coding
  • Data entry
  • Mathematics
  • Medical terminology proficiency
  • Database construction and management
  • Knowledge of and adherence to healthcare compliance standards

More general skills include:

  • Attention to detail
  • Organizational skills
  • Customer service
  • Clerical skills
  • Communication skills
  • Project management

Benefits of Being an Electronic Health Records Specialist

EHR management may be a highly specialized role, but there is always (and will always be) a need for data management professionals in healthcare. New and seasoned EHR specialists get to enjoy the following benefits:

  • A competitive starting salary between $40,000 and $70,000
  • Helping to make a difference in people’s lives
  • Working at the forefront of technological advancements in healthcare
  • A growing career field with plenty of job opportunities
  • No advanced degree required
  • A chance to be on the front lines of public health work and policy making, including emergency responses


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Electronic Health Records Specialist Salary

EHR specialist salaries vary depending on the healthcare facility, geographical region, level of experience, and the specific responsibilities of the job. According to ZipRecruiter, the current national average is in the neighborhood of $61,000, with specialists on either end of the spectrum making anywhere from $23,000 to $138,500 a year.

As in most fields, there are opportunities for advancement in healthcare technology and data management. Promotions are based on skill level, years of experience, and even certification or continuing education in the form of an electronic health records course.

Electronic Health Records Specialist Career Outlook

Career opportunities in the field of healthcare information technology are projected to grow significantly in the coming years, with professionals across specialties remaining in high demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are roughly 14,900 medical records specialist job openings projected per year until 2031.

There are several reasons for this projected growth:

  • More people than ever have access to affordable healthcare
  • As the baby boomer generation ages, their medical needs change or increase
  • The ARRA mandate pertaining to electronic health records saw widespread adoption of technological infrastructure in healthcare systems

There are and will remain job opportunities across the country, wherever healthcare facilities and related institutions exist, as well as remote positions.

How to Become an Electronic Health Records Specialist

Since an advanced degree is not required to become an electronic health records specialist, a significant portion of the training usually happens on the job. However, many employers require applicants to hold a certificate in EHR management and demonstrate their abilities for consideration.

The best way to prepare for an EHR specialist position is to earn a certification through an accredited university. There is no prior experience required (only a high school diploma or equivalent), and certificate programs can be completed in anywhere from six months to two years on a flexible schedule. For the best career preparation, it’s best to find a program that incorporates a hands-on component, such as practical labs, an internship, or externship.

A caveat of the EHR specialist profession is that continuing education is practically a must. Medical technology is non-standardized and ever-evolving, so specialists are wise to train on several different systems and stay aware of any updates.

The Electronic Health Records Certificate from USD PCE trains current future EHR specialists on both the practical and interpersonal aspects of working with healthcare technology. The program is designed to instill a sense of curiosity and drive in participants, alongside proficiency in data management and analysis.

Once enrolled in the EHR Certificate program, students can expect to:

  • Enhance their knowledge of case/order management
  • Gain familiarity with emergency room management
  • Understand business and clinical management, including cost accounting and revenue cycle (patient accounting)
  • Successfully manage imaging and documentation
  • Understand behavioral health and continuing care
  • Gain expertise in home healthcare and hospice
  • Learn additional clinical and non-clinical skills

Interested in learning more? Whether you’re new to the healthcare field or looking to switch careers, this certificate program will equip you with the skills and experience needed to navigate EHR systems at any healthcare facility.

Electronic Health Records Specialist FAQs

Do I need a college degree to be an electronic health records specialist?

No, you do not need a college degree to become an EHR specialist. At the very least, you will need a high school diploma or equivalent, but many employers require applicants to have at least a relevant professional certificate.

How long does it take to earn an EHR specialist certificate?

EHR certificate programs can last anywhere from six months to two years, depending on individual students’ schedules or the program timeline. The EHR Certificate program at USD can be completed in six months.

Can electronic health records specialists work remotely?

Yes, if their employer allows it, EHR specialists can work remotely. The majority of their work takes place on a computer, and they do not have direct contact with patients, so they can typically complete their work from anywhere.

Curriculum covered in this article

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