Before you decide whether or not you want to become a Certified Coding Specialist, you may be interested in how much you can earn. Although, you don’t need to be certified to become a Medical Coder, your salary will be higher, and your job opportunities will be greater if you do.
Medical coding specialists are always in demand. The need for certified coding specialists is expected to increase dramatically over the next few years.
A coding specialist uses medical documents and recorded reports from doctors and other health care professionals, and turns the information into comprehensive reports using a universal coding system. The coded reports are used to bill the insurance company or the patient, as well as to keep track of the patient’s medical history. The salary you can expect to receive depends on several factors.
To become a medical coder, you must have at least obtained a high school diploma, but many medical facilities will not hire you unless you have completed at least two years of college and passed a coding certification exam. Many schools offer hands on training, where part of your learning would be in the classroom and part would be on-the-job at a real medical facility.
Your training will focus on medical terminology, coding systems, anatomy and physiology, data analysis, health standard requirements, and reimbursement methods. Once you complete your training, you will have to pass a final exam in order to become certified as a specialist.
Some students learn better through books, while others need practical experience in order to understand all of the aspects of the job. Before you choose your school, decide what type of student you are. The biggest advantage of attending a school that offers on-the-job training is that you gain real world experience, which looks much better on your resume.
Having some of your training at a medical facility also opens many doors to employment. For example, you will be making valuable connections with the type of professionals you will be working with. In many cases the medical facility that trains you will want to keep you on full time once your training is complete.
Certified Professional Coder Salary by Location
The location of where you work can also influence your salary. The highest number of medical coders are currently located in South Dakota. This abundance of coders brings the average annual salary down to about $31,000. The number of coders in Mississippi is also quite high, but since the cost of living is quite low, the average salary is only around $26,000 a year. New Jersey is currently the highest paying state because the cost of living is higher and there are fewer certified coding specialists. Salaries in this state average about $45,000 a year. The overall certified coding specialist salary in the U.S. is around $43,000.
Specializing in certain medical fields also affects how much you can earn. For example, coders who work for a plastic surgeon earn an average of $47,000 a year, and nephrology (the treatment of kidney disease) coders can make as much as $50,000 or more. Certified coders working at neuropsychiatry facilities are among the highest paid in the industry, with salaries averaging around $62,000 a year.
The type of certification is also a factor. For example:
- A coder with a CPC-A indicates an “Apprentice” and is at the bottom of the pay scale
- Certified Professional Coders (CPC) earn about $45,000
- CPC-H indicates a hospital certification, and earns the coder about $51,000 a year.
- CPC-I certification can bring an average annual salary of $69,000, because the position is often at the senior level
Coding Specialist Salary Increases With Experience
As with most professions, the more experienced you are, the more your salary will increase. A certified coder just starting out will be at the lowest end of the pay scale, earning around $20,000 per year. However, after just five years this can easily double.
Another way to increase your salary is to obtain additional certifications. Just as with many other careers, your education doesn’t have to stop once your career begins. Teachers and doctors often continue their education in order to either increase their level of expertise, keep up with new technologies, or to move into a more specialized area in their field.
Working for Yourself vs Working for a Medical Facility
Many people love the idea of being their own boss. There are advantages and disadvantages to starting your own medical coding business. The biggest advantages are that you can choose your hours and location. Many coding specialists start a business from home.
The biggest disadvantage is finding doctors willing to hire you. You will be dealing with very sensitive material, and many doctors might not like the idea of confidential medical records leaving the office.
If you do decide to work independently, it is wise to get several years of real world experience under your belt before branching out on your own. Doctors and other medical professionals will be more likely to trust you if you have worked in the field as opposed to be being fresh out of college.
You should also take some business courses. Running a business is not just a matter of setting up an office and expecting clients to come rushing in. You will need to know:
- How to find and approach new clients
- How to fill out the government forms
- Which forms you need
- Accounting and tax filing practices
- Licenses and permits you need to operate a business in your city and state
- Every aspect of successfully running a business
Don’t think that operating your own business means you won’t have anyone to answer to – quite the opposite is true. The difference is that instead of working with just one doctor that you may like very much, you might have to deal with several doctors, some of which may not be so easy to get along with.
A certified coding specialist working independently generally earns a lower salary, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. If you are able to form good relationships with several doctors or medical professionals, then you have a very real chance of being at the higher end of the pay scale.