How to Become a Medical Coder
Medical Coder Careers & Degrees

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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.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$35,210
$22K
$25K
$35K
$42K
$51K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$32,560
Alaska$34,130
Arizona$31,900
Arkansas$32,910
California$39,560
Colorado$36,040
Connecticut$39,040
Delaware$31,530
District of Columbia$33,170
Florida$34,640
Georgia$31,720
Hawaii$29,610
Idaho$32,390
Illinois$32,230
Indiana$31,990
Iowa$35,720
Kansas$33,830
Kentucky$37,520
Louisiana$34,580
Maine$35,390
Maryland$35,150
Massachusetts$34,490
Michigan$33,050
Minnesota$44,720
Mississippi$34,160
Missouri$35,860
Montana$35,680
Nebraska$40,700
Nevada$34,170
New Hampshire$35,430
New Jersey$43,560
New Mexico$39,840
New York$34,910
North Carolina$30,220
North Dakota$37,050
Ohio$38,310
Oklahoma$39,520
Oregon$37,500
Pennsylvania$35,450
Rhode Island$35,720
South Carolina$35,180
South Dakota$36,610
Tennessee$33,470
Texas$31,790
Utah$37,050
Vermont$41,120
Virginia$32,790
Washington$36,470
West Virginia$33,850
Wisconsin$39,260
Wyoming$40,310
Puerto Rico$27,530

The top earning state in the field is Minnesota, where the average salary is $44,720.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Minnesota - $44,720
New Jersey - $43,560
Vermont - $41,120
Nebraska - $40,700
Wyoming - $40,310
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Medical Transcriptionists, OCC Code 31-9094, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat 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.

QuestionHow 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.

QuestionHow 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.

QuestionWhat 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.

QuestionHow 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.

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