Within the lucrative health IT industry, some positions stand out above others when it comes to the number of zeros on a paycheck.
Those who work at healthcare IT consulting companies make an average of $109,715.42, according to our salary report. If you have the desire to help growing health IT companies get off the ground or help seasoned companies troubleshoot business problems, consider becoming a healthcare IT consultant.
Whether you’ve been working in the industry for some time or have just graduated, here are a few steps you can take to become a healthcare IT consultant:
1. Obtain certifications.
The health IT industry is flexible in terms of the routes professionals take to land their aspired position.
If you’ve been working as a health IT professional for a few years, you may have plenty of hands-on experience, but no certifications. If that’s the case, obtaining a certification would be a good next step to becoming a consultant. Certifications will help build your credibility as a professional by supporting the knowledge you have.
Certifications often require a few hundred hours of hands-on experience, so if you’re already working in the field, you can use those hours.
If you’re fresh out of school, it’s probably time to take your new degree and gain some experience that will qualify you for a certification.
2. Gain experience in multiple healthcare roles.
Whether through internships or part-time administrative support gigs, you’ll want to gain as many different types of experience in healthcare IT as possible. The broader your range for understanding the different roles within companies, the easier it will be for you to troubleshoot problems and provide advice.
Though you want a collection of experiences, choose one (or a few) areas in which you’d like to specialize. For example, if your specialty is project management and IT installation, you can help companies transition to using new EMR software. If you have a specialty as a consultant, companies are more likely to seek you out for special projects, apart from the competition.
3. Join professional organizations.
Becoming involved in industry organizations is one of the best way to meet other professionals. A consultant’s business is often driven by word-of-mouth referrals and recommendations. It’s all about who you know. Start networking now, even if you’re early in your healthcare IT career. Your connections will accumulate over time and eventually lead to you some clients.
Organizations like AHIMA, AAHAM, and HIMSS often host conferences and networking events you can attend to help you make connections and gain more exposure in the health IT industry.
4. Seize volunteer opportunities.
If you’re still in school or involved in a professional organization, you may come across opportunities to shadow professionals or volunteer. Whether someone offers you an unpaid internship or a mentorship at a local clinic, take it. While working for free isn’t always ideal, especially in an industry with such income potential, the experience and connections you make might lead you to the next step in your career.
5. Read industry news.
To be most successful in advising others, you’ll need to forecast changes in the healthcare IT industry. The choices a company makes could affect them in the long run. Big investments could be detrimental if not made in the right areas.
Online publications like Healthcare IT News, FierceHealthIT, and our blog are great places to start. The more up-to-date you are on industry knowledge and trends, the more helpful you will be as a consultant.
6. Build a your professional presence online.
Consultants need listeners who are seeking advice. Go where people seek answers online and give your advice. Start a blog or a website where you discuss industry topics. Write about your experiences in health IT and what they’ve helped you learn.
Don’t be shy. Share your posts on social media and other online spaces where your thoughts will be noticed. Your next client may come from someone who shares an insightful, compelling article of yours.
Using your industry wisdom and experience to help others can be very rewarding. For those fresh out of school, it may take a few extra years of hands-on work in the field. For those seasoned professionals, your next step might be to research industry news or obtain a certification. Either way, networking will be the key to bringing you business as a health IT consultant.