Medical coders are responsible for reviewing medical records and assigning codes to diagnoses, procedures, and treatments. They play a critical role in the healthcare industry, as these codes are used for billing and insurance purposes.
The salary of a medical coder can vary widely depending on a number of factors, including the individual’s level of experience, education, location, and the specific industry they work in. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for medical records and health information technicians, which includes medical coders, was $44,010 as of May 2020. The lowest 10% earned less than $27,660, while the highest 10% earned more than $69,250.
Medical coders with advanced certifications or extensive experience may earn higher salaries, as may those who work in specialty fields or in certain parts of the country with a higher cost of living. On the other hand, medical coders who are just starting out in their careers or who work in lower-paying industries may earn less.
It’s also worth noting that medical coders may be paid on an hourly or salaried basis, and their pay may be affected by factors such as the size of the employer and the specific duties they are responsible for.
Do medical coders need to be certified?
While medical coders are not required to be credentialed by law, many employers prefer to hire coders who have obtained professional certification. This is because certification demonstrates that a medical coder has the skills and knowledge needed to perform the job effectively, and it can also improve their credibility and professional standing.
There are several professional organizations that offer certification exams for medical coders, including the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). To be eligible to sit for these exams, candidates must typically meet certain education and experience requirements.
Once certified, medical coders may be required to complete continuing education units (CEUs) in order to maintain their credential. This helps to ensure that they stay up-to-date on the latest coding guidelines and industry best practices.
Overall, obtaining professional certification can be a valuable investment for medical coders, as it can improve their job prospects and earning potential. However, it is ultimately up to the individual to decide whether the cost and effort of obtaining certification is worth it for their career goals.
What’s the difference between AAPC and AHIMA?
The American Association of Professional Coders (AAPC) and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) are both professional organizations for individuals working in the healthcare industry.
AAPC is a professional membership organization for individuals working in medical coding, billing, auditing, and practice management. It offers certification exams, educational resources, and professional development opportunities to its members.
AHIMA is a professional organization for individuals working in the field of health information management. This includes professionals such as medical coders, medical record technicians, and health information administrators. AHIMA also offers certification exams, educational resources, and professional development opportunities to its members.
Overall, the main difference between AAPC and AHIMA is that AAPC is focused on medical coding and billing, while AHIMA is focused on health information management more broadly. Both organizations offer resources and support for professionals working in these fields.
Both the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) are well-respected professional organizations that offer medical coding credentials. Both organizations have their own certification exams and have a long history of supporting professionals in the healthcare industry.
It’s important to note that there is no one “best” organization for medical coding credentials. The right organization for you will depend on your specific career goals, experience, and education. Here are some factors to consider when deciding between AHIMA and AAPC:
- Focus: AHIMA’s certification exams focus more on health information management, including medical coding, while the AAPC’s exams focus more on medical coding and billing. If you are interested in a broader range of topics within the healthcare industry, AHIMA may be a better fit for you. If you are specifically interested in medical coding and billing, the AAPC may be a better choice.
- Eligibility requirements: Each organization has its own eligibility requirements for its certification exams. AHIMA generally requires candidates to have a higher level of education and experience compared to the AAPC. If you meet the eligibility requirements for both organizations, you may want to consider which one aligns better with your current experience and education.
- Cost: The cost of certification exams and study materials can vary widely between organizations. It’s a good idea to compare the costs of certification exams and study materials between AHIMA and the AAPC to determine which one fits better with your budget.
Ultimately, the decision of which organization to pursue certification with will depend on your individual needs and goals. It may be helpful to do some research and consider your options carefully before making a decision.
What specific credentials are most in demand for medical coders?
There are several professional certifications that are widely recognized and respected in the field of medical coding. These include:
- Certified Professional Coder (CPC) – offered by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). This credential is designed for individuals who work in medical coding and billing. To be eligible for the exam, candidates must have at least two years of professional coding experience or an associate’s degree in a related field.
- Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) – offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). This credential is geared towards individuals who work in medical coding and have experience with inpatient coding. To be eligible for the exam, candidates must have at least two years of professional coding experience or a bachelor’s degree in a related field.
- Certified Coding Associate (CCA) – also offered by AHIMA. This credential is designed for individuals who are just starting out in the field of medical coding and do not yet have the required experience or education for the CCS credential.
- Certified Outpatient Coder (COC) – offered by the AAPC. This credential is geared towards individuals who work in outpatient coding, such as in physician offices or ambulatory care settings.
Overall, the most valuable credential for a medical coder will depend on their specific career goals and the industry they work in. It may be helpful to research the requirements and exam content of each credential to determine which one is the best fit for your needs.
Why is a CPC credential valuable?
The Certified Professional Coder (CPC) credential is an important certification for anyone working in medical coding, as it demonstrates a level of knowledge and expertise in this field. Medical coding is a crucial part of the healthcare system, as it involves using standardized codes to accurately and efficiently document patient care and medical procedures.
There are several reasons why obtaining a CPC credential is important for medical coders. First and foremost, the CPC credential is widely recognized as the gold standard in medical coding. It is offered by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), which is the largest professional organization for medical coders in the United States. By obtaining a CPC credential, medical coders demonstrate to their employers and colleagues that they have the knowledge and skills to accurately and effectively code medical records.
In addition to demonstrating expertise, obtaining a CPC credential can also lead to career advancement and higher salaries for medical coders. Many employers prefer to hire coders who have a CPC credential, as it shows a commitment to professional development and a willingness to stay up-to-date on industry standards and best practices. Medical coders with a CPC credential may also be eligible for higher salaries and more opportunities for advancement within their organizations.
Another reason why the CPC credential is important is that it helps to ensure the accuracy and completeness of medical records. Medical coding errors can have serious consequences, including incorrect billing, inadequate documentation of patient care, and even patient safety issues. By earning a CPC credential, medical coders demonstrate that they have the knowledge and skills to accurately and consistently code medical records, which helps to ensure the integrity of the healthcare system.
In summary, the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) credential is an important certification for medical coders, as it demonstrates expertise, can lead to career advancement and higher salaries, and helps to ensure the accuracy and completeness of medical records. Obtaining a CPC credential is a valuable investment for anyone working in the field of medical coding.
What is required to get a CPC credential?
The Certified Professional Coder (CPC) exam is offered by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). It is a widely recognized and respected credential in the field of medical coding and billing.
To be eligible to sit for the CPC exam, candidates must meet the following requirements:
- Have a high school diploma or equivalent
- Have at least two years of professional coding experience, or an associate’s degree in a related field
- Agree to adhere to the AAPC’s Code of Ethics
If you meet these requirements and are ready to take the exam, you can follow these steps:
- Join the AAPC as a member. Membership costs $50 per year and includes access to a range of resources and benefits, such as discounts on certification exams and educational materials.
- Register for the exam. The exam fee is $399 for AAPC members and $599 for non-members. You can register online or by mail.
- Prepare for the exam. The AAPC offers a range of study materials and review courses to help candidates prepare for the exam. These are available for purchase, but are not required.
It’s worth noting that the cost of the exam and study materials is just an estimate, and actual costs may vary. It’s a good idea to check with the AAPC for the most accurate and up-to-date pricing information.
What AAPC and Career Training companies don’t tell you
You can’t pass the exam unless you’ve taken the prep course and the cheapest way to take the prep course is through AAPC directly. AAPC’s exam prep courses cost anywhere between $1700 and $3000. The course is self-paced and takes about 80 hours. Alternately, there are online resellers of the prep course who charge a few hundred dollars more than AAPC, but they sometimes offer more instructional guidance. Finally, career colleges that charge as much as $50K will purchase the AAPC prep exams and include that as part of a much more complete medical career degree.