Growth Trends for Related Jobs
Work Behind the Scenes in the Healthcare Field
Looking for a career that can give you the flexibility to work full-time, part-time or even from home to spend more time with the kids? Complete a certification program or associate's degree in medical coding to take advantage of opportunities in this in-demand field.
Medical coders document a patient's healthcare record by assigning universally-accepted numbers to every interaction with healthcare professionals, from diagnostic procedures and doctor's visits to laboratory results and equipment usage. The coded record is used in the medical billing process and is essential to creating a claim that will be paid by the insurance company. Medical billers process and follow up on claims sent to insurance companies for reimbursement to providers. The coder and biller may be the same person, or the positions may be held by two people working together.
Entry-level positions typically require completion of a certificate or associate's degree program in medical billing and coding. Many community colleges and vocational training schools offer such programs. There are numerous online study options as well. Coursework includes medical terminology, pathophysiology, health laws and ethics, and medical coding classification systems. Students learn about the insurance industry and government healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
Certification as a medical coder is not required, although most employers prefer to hire individuals who have earned certification in the field. Opportunities and salaries usually increase with certification. Here are some common options:
- Certified Coding Assistant (CCA), awarded through the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).
- Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) examination, with specialization in physician-based or hospital-based practice.
Coders generally work in an office cubicle, spending most of the day in front of a computer screen. They may work at a hospital or medical center, in a doctor's private practice or for a company that specializes in billing and coding. Coders who work in large settings may have dozens of co-workers reviewing hundreds of charts every day. The advantage to being part of a team is the ability to ask questions of more experienced coders if you have a problem with a chart. Working in a small medical office may mean you're the only coder on site. You might enjoy working in this setting as you'll have the opportunity to get to know office staff and regular patients.
Because of the strong demand for medical coders, opportunities exist in a variety of settings. Full-time, part-time, evening and weekend positions may be available. Some coders work remotely, meaning that they can work from home or while traveling, as long as they have a computer and internet access. Working mothers appreciate the flexibility that a career in medical coding affords.
Years of Experience
The average annual salary for a full-time medical coder is $38,547, which translates to $18.53 per hour. Depending on geographic location, work setting and years of experience, your salary may vary. Here are the national averages for medical coders employed full-time:
- 0-1 year of experience: $31,180
- 1-3 years of experience: $33,472
- 4-6 years of experience: $36,508
- 7-9 years of experience: $39,144
- 10-14 years of experience: $39,399
- 15+ years of experience: $42,856
Job Growth Trend
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that job opportunities for medical coders will grow at a faster rate than the average for all occupations. Insurance claims are increasingly complex. With general population growth, as well as growth in the sector of older Americans, medical coders will be in demand for at least the next decade.
- American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC): What is Medical Coding?
- Branford Hall Career Institute: A Day in the Life of a Medical Coder
- Medical Billing and Coding Certification: Is Medical Billing and Coding a Career Where I Can Work from Home?
- Study.com: Medical Billing and Coding Job Options and Requirements
- Glass Door: Medical Coder Salaries
- US Bureau of Labor Statistics: Medical Records and Health Information Technicians
Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for eHow.com, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.