How to Become a Medical Coder

Medical Coder
Medical Coder Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year$34,220
Avg. Pay / hour$16.45
Education1-2 Years
Outlook11%
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Medical Coders are professionals who are experienced in correctly capturing a medical encounter or appointment and preparing that information for the medical billing department.

Their work is important in accurately recording health care services and begins after a patient has received medical attention from a medical practitioner or professional.

Individuals who want to become a Medical Coder will need a combination of innate personal characteristics, experience and certification.

These requirements are important because of the accuracy needed to report medical billing information to insurance companies.

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Education Requirements to Become a Medical Coder

Individuals who want to become a Medical Coder are not required to attend a postsecondary school in order to enter this profession.

However, due to the detailed information that these professionals are responsible for, acquiring certification in medical coding is highly recommended.

A high school diploma is required in order to attend a certification program through a community college or online school.

Students who are still in high school are encouraged to take science classes such as biology, math, computer science and health.

After graduating from high school, individuals who want to become a Medical Coder can attain a medical coding certificate from an accredited program provided at community colleges, vocational schools and online certification programs.

The majority of these programs last approximately 18 to 24 months and covers a variety of topics to acquaint individuals with medical coding.

Medical coding programs typically include courses in: healthcare reimbursement methods, medical terminology, medical billing, classification and coding systems and computer systems.

After completing a medical coding program, individuals must then become certified in order to work in this profession.

The certification exam is administered by AAPC.

You may visit Medical Coding Certification to learn more information on becoming certified.

Medical Coder Job Description

Medical Coders are professionals who work in the healthcare industry that provide coding to various types of healthcare services, treatments and care.

There work is to assure that healthcare providers are compensated correctly depending on the services they provide.

Medical Coders will read and review client medical records and determine the type of medical service they receive to correctly bill them or their medical insurance providers.

They begin by reading an individual’s medical record then review it to determine the type of service the patient received and then properly code the healthcare service before submitting it to the medical billing department.

Although the main duties sound straightforward, there is actually a lot of detail that Medical Coders need to get through to properly assign medical codes to a specific medical service.

Medical Coders must be heavily versed in Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) in order to properly assign medical codes.

As of date, there are 9,800 medical codes that correspond to medical services.

Medical Coders will thoroughly read a nurse or doctor’s medical notes and properly determine the type of service a patient received.

They will then assign the proper code to the service and relay the information to the medical billing department who will take care of fulfilling the bill.

Medical Coder Salary and Career Path

There are no specific salary figures for Medical Coders from official sources.

However, there are salary figures for the similarly related profession of Medical Records and Health Information Technicians.

According to figures from 2012, the pay for these professionals is approximately $16.42 per hour which adds up to approximately $34,160 per year.

Exact wages will depend on a variety of factors including whether an individual works full time in this profession.

That majority of individuals do happen to work more than 40 hours per week.

The job outlook for Medical Coders, Medical Records and Health Information Technicians is expected to grow by 22 percent through the year 2022.

This expected growth is considered to be a faster than average growth when compared to other professions and is attributed to the increase in demand for healthcare services by the aging population needing more medical tests, procedures and treatments.

This increase in healthcare services will spur a need for Medical Coders, Medical Records and Health Information Technicians personnel.

Individuals who are interested in Medical Coding as a profession have several things to look forward to including a healthy job outlook, a challenging career, the opportunity to use their medical background and attention to detail skills to work in the fastest growing industry.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$34,220
$22K
$28K
$34K
$38K
$48K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$32,730
Alaska$44,730
Arizona$32,490
Arkansas$32,770
California$34,220
Colorado$38,110
Connecticut$49,810
Delaware$34,540
Florida$31,710
Georgia$28,500
Hawaii$43,230
Idaho$30,670
Illinois$32,830
Indiana$32,650
Iowa$33,600
Kansas$33,870
Kentucky$34,520
Louisiana$36,010
Maine$37,630
Maryland$40,290
Massachusetts$39,950
Michigan$31,390
Minnesota$44,390
Mississippi$32,090
Missouri$35,060
Montana$43,640
Nebraska$36,950
Nevada$37,520
New Hampshire$39,060
New Jersey$43,990
New Mexico$28,150
New York$34,600
North Carolina$31,140
North Dakota$33,940
Ohio$29,390
Oklahoma$37,080
Oregon$39,520
Pennsylvania$37,140
Rhode Island$36,160
South Carolina$36,180
South Dakota$39,350
Tennessee$29,980
Texas$30,170
Utah$36,880
Vermont$42,380
Virginia$34,750
Washington$43,380
West Virginia$32,160
Wisconsin$39,120
Wyoming$42,890
Puerto Rico$26,220

The top earning state in the field is Connecticut, where the average salary is $49,810.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Connecticut - $49,810
Alaska - $44,730
Minnesota - $44,390
New Jersey - $43,990
Montana - $43,640
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Medical Transcriptionist, OCC Code 31-9094, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a medical coder do?

Medical coders transform healthcare diagnosis, services, and procedures into universal codes.

They start by reading a patient’s chart to determine the diagnosis and procedures performed and afterward they assign a specific alphanumeric code to each diagnosis and procedure performed.

Coders may use software code or work with a combination of paper and digital files, the exact work procedures depend on the place of employment.

They need solid knowledge of medical terminology and of the classification systems.

Medical coders usually work full time but those who work for healthcare services that are always open may have to work night and weekend shifts.

As a medical coder, you will also need many personal skills, including integrity, interpersonal skills, and technical skills.

How much does a medical coder make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for medical records and health information technicians was $40,350 as of May 2018.

Salaries in this field vary based on a wide range of factors; some earn less than $27,000 a year while others make more than $65,000 a year.

How much does it cost to become a medical coder?

If you want to become a medical coder, the first step is to get your high school diploma.

Post-secondary education is not required but can help you get a better paying job.

An associate’s or a bachelor’s degree will also give you better advancement opportunities.

Tuition costs for college programs vary depending on the school you choose.

Two-year associate’s degree programs in health care information technology can cost you anywhere between $10,000 and $50,000 in total.

What is the demand for medical coders?

According to BLS, the employment of medical records and health information technicians is projected to grow 11 percent from 2018 to 2028.

This growth is explained, in part, by the fact that the aging population needs more healthcare services and health information technicians, including medical coders, are needed to organize health data.

If you have an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in health care information technology you should have better job prospects.

How long does it take to become a medical coder?

If you have solid computer skills and knowledge of medical terminology, you can become a medical coder as soon as you finish high school, as there are no formal educational requirements for this profession.

However, a two-year associate’s degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree in health care information technology can help you learn the skills needed to start a successful career in this field and can help you find entry-level employment.

There are several types of credentials available in this field and becoming a Registered Health Information Technician or a Certified Tumor Registrar can give you better job prospects.

Jamie Willis