For professional coders, the level of certification and education is closely related to salary. Although no formal education is required, a degree in a relevant field can be very useful when seeking employment. Coders must have an extensive knowledge of the current medical coding set as well as medical terminology, anatomy, and physiology.
Certified Professional Coders (CPCs) classify medical diagnoses and procedures according to nationally recognized coding systems. Medical organizations use these codes to determine reimbursements owed by insurance programs. This career requires CPC certification through the American Association of Professional Coders, along with additional certifications based on career specialty. It is recommended that candidates also hold an associate's or bachelor's degree in a relevant field.
|Required Certification||CPC certification|
|Recommended Education||Associate's or bachelor's degree|
|Required Skills||Anatomy and physiology, medical terminology and coding systems knowledge|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||15% for all medical records and health information technicians|
|Average Salary (2015)**||$51,454|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **American Academy of Professional Coders
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) categorizes professional coders among other types of medical records and health information technicians. In May 2015, the average annual salary earned by all such workers was reported as $40,430 by the BLS. However, those with specialized certifications may earn more, depending on location, employer, and experience.
According to a 2015 salary survey by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), the average annual salary for a Certified Professional Coder (CPC) was $51,454 (www.aapc.com).
As of 2015, the highest salaried AAPC credential was Certified Professional Coding Instructor (CPC-I) at around $73,000, followed by Certified Professional Compliance Officer (CPCO) at approximately $72,000.
AAPC-certified coders with only a high school diploma earned roughly $47,000 in 2015. Those who completed an associate's degree program in addition to becoming certified earned around $49,000, while those who completed a bachelor's degree program earned over $50,000. Those who continued their education to complete a master's degree were reported as earning upwards $60,000.
The BLS projected employment of medical records and health information technicians, which includes coders, to increase by 15% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). In May 2015, the BLS reported that approximately 189,930 people were employed in these positions, working predominantly in hospitals, doctor's offices, and nursing facilities.
AAPC certification exams evaluate a medical coder's knowledge of anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, and coding systems. Coding systems include the American Medical Association's Current Procedural Terminology, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System, and the World Health Organization's International Classification of Diseases (ICD) code set. As of October 1, 2013, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services now requires the completion of ICD-10 code sets in lieu of ICD-9 codes (www.hhs.gov).
In addition to the general CPC credential, the AAPC offers designations for work with outpatient hospitals and bill payers. They also offer 22 specialty certifications for experienced coders seeking to validate their expertise in various fields, such as pediatrics, cardiology, and general surgery.
Medical coders often work for hospitals and medical offices in translating medical procedures into medical codes used for billing. They are able to become credentialed through the American Academy of Professional Coders. General and specialized certifications are available, and their requirements typically include examinations and experience in the field.