Should I Become an Insurance Coding Specialist?
|Degree Level||Associate degree recommended; certificates available|
|Degree Field||Healthcare or business-related fields|
|Experience||On-the-job; previous medical office experience helpful|
|Key Skills||Analytical and interpersonal communication skills; detail-oriented; use of basic word-processing and specialized coding and classification software|
|Salary||$40,430 (2015 median for insurance coding specialists and other medical information technicians)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, (May, 2015)
Insurance coding specialists, also known as medical coding specialists, record procedures and diagnoses in patients' medical records using a universal coding system. This allows doctors' offices, hospitals and other medical facilities to bill insurance companies for their services. These professionals typically spend many hours seated and viewing a computer monitor.
The career requirements are relatively lenient. They include a high school diploma, as well as skills in communication, data analysis, basic word-processing software and specialized coding and classification software. So how much do these professionals make? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that insurance coding specialists and other medical information technicians earned an average salary of $40,430 as of May 2015. Let's take a look at the steps one can take to become an insurance coding specialist.
Step 1: Obtain Post-Secondary Training
Although only a high school diploma is required for this career, many medical employers prefer that insurance coding specialists have post-secondary training. Many 2-year colleges offer certificates in medical coding, which generally take 2-3 semesters to complete and include coursework in anatomy, physiology, medical coding, healthcare terminology and information management. Some of these professionals choose to earn associate's degrees in relevant fields, like health and information technology, which can lead to advancement opportunities not available to certificate holders.
Step 2: Gain Work Experience
Insurance coding specialists start out in entry-level positions at hospitals, doctor-owned practices, clinics and other healthcare facilities. They generally undergo several weeks of on-the-job training. The growing trend of electronic health records requires that coders become very familiar with the process of recording all medical information in an electronic format. So much of the training and job duties involve sitting in front of a computer for long periods of time.
Step 3: Get Certified
While not mandatory, certification can help improve job prospects and advancement opportunities. The Professional Association of Healthcare Coding Specialists offers Medical Coding Specialist certification. The certification requirements include association membership and passage of an exam, as well as either two years of coding experience or post-secondary training. Recertification is required every two years. As another option, the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) offers certification as a Certified Professional Coder, which requires passage of a certification exam. The organization also offers classroom and online coursework options in coding and billing systems to prepare for the CPC certification exam. More advanced medical coders may go on to earn certification in medical coding specialties, such as cardiology, dermatology, pediatrics or general surgery.
To become an insurance coding specialist, you need at least a high school diploma, though many employers prefer applicants with relevant post-secondary training. These professionals generally advance with experience and professional certification.