Whenever you receive insured medical treatments, special technicians must select the proper code so that doctors and hospitals get paid. Called medical coders, these workers know how to choose among more than 9,000 codes, according to Explore Health Careers. Coders learn their skills on the job or through online or community college classes, and various professional certifications are also available by examination. Some major factors in a coder's pay are the job location and industry.
The highest-paying area of the United States for medical coders in 2013 was the Pacific region, according to the annual salary survey of the American Academy of Professional Coders, AAPC. This region includes Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California, and reported annual incomes averaging $53,633 per year. The mid-Atlantic and New England regions also reported average incomes in excess of $50,000 annually.
Health systems was the top-paying industry for medical coders in 2013, reporting average annual salaries of $48,789, according to the AAPC. This industry designation includes coders who don't work directly for hospitals or doctors' offices, such as those working for coding or billing companies. Inpatient coders, the highest-paid coders in hospital environments, also averaged more than $48,000 per year. Large-group-practice coders had the highest average earnings for doctors' offices, an annual income exceeding $46,000.
Passing exams for AAPC certification also has a major impact on a coder's salary. Coders with the certified professional coder designation, CPC, earned average annual pay of $48,593 in 2013, according to AAPC. The organization also offers more than 20 specialty certifications, and coders with any of these credentials had a higher average salary, $53,489 per year. The highest-paying CPC certification reported was CPC-Payer, bringing in average wages of $57,995 annually.
Coders make up the major portion of the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics category of medical records and health information technicians, which also includes cancer registrars. The top-earning 10 percent of these technicians received at least $56,200 annually in 2012, compared to average annual wages of $36,770 for all technicians, reports the BLS. The top-paying industry was pharmaceutical manufacturing, which had only 40 technicians but paid average wages of $66,060 per year. Annual incomes in all industries averaged $55,130 in New Jersey, the highest-paying state. New Jersey also had the top-paying metropolitan area, the combined Trenton and Ewing region, where pay averaged $58,010 yearly.
The BLS predicts a 21 percent increase in jobs for medical records and health information technicians overall between 2010 and 2020, compared to 14 percent on average for all jobs. The aging of the U.S. population and the increasing use of electronic health systems will contribute to this growth. Coders and related technicians with professional certifications will enjoy the best job prospects.