Certified Professional Coder Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a certified professional coder. Learn about education requirements, job duties, median wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Insurance Billing & Coding Specialist degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Certified Professional Coder?

A certified professional coder is a specialized health care worker commonly known as a medical records and health information technician. As a certified professional coder, you will be responsible for organizing and maintaining medical records for your employer and their clients. After reviewing all pertinent patient information and assigning the proper codes for diagnosis, treatment and billing, a coder acts as the go-between between billing offices and the health clinician.

Consider the information in the following table to determine if a career as a certified professional coder is right for you.

Degree Required Postsecondary certificate or associate's degree
Education Field of Study Health information technology; medical coding and billing
Key Skills Analytical, interpersonal, and technical skills
Certification Required Certification preferred by most employers
Job Growth (2014-2024) 15% increase for all medical records and health information technicians*
Median Salary (2015) $37,110 for all medical records and health information technicians*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education Do I Need?

Most schools refer to professional coding as medical coding and billing. You can find diploma, certificate and associate's degree programs. Public schools, private not-for profit schools and for-profit schools all offer diploma and certificate programs. Degree programs are easiest to find at private, for-profit schools.

The majority of programs cover such topics as coding systems (ICD-9-CM, CPT or HCPCS), billing management, health insurance forms, electronic data and government health programs. Diploma and certificate programs can be completed in a year or less. Associate's degree programs require two years, in part because they include general education courses in composition, the humanities and social sciences.

What Certifications Can I Obtain as a Coder?

You can potentially obtain certification as a medial coder from three different organizations: the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), the Board of Medical Specialty Coding and the Professional Association of Health Care Coding Specialists (PAHCS). Each requires coders to pass a certification exam. AAPC offers a Certified Professional Coder designation as well as separate credentials for cardiovascular, payer and hospital coders. BMSC has exams for Specialty Coding Professional, Advanced Coding Specialist, Certified Compliance Professional - Physician and Home Care Coding Specialist - Diagnosis.

Where Do Professional Coders Work?

As a certified coder, you should have a range of work environments to choose from. Private physicians' offices, insurance companies, hospitals, specialty clinics and long-term care facilities all employ coders. Those who accumulate a number of years of experience can establish an independent business that offers coding services to hospitals, physicians and insurers. Experts believe job prospects will be very favorable. Employment of medical records and health information technicians is expected to increase 15% between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Increased demand for medical care will in turn drive the need for personnel trained in the processing of medical forms.

What Will My Job Duties Be?

Your primary responsibility as a medical coder is to assign and validate the proper code on health insurance forms for every diagnosis and treatment procedure. Assigning codes entails reviewing medical records and other data for completeness and consistency. Your secondary duties may include interacting with insurers or medical professionals to verify signatures and performing data entry, office administration and record keeping.

What Can a Certified Professional Coder Expect to Earn?

Although compensation for coders just starting out is relatively low, the time and money commitment required for the necessary training is also low. Payscale.com reports that as of January 2017, entry-level certified medical coders earned a median annual salary of $37,653, mid-career coders earned a median of $42,394, experienced coders earned a median of $49,978 at late-career coders earned a median of $48,439.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Preparing written reports of oral recordings of diagnosis and treatment protocols is a prime function of medical transcriptionists. Armed with a postsecondary non-degree award, they are responsible for translating and/or interpreting medical terminology and abbreviations for the purpose of entering them into various documents related to a patient's medical history, diagnosis and treatment. They review and inspect documents prepared by voice recognition software in order to ensure the accuracy of the information.

Though some information clerks can get by with just a high school diploma and on-the-job training, some employers, depending on the exact occupation, prefer to hire individuals with some postsecondary education. In general, information clerks are responsible for maintaining records, amassing data and communicating with clientele. Specific careers that fall into the category of information clerk include file clerks, court clerks, interviewers, municipal clerks, license clerks and hotel desk clerks.

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