The job of medical coder is one of the faster growing jobs in the country, despite the recession. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical coding jobs and other health technician jobs are growing at a rate of 21 percent. This is much faster than the average for all other jobs in the country. What kind of salary can you expect to make if you become a medical coder? What about if you decide to become a medical biller? What is the difference between the two jobs, and how much education will you need to start on your way? How do you decide whether medical billing or coding is right for you?
What Does a Medical Coder Do?
Medical coders are administrative workers in the healthcare industry who translate the activities in the healthcare setting into alphanumeric codes. There are several different types of codes you’ll learn, including CPT codes, ICD-9 codes and HCPCS codes. You can code conditions, treatments, tests, and other procedures. Medical codes make it easier for doctors and other medical staff members to interpret patient histories and apply logical treatments. Other administrators may also use the data provided by the coding in order to figure out if additional equipment is needed or if staff need to be transferred from one department to another.
The main use of medical coding, however, is in billing. Some medical coders are also medical billers and vice versa, but usually these jobs are separate. If you are a medical coder, your job will precede that of the biller. Once you’ve translated everything into alphanumeric codes, those codes will be passed on to the medical biller, who can then use them to bill patients and insurance companies. The coding reduces the complexities of the healthcare setting into an easy, manageable system.
Despite this, confusion often occurs where billing is concerned. If you aren’t into problem solving and working with the public, then coding is a better choice of profession than billing. You won’t be responsible for collecting on accounts or working with patients and insurance companies to determine solutions. Most of your dealings will be with other staff members in your workplace.
Where do medical coders perform their duties? Common locations include hospitals, surgical centers, and outpatient facilities. Some coders also work directly for insurance companies. Others may work from the comfort of their own homes. The salary you make as a medical coder may vary depending on your choice of workplace and also your geographical setting.
Medical Coder Salary and Job Expectations
According to the BLS, the median medical billing and coding salary is $32,350 a year and $15.55 per hour. Note that this is a median statistic, meaning it is possible to make more or less than this amount based on your experience, education and certifications. Starting out you may make a bit less, but as you advance in your profession you should have opportunities to make more money. Medical insurance billing and coding are jobs which are needed all over the country in rural and urban settings. Coders are needed in hospitals, clinics, surgical centers, and other locations. Insurance companies usually have in-house coders to help them to interpret the bills they receive and perform other tasks.
Medical coders also sometimes have the chance to work at home. If you’ve always wanted to be able to enjoy the comfort of your own home while you make money and support yourself, then a medical coder job may suit you very well. If you’re trying to make some extra money for your family but want to stay home with the kids, a medical coding job may also suit your situation. Medical coder stay-at-home salaries span a wide range, just as medical coder jobs in hospitals and other settings do.
Medical Coding Certification
To become a medical coder, you don’t necessarily need to pursue additional education beyond secondary school. You can however improve your chances of getting a job which pays well by becoming certified. You will need to take an exam in order to become a Certified Professional Coder (CPC). As a CPC, you will have proven that your knowledge is current and that you have the necessary job skills to excel at your chosen line of work. In order to actually pass the exam, you may want to consider investing in a course. It isn’t always necessary; it depends totally on you, your resources, and your style of learning. Some people just take the exam after studying on their own and they do fine. Others need a class in order to learn the necessary coding skills and information about human anatomy.
Once you’ve passed the CPC, you have a chance to earn a salary which is 17 percent higher on average than you would likely earn without the certification. This is according to the data which has been gathered by the AAPC professional organization for medical coders. You don’t need to pursue an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree to get a job as a coder. So while you won’t necessarily be making a lot of money at your new job, you will have access to a stable job in high demand without making a huge investment in your education.
Is the role of medical coder right for you? This is a job which involves a lot of repetition, memorization, and organization. If you enjoy organizing data and focusing on details, then you will enjoy life as a medical coder. You won’t be interacting with the public much, so if you are customer service-minded, you might want to check out the medical billing profession. A good medical coder will have attention to detail, concentration, and a desire to bring order to complicated situations. If this sounds like you, then your first step is to learn more about the profession and start looking into the CPC exam. Figure out whether you might need to take a course to pass the exam, and then look up programs. You can study to become a CPC by taking an online course, which saves time and money.
- Medical Billing Specialist