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Medical Coding Specialist: Job Description and Requirements

Nov 08, 2019

A medical coding specialist helps bridge the gap between healthcare services and billing operations by coding medical procedures and diagnoses for patients. Read on to find out more about a medical coder job description and learn how to start your career in the field.

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Medical Coder Job Description

Those wondering 'what is a medical coding specialist?' and 'what do they do?' should know that medical coders or coding specialists are a kind of health information technician. These professionals are primarily responsible for organizing, managing, and ensuring the accuracy of health information data. Medical coders typically work to guarantee the proper coding of health information, most commonly for billing purposes. Other job duties for medical coders may include:

  • Coding patient information for preexisting conditions
  • Selecting the correct procedure codes for patient care
  • Noting proper diagnosis codes
  • Working with healthcare providers and billing services
  • Managing other medical facility records
  • Organizing medical reports

Medical Coding Specialist Requirements

In order to become a medical coding specialist, students typically need to obtain a certificate or associate's degree in the field, along with professional certification. There are several different certificate and Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree programs available in medical coding, as well as certificate and associate's degree programs available in medical billing and coding for those wishing to become a medical billing clerk and other related medical billing and coding job options.

Many certificate and associate's degree programs in the field of medical coding are available in online formats. Some of these certificate programs can be completed in as little as 10 months, while associate's degree programs typically take 2 years to complete. Students in a medical coding program are likely to take courses in topics like:

  • Medical terminology
  • Medical billing
  • Healthcare systems
  • Diagnostic coding
  • Procedural codes

Certification

After completing a postsecondary program, most medical coders need to obtain professional certification in the field to demonstrate expertise. General health information technician certifications are available, such as the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) certification, but medical coders may pursue more specific certification, like the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) certification.

The CPC certification is offered through the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). To earn the prestigious credential, students must take the CPC exam and pass with a score of 70% or higher.

Advancement

Some medical coders may go on to earn a bachelor's or master's degree to advance their career. Often with an advanced degree, work experience, and the correct certifications, health information technicians can move into supervisory positions, such as a career as a medical or health services manager.

Medical Coder Salary

According to PayScale.com, medical coders made a median hourly wage of $18.06 in September 2019. This equated to a median annual salary of $41,545. PayScale.com did note that wages were likely to vary based on factors such as employer, bonuses, location, skills, and experience. For example, medical coders with 10 to 19 years of work experience reported an hourly wage of $21.33, while those with 20 years or more of work experience reported an hourly wage of $22.97.

Medical Coder Outlook

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) did not report the job outlook specifically for medical coders, it did report a job outlook of 11% for medical records and health information technicians from 2018 to 2028. This job outlook is much faster than the national average and may be attributed to the growing need for healthcare services, and in turn, the need for managing more healthcare information and data.

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