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How Do I Start a Career in Medical Decoding?

Medical decoding, more commonly referred to as medical coding, plays an important role in the medical services billing industry. Read below to find out how to begin a career in medical coding.

Career Overview

Medical decoding, also known as medical coding, is the assigning of special codes to medical procedures and services. These codes are used for billing and insurance purposes and allow each medical procedure to be immediately recognized among all medical computer systems.

Medical coding involves using medical documentation, such as a patient's chart, to determine the necessary billing code. This coding also helps determine which portion, if any, will be covered by insurance or government assistance. Medical coders have received special training in the field and work primarily with computers.

Important Facts about this Occupation

Median Pay (2018)* $40,350 (medical records and health information technicians)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 13% (medical records and health information technicians)
Certification/LicensingA Certified Professional Coder (CPC) certification is recommended for those looking for a job as a medical coder
Similar OccupationsMedical Billing Technicians, Medical and Health Services Managers, Medical Transcriptionists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

Many community colleges offer associate degree or certificate programs in medical coding. These programs introduce students to the coding techniques used in practice. Most programs can be completed in less than two years, and many are offered entirely online.

In addition to medical coding topics, students may also be exposed to medical terminology and basic anatomy. Some medical coding program graduates choose to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management. A bachelor's degree in this field qualifies one for certification as a registered health information technician (RHIT), a designation offered through the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).

Work Environment

Most medical coders work in hospitals, clinics, doctors' offices, or other health care facilities. Because medical coding is a rapidly growing field, opportunities for employment also exist in law firms, insurance agencies, and consulting firms. Many medical coders work from home, where they are able to access patient records via online computer systems.