How to Become a Medical Coder

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Become Team
October 7, 2021
How to Become a Medical Coder

5 Steps to Becoming a Medical Coder

Medical coding is a rapidly-growing field that plays a critical behind-the-scenes role in healthcare. The career requires a detail-oriented approach and specialized technical skillset, and is an ideal profession for those who want to work in non-patient-facing positions within the healthcare industry.

Becoming a medical coder isn’t difficult, but it does require an associate or bachelor’s degree related to science and some credentials. This guide will help you understand the steps to becoming a medical coder, how to find the best medical coding schools and additional training.

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Step 1
Postsecondary Education
A post-secondary degree isn’t necessarily required to become a medical coder, but some credentials require that applicants have prerequisite education. You have several options, including a bachelor’s degree, associate’s degree, or certificate program. Your best option may be medical coding school, or an education program specifically designed for those planning to become medical coders.
Step 2
Basic Credentials
Once you’ve earned your education, you can achieve some basic credentials. Some credentials don’t require any work experience, and you can take the exam by meeting the education requirement. Examples include the Certified Coding Associate (CCA) credential and the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) credential. If you earned an associate degree of a Health Information Management (HIM) program you can register to take the RHIT.
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Step 3
Work Experience
Once you’ve earned basic credentials, you’ll be qualified to begin working as a medical coder. There are many job settings to choose from, including hospitals, physician offices, and more. With the rise of remote work, plenty of medical coding can even be done from your home.
Step 4
Advanced Certification
Once you’ve got some work experience under your belt, you can earn more advanced credentials to help further your career. Some higher-level credentials such as the Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) and Certified Coding Specialist – Physician-based (CCS-P) require work experience alongside your educational background, so these are perfect to complete once you’re a few years into your career.
Step 5
Career Advancement
Once you’ve earned your advanced certification, you can continue working as a medical coder, taking further steps to advance your career if you choose. Career advancement might include moving into leadership positions like a compliance auditor, manager or consultant. You might also consider pursuing more advanced education.

FAQ on Becoming a Medical Coder

1. Who hires medical coders?

Nearly every single health care provider uses coded documentation and records. A single hospital may have 50 coders working at any given time — but hospitals are just one of the potential work environments. Inpatient and outpatient facilities, urgent and semi-urgent care facilities, clinics, nursing homes, sports medicine offices, mental health facilities and, of course, doctor’s offices are just a few of the places where well-trained, reliable coders can find a career.

2. How do I search for a job or internship?

General career networks like LinkedIn and Indeed.com list job openings specific to medical coders. But you should also check out industry-specific sites, like the American Association of Professional Coders, which lists a huge selection of jobs.

3. How should I prepare for a job interview?

Just as with any interview, you should start by doing your homework and learning as much as you can about the facility or organization you're hoping to join. You should also prepare some questions of your own for the interviewer. Not only will this provide you with the answers you're looking for, but asking questions demonstrates genuine interest in your prospective employer and shows that you have a thoughtful, inquisitive nature. Also, you should expect to be asked to move beyond book learning and participate in what-would-you-do-if hypothetical scenarios.

4. Can medical coding be done at home?

Yes! Many organizations allow or even encourage telecommuting. Working from home can make the job easier for you and cheaper for your employer, all without sacrificing quality or precision, thanks to advancements like collaborative workflow programs, application-based software and videoconferencing. Flexjobs.com lists hundreds of coding jobs, many of which can be done in the comfort of your own home.

5. How can I network with like-minded professionals and prospective employers?

Medical coders — as well as the people and groups that hire, educate, certify and advise them — are organized into trade associations, academies, industry organizations, forums and networking groups. Some of the most prominent and reputable among them are explored further down the page.

6. How do I get certified in medical coding?

To be certified as a medical coder, you’ll have to pass one of the credentialing exams. Some credentials, such as the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) or Certified Coding Associate (CCA) require work experience or medical coding school before you take the exam. Others, such as the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) don’t have a work requirement but do require an associate’s degree.

7. Is a medical coding certificate worth it?

Depending on the position and employer, a medical coding certificate will help you acquire an entry-level or intermediate level position.These jobs consider a medical coding certificate a core credential. The field is expected to grow significantly over the next decade. And given the affordability of many medical coding programs, you can get an excellent return on your investment.

Medical Coder Salary & Job Growth

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for medical records and health information specialists is $44,090. Employment in the field is expected to grow by 8% from 2019 to 2029, twice the rate of most occupations.

Whether you plan on moving to attain a job as a medical coder, verifying wages across the U.S. and change in employment for this field will help you plan your path.

Alabama Mean wage annual: $35,450

Currently Employed: 2,700

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 14.70%

Alaska Mean wage annual: $54,170

Currently Employed: 680

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 13.10%

Arizona Mean wage annual: $40,540

Currently Employed: 5,900

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 21.70%

Arkansas Mean wage annual: $34,010

Currently Employed: 1,840

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 17.20%

California Mean wage annual: $50,260

Currently Employed: 21,900

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 19.60%

Colorado Mean wage annual: $49,040

Currently Employed: 2,910

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 32.10%

Connecticut Mean wage annual: $48,330

Currently Employed: 1,900

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 10%

Delaware Mean wage annual: $44,100

Currently Employed: 530

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 13.20%

Florida Mean wage annual: $40,980

Currently Employed: 12,460

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 23.70%

Georgia Mean wage annual: $39,410

Currently Employed: 5,770

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 22.60%

Hawaii Mean wage annual: $47,760

Currently Employed: 680

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9.30%

Idaho Mean wage annual: $37,980

Currently Employed: 950

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 16.60%

Illinois Mean wage annual: $43,150

Currently Employed: 8,080

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9.70%

Indiana Mean wage annual: $41,250

Currently Employed: 3,990

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 18.20%

Iowa Mean wage annual: $40,250

Currently Employed: 2,450

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 12.40%

Kansas Mean wage annual: $38,400

Currently Employed: 2,260

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 10.70%

Kentucky Mean wage annual: $37,210

Currently Employed: 3,720

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 26.80%

Louisiana Mean wage annual: $35,730

Currently Employed: 2,870

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 21.30%

Maine Mean wage annual: $38,440

Currently Employed: 1,190

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8.80%

Maryland Mean wage annual: $49,390

Currently Employed: 4,180

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 20%

Massachusetts Mean wage annual: $49,240

Currently Employed: 5,720

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 13.80%

Michigan Mean wage annual: $39,720

Currently Employed: 5,890

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 10%

Minnesota Mean wage annual: $47,880

Currently Employed: 4,010

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9.80%

Mississippi Mean wage annual: $33,320

Currently Employed: 2,030

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 11.50%

Missouri Mean wage annual: $41,620

Currently Employed: 4,950

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9.90%

Montana Mean wage annual: $38,280

Currently Employed: 1,210

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 18.60%

Nebraska Mean wage annual: $39,700

Currently Employed: 1,650

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 13.40%

Nevada Mean wage annual: $44,120

Currently Employed: 1,730

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 27.40%

New Hampshire Mean wage annual: $41,810

Currently Employed: 960

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 14%

New Jersey Mean wage annual: $58,080

Currently Employed: 8,380

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8.10%

New Mexico Mean wage annual: $37,020

Currently Employed: 1,420

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 12.90%

New York Mean wage annual: $46,200

Currently Employed: 9,590

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 16.30%

North Carolina Mean wage annual: $37,520

Currently Employed: 5,520

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 20.10%

North Dakota Mean wage annual: $43,370

Currently Employed: 770

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 23%

Ohio Mean wage annual: $40,430

Currently Employed: 9,200

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 13%

Oklahoma Mean wage annual: $35,790

Currently Employed: 3,370

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 12.60%

Oregon Mean wage annual: $46,560

Currently Employed: 3,170

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 17.90%

Pennsylvania Mean wage annual: $39,700

Currently Employed: 8,380

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 12.30%

Rhode Island Mean wage annual: $44,930

Currently Employed: 650

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 6%

South Carolina Mean wage annual: $39,500

Currently Employed: 2,470

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 15.30%

South Dakota Mean wage annual: $40,490

Currently Employed: 1,110

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8.60%

Tennessee Mean wage annual: $41,650

Currently Employed: 4,150

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 29%

Texas Mean wage annual: $41,510

Currently Employed: 17,620

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 29.80%

Utah Mean wage annual: $41,500

Currently Employed: 1,910

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 31.90%

Vermont Mean wage annual: $42,320

Currently Employed: 510

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8%

Virginia Mean wage annual: $42,290

Currently Employed: 5,120

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 18.40%

Washington Mean wage annual: $45,190

Currently Employed: 4,740

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 16.40%

West Virginia Mean wage annual: $37,700

Currently Employed: 1,580

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 7.90%

Wisconsin Mean wage annual: $42,780

Currently Employed: 5,110

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8.10%

Wyoming Mean wage annual: $40,670

Currently Employed: 330

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 13.40%

The enormous baby boomer generation is aging rapidly and living much longer than their predecessors. That reality is fueling massive growth in the health care industry in general — and medical coders are no exception. According to BLS, the demand for coders is expected to grow by a full 16 percent between 2016 and 2026. That's much higher than the projected growth in the general job market. Professionals with computer skills and specialities in areas like health information are likely to be in especially high demand.

Medical Coder Classes

Schooling for medical billing and coding sets the foundation for your career. Here are some of the core classes that help you gain the skills and education necessary to become a medical coder:

Medical Office Procedures

Learn how a healthcare office works, focusing on organization, communication, and compliance.

Skills & Knowledge Gained:

Diagnostic Coding

Discover how to use coding correctly by applying the International Classification of Diseases 10th Edition, Clinical Modification, also known as ICD-10-CM.

Skills & Knowledge Gained:

Anatomy and Human Physiology with Medical Terminology

Often offered as a pair of courses, you’ll learn the medical terms affiliated with different body parts and systems like the nervous system, musculoskeletal system, and more.

Skills & Knowledge Gained:

Medical Billing and Insurance

You’ll learn about all the insurance programs available by private options, government programs like Medicare and worker’s compensation, and how these programs factor into the revenue cycle for health care networks.

Skills & Knowledge Gained:

Current Procedural Codes

In Current Procedural Codes, you’ll discover the basics of coding.

Skills & Knowledge Gained:

Necessary Medical Coding Certifications

Becoming a certified medical coder will allow you to get a job and learn the skills you need to keep it. There are several certifications you can earn with medical coding:

Certified Professional Coder

To earn full certification, you should have two years of professional experience. The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) also suggests you have an associate degree. The online exam costs $299, and the in-person test costs $399. You will also need to be a member of the APPC, which costs $180. 

Certified Coding Associate

To take the Certified Coding Associate (CCA) test, you need to have your high school diploma or an equivalent. It is also ideal to have one of the following qualifications:

If you are an AHIMA member, the exam is $199. For non-members, the test fee is $299.

Registered Health Information Technician

To try the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) exam, you need to have one of the following:

Medical Coding Training and Resources

Whether you're a long-time coder who wants to brush up on your skills or a prospective student looking for the educational program that's just the right fit, you're not alone. There are plenty of groups, organizations, academies, and career services designed specifically for coders or those hoping to pursue careers in the field.

Resources for Medical Coders

Whether you're a long-time coder who wants to brush up on your skills or a prospective student looking for the educational program that's just the right fit, you're not alone. There are plenty of groups, organizations, academies and career services designed specifically for coders or those hoping to pursue careers in the field.

Finding a Medical Coder School

Like any educational pursuit, there is no one-size-fits-all program for medical coding schools. Factors like the length of the program, how it's delivered, cost and the culminating license, degree or certification will all factor into your decision.

Every state in America hosts a network of community colleges — and this can be a great option for many prospective medical coders. Community college programs are usually wrapped up in two semesters for full-time students, and generally require the completion of 11-19 credits. Programs like these can be comparatively cheap — less than $1,000 total in many cases. The cost of required course materials however, can add up quickly — sometimes costing more than tuition itself. One way to mitigate that expense while also allowing far more flexibility is through online study. Distance learners can complete a medical coding course in 10 months — and in many cases they can do it for less than $800. Another benefit of web-based instruction is that the financial burden of classroom materials is often significantly less than it would be with traditional, face-to-face instruction.

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