Finding a Career in Medical Coding
Choosing Coding for a Career
The demand for medical coders is growing. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects this field to grow by 22% through 2026, and it's not a coincidence. Coding is a great career choice for anyone who wants to be in a non-patient facing position within the healthcare industry. It also offers the benefits of working from home and having a very flexible schedule. Additionally, the medical industry is so inelastic that job stability is inherent to the medical coding industry. Continue reading for an in depth break down of the path to a career in medical coding, specialization options, and average salaries for different types of medical coders.
What is a Medical Coder?
Coders review the entire patient encounter to decipher the diagnosis and itemize every service provided. This requires extraordinary detail, including codes and guidelines that have grown dramatically in the past few decades and are updated annually. After a provider treats a patient, the claim will be submitted to the insurance company. The insurance company then needs to understand what exact treatment the patient received to process the claim.
This gap is filled by the work of a medical coder. It is the coder’s duty to assign a set of specific codes to each condition, diagnosis, and treatment that have been established by the care provider. This process is integral as providers will not receive payment if a service is overlooked. Additionally, if the wrong code is assigned the provider may have to return the excess payment or face legal charges for overbilling. There are several different types of medical coding including Inpatient, Outpatient, Emergency, and professional, ICD-10, CPT, and HCPCS.
Where do Medical Coders Work?
Coders can work in various settings including hospitals. outpatient clinics, urgent care facilities, nursing homes, treatment centers, physician offices and insurance companies. There are also multiple outsourcing agencies that employ coders to work remotely for a variety of clients.
Requirements to become a Medical Coder:
1. High School Diploma or GED
2. Official Training for which there are three options: Certificate Program, Associates Degree or Bachelor’s Degree.
Whichever you choose, it is essential the institution is accredited. Program specific accreditation is available via American Health Informatics Management (AHIMA), American Association of Professional Coders (AAPC) and the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM).
3. Pass a credential exam – There are 2 options available:
a. Certified Coding Associate (CCA) - AHIMA recommends 6 months of experience prior to taking the exam but it is not a requirement if you have completed an AHIMA approved medical coding education program. The exam consists of 90-115 multiple choice questions.
b. Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) credential –This certification does not require work experience but it does require at least an Associates Level education in Health Information Management from a CAHIIM accredited program. This exam consists of 130-160 multiple choice questions.
4. Work Experience
Once you have obtained your degree or certificate you need to get a job in the coding field and gain one to two year’s work experience.
5. Earn Additional Credentials
Once you have gained some work experience, further professional credentials are available from AHIMA such as CCS (Certified Coding Specialist), or CCS-P (Certified Coding Specialist Physician Based). These exams consist of 115-140 multiple choice questions and 8 medical scenarios that require a candidate to choose from a range of medical codes.
6. Continuing Education
AHIMA requires medical coders to recertify every two years to maintain excellence. Coders with an RHIT have to earn at least 20 CEUs every 2 years. Those with 2 credentials must earn at least 30 CEUs every two years. CEUs can be in the form of Teleseminars, AHIMA meetings, formal educational programs and more. A full list is available in AHIMA’s recertification guide.
Salary Expectations for Medical Coders
While salaries will vary based on multiple factors including, but not limited to: employee, years experience, geographical region, and coding specialty, one can always look to national averages published by accredited coding institutions as shown below.
|Certified Professional Biller (CPB™)||$55,078|
|Certified Professional Coder (CPC™)||$57,201|
|Certified Outpatient Coder (COC™)||$65,028|
|Certified Professional Coder-Payer (CPC-P™)||$62,612|
|Certified Inpatient Coder (CIC™)||$63,191|
|Certified Risk Adjustment Coder (CRC™)||$64,882|
|Certified Professional Medical Auditor (CPMA™)||$69,172|
|Certified Documentation Expert-Outpatient (CDEO™)||$69,987|
|Certified Professional Coder-Instructor (CPC-I™)||$75,403|
|Certified Professional Practice Manager (CPPM™)||$71,004|
|Certified Professional Compliance Officer (CPCO™)||$77,333|
AHIMA estimate of average salary by years of experience within the United States.
0–1 Years: $44,530
1–2 Years: $47,290
3–4 Years: $51,110
5–6 Years: $52,400
7–10 Years: $59,770
11–20 Years: $70,080
21–30 Years: $81,510
31+ Years: $86,390
To find a career in medical coding with MRA, visit our career page here.
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