Two fast-growing positions these days are medical coding and medical billing. While the two professions are related and to some extent overlap, they are not the same job. Medical coding is a principle step in the medical billing process, but medical coders have a very specific job. This profession is widely advertised as a great career move, but just how much money could you expect to make if you become a medical coder? What does the job entail, and what is the job outlook?
What is Medical Coding?
Without medical coding, doctors and other health professionals cannot be paid since medical billers cannot apply the appropriate charges. Medical coders have the job of translating different procedures, treatments, and medical conditions into alphanumeric codes. These codes are a shorthand way of recording the complex procedures which take place in a health care setting. You will need to look at a patient’s medical record to learn the details of that patient’s case in order to apply the correct codes. These codes include CPT codes, ICD-9 codes and HCPCS codes. Once the codes are applied, the medical biller can use them to process reimbursement claims with insurance agencies.
The main application of medical coding is in medical billing, but there are other reasons that medical codes can come in handy. Administrators can look at medical coding reports to get a clear picture of the daily happenings in a hospital or clinic. It’s easier to streamline the events in the workplace and improve workplace efficiency through staffing changes and equipment orders when medical coding information is available.
Medical Coding Salary Expectations and Job Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides some indication as to current medical billing and coding salary expectations. As of 2010, the median pay for all medical records and health information technicians (including medical billers and medical coders) was $32,350 per year and $15.55 per hour. While this is not the highest salary in the world, you can support yourself independently on it, and there is less training required to become a medical coder or biller than there is for most other medical professions. If you have limited financial resources for schooling or not a lot of time to invest in your education, this may provide you with a route into the medical workplace.
As of 2010, there were 179,500 medical records and health information technician jobs. The job outlook was much faster than average at 21 percent. Considering how tough it is to find a job in this economy, this is quite a positive outlook. Medical coders are in high demand right now and will be in even higher demand in a few years when you’ve completed your education. It’s hard to find a stable job, but this is one which is stable even now in this poor economy. Your opportunities will only increase as the economy improves.
What factors influence a medical coding salary? Much of what you make on the job depends on the environment where you work. Medical coders are needed all over the place. You might work in a hospital, an outpatient clinic or surgical center, an insurance company, or even online from your home. Medical coders are needed in rural and urban settings. How much you earn can be influenced both by your geographical area and the nature of your workplace. As you are educated in medical coding, you’ll learn more about the different opportunities available to you and how you can earn the most money on the job. Some medical coders focus on specific subsets of medicine. By having a specialty, you could command a higher salary and find unique opportunities open to you which otherwise would not be available.
How to Become a Medical Coder
If the job description appeals to you and you are interested in pursuing a career in medical coding, you’ll be pleased to learn that the educational requirements are minimal, and you should be able to pursue a career as a medical coder with fairly few obstacles standing in your way. You will need to thoroughly understand the appropriate topics in anatomy and physiology, and you’ll need to become familiar with medical terminology. You may receive a higher salary if you have a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree, but you don’t necessarily need either in order to enter the field. It can be enough just to pass your CPC exam and earn your certification. You may be able to complete your studies on your own, but it is highly recommended that you consider a medical coding course. There is a lot of information to take in, and you won’t learn it all overnight.
Fortunately this is the kind of education which you can pursue even if you work a full time job or have a family to take care of. It won’t place heavy demands on your time and will place minimum demands on your wallet. If you’ve always dreamed of a job in the medical community but don’t want to or cannot afford to attend medical school or nursing school, this is a way to get in on the administrative side of things. The role of a medical coder is essential to the operations of any medical health facility. Without you, physicians cannot get paid, which is how you know there will always be high demand for your profession.
Once you pass your CPC exam, you’ll become a Certified Professional Coder or CPC®. Employers will know from your certified status that your knowledge is up to date and that you have what it takes to succeed at the job and streamline billing operations in the workplace. According to the AAPC professional organization for medical coders, certified coders earn 17 percent more than non-certified coders. It’s also easier to get a job in the first place if you have some kind of credentials. Medical coders usually polish up on their knowledge by attending workshops and joining professional organizations. It’s important to stay current so that you can retain your status and excel in your career as a medical coder.