In the Healthcare industry, there really aren’t too many things that are more important to the operations of a medical office or hospital then knowing the proper codes. Whether we’re talking about procedural codes or diagnostic, it’s plain to see how instrumental those codes are. I mean, let’s face it, if the coder doesn’t get those codes right, then nobody in the office will be paid properly for the work they do, right?
That being said, just what do you suppose is a comparable certified coder salary? Well, that depends on the Coder’s certifications. It’s simple really, the more certifications you have, the more money you can potentially make. It also depends on what part of the country you reside in. Obviously, the larger cities pay higher wages.
In my research, I’ve discovered medical coding salaries range anywhere from under $20,000 a year to as high as $62,000. Now, I know that is a huge leap, but that is the difference between a small town coder with no certifications and big city coder with multiple certifications. The US National Average is about $49,000, according to Salary.com.
If you’re looking to get ahead in the industry here are some of the certifications that you will need to get your career up and running:
- CPC® Certified Professional Coder®
- CPC-H® Certified Professional Coder-Hospital
- CPC-P® Certified Professional Coder-Payer
- CCA® Certified Coding Associate
- CCS® Certified Coding Specialist
- CCS® Certified Coding Specialist-Physician-based
- RMC Certification Registered Medical Coder
- RMA Certification Registered Medical Auditor
These certifications are the key to success in medical administration. And just to demonstrate how important they are in the grand scheme of things, I’ve put together a chart, based on the Annual Salary Survey done by AAPC.com in September 2012, so you can see how much farther you can go, if you are just willing to put in the work and get yourself through the necessary courses:
Getting these certifications is no longer as difficult as it once was, now that we have integrated the internet. Where, once upon a time, one had to take time out of their day to take classes offered at the local city college or university; now you can sign up for those classes online and take them at your convenience, whether it’s after work, or while your kids are in school, access to medical administration education has been tripled.
The exams for the actual certification, however, are still done at various appointed times throughout the year and at specific locations. They are timed tests that are difficult, but with the proper education, you should be able to breeze right through them. It’s no wonder why those that pass and become certified get higher paying salaries. They really are nowhere close to a “walk in the park,” but these exams, can be fairly simple provided you have the proper education or a great deal of experience.
Experience is also a big factor when determining medical coding salaries.
Most medical offices or hospitals will pay top dollar for people with extensive experience in the field. Those just starting out should expect to have to work their way up the salary ladder through experience and education. One shouldn’t expect the highest salary in the office if you’ve got all the certifications and haven’t worked a day in an actual medical office, and visa versa; you shouldn’t expect top dollar pay if you have 5 years experience, but don’t have any certifications.
Some offices, firms, or hospitals might offer higher education help for those that already work for their company and want or need to get their certifications taken care of. If you notice your company offering the help, jump on it as quickly as you can. This means higher salary for you and better office practices all around. And with the switch from ICD-9 to ICD-10 coming up on us pretty quickly, many offices are offering such training.
There are a few websites that offer some training for those that have their certifications and need to keep their certifications up to date. You can check out the various online accredited colleges and take the courses provided for your certifications. Some of them offer continued education courses to keep up and maintain your certifications once you’ve completed the course.
To reiterate, a certified coder salary is based on several different factors:
- Whether you have certification or not
- How many certifications you do have
- If you have any specialty certifications
- Your experience
- How willing you are to take advantage of educational offers provided
- How hard you’re willing to work
With the switch from ICD-9 to ICD-10 fast approaching, coders may find themselves overwhelmed and in need of some help. Right now is a great time to get your foot in the door, if you’re just starting out. My advice to you is, get as many certifications you can afford to get, if you can only get one, let that be your CPC, and be prepared to hit the ground running. There are many, many changes happening in the world of medical administration, and right smack dab in the middle of those changes are the coders and billers. You will be the ones that will have to help the rest of the office; from the administration to the physicians themselves learn the new codes and integrate it into the day to day workings of the office.
There is no better time to get into medical coding, but you should be prepared for a demanding job; it’s been a long time since the job was as demanding as it is about to become. The AAPC also reports that certified coder salaries are on the rise, reporting that they’ve seen an increase of 9.7 percent since 2011. So be prepared for a tough ride, but an awesome one, and one that is definitely worth the trip.