What Is the Salary for a Medical Coder? (Plus FAQs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated March 28, 2022 | Published May 25, 2021

Updated March 28, 2022

Published May 25, 2021

Medical coding specialists play critical roles in the health industry. Medical coders are responsible for organizing healthcare-related data and ensuring medical data is readily accessible when medical professionals or insurance companies need it. It is helpful to know how much medical coders earn before pursuing the relevant educational program required for the position. This article discusses what a medical coder is, their duties, required qualifications and how much medical coders earn.

What is a medical coder?

A medical coder is a specialist responsible for translating doctors' and other physicians' reports into medical codes. The coders work in many health-related settings to ensure pertinent reports and information are appropriately coded for accuracy and reliability. After medical providers examine patients, insurance companies require a report about the medical services provided to process medical bills. To get accurate details, insurance companies use established codes which define medical procedures. Medical coders are responsible for coding the reports in useful and efficient ways.

Related: What Is Medical Coding?

What does a medical coder do?

A medical coder works for healthcare centers, converting a patient's information into standardized codes. Medical coding professionals have similar duties and responsibilities regardless of the facility or healthcare center in which they work. Common responsibilities of medical coders include:

  • Coding patient's treatment and diagnostic procedures, complications and other significant reportable events

  • Analyzing and researching data needs for insurance claims

  • Analyzing medical records and identifying documentation errors

  • Serving as a subject matter and resource expert to other medical coding staff

  • Reviewing and verifying diagnoses, treatment procedures and results on behalf of insurance agencies

  • Identifying discrepancies and other billing errors

  • Researching, recommending, analyzing and facilitating action plans to rectify discrepancies and prevent future billing errors.

  • Serving as coding consultants to healthcare providers

  • Leading and supervising training and monitoring of other staff

  • Informing superiors about equipment-related issues or computer program complications

  • Ensuring medical coding complies with set guidelines and policies

How much do medical coders make?

The ever-increasing demand for medical coding specialists has caused coder's wages to grow with time. The latest reports from Indeed, show that the national average salary for a medical coder is $47,695 per year. However, the wages vary with the location, experience and educational level of medical coders. Specialists working in states and cities with high living standards earn more than medical coders working in other cities. Some of the highest paying cities are:

  • Tampa, Florida medical coders earn an average salary of $25.02 per hour

  • Dallas, Texas medical coders earn an average salary of $23.84 per hour

  • Nashville, Tennessee medical coders earn an average salary of $23.15 per hour

Related: A Definitive Guide To Employee Benefits Packages

Are there medical coder certifications?

No, the fact that medical coding jobs do not require extensive education and certification is among the attractive aspects of the job. Medical coding is one of the few medical jobs that does not require years of schooling and hours of internships in clinics. However, earning an extra certification can help you earn more and improve your chances of getting jobs.

Not everyone can efficiently perform medical coding tasks. The role requires specialized training and this is what makes medical coding specialists valuable. Medical coding training is important, it's duration is shorter in comparison with other healthcare professions. Through online programs or in classrooms, the training takes around nine months. After completing the training, although it is not mandatory, medical coders take the Certified Coding Associate (CCA) or Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) exam given by the American Health Information Management Association for certification.

Related: Training and Responsibilities for a Medical Coder

What is the work environment like for medical coders?

Medical coders work behind the scene with minimal contact with patients and the public. If you are interested in a career in a healthcare setting that isn't patient-facing, this may be an ideal position for you. Specialists spend most of their time seated at desks. When medical coding is mentioned, many people will assume the professionals work in clinics and hospital settings. However, medical coding experts work in a wide variety of settings. Here are some of the places medical coders can work:

Clinics and medical offices

Hospitals and clinics require medical coding professionals to assign codes and document medical procedures to prepare bills for patients. The coders interpret patients' charts, research codes and use coding software to assign proper codes. Doctor's offices, such as dental and dermatology offices, also require coders for insurance claims and processing bills.

Healthcare consulting firms

Some companies offer consultancy services to hospitals and other healthcare facilities to help resolve problems and plan for the future. Such firms hire various healthcare professionals to develop, design and implement solutions to improve performance and increase profitability in health systems and hospitals. Medical coders working for consultancy companies use clinical reports and documents to extract critical data and use appropriate billing, regulatory compliance and research codes. The professionals also conduct reviews or audits to ensure clinics use accurate coding to prevent insurance claims from being rejected because of coding errors.

Educational institutions

Technical schools and colleges require highly skilled and experienced medical coders to train medical coding students. Teaching work requires some years of job experience. Thus, seasoned coders looking for a change in their coding career can consider the teaching option. Furthermore, educational institutions hire medical coders to work in the hospitals or clinics owned by the institutions.

Insurance companies

After medical coders submit the coded information to insurance agencies, another coder must translate the codes. The coding specialists also verify the accuracy of the claims they receive and note missing or wrong information. The medical coders then compare the services patients received to the insurance coverage plans to process payments.

Law firms

Billing fraud has been a challenge in the healthcare department. Using incorrect codes when billing can result in a fraud case against medical providers even when the errors were not intentional. The clinic or medical provider has to prove the coding error was a mistake to avoid facing criminal charges. Law firms hire professionals with coding expertise to help investigate fraud claims. The coders examine records to determine if the coding discrepancies were unintentional or if the case is actual billing fraud.

Medical coding frequently asked questions

People interested in medical coding roles may have some questions related to the work. Here are some frequently asked questions:

What skills should medical coders possess?

Medical coding requires accuracy and efficiency. The job is demanding and requires dedicated and determined professionals. Excellent medical coders must possess critical skills to excel. Here are some of the essential skills medical coders should possess or develop:

  • Attention to details: Medical coders must pay attention to even the smallest details as errors may be costly. For instance, if mistakes are found in coded work, this can easily turn into a criminal case.

  • Effective communication: Excellent medical coders implement their listening skills, retain information and ask questions for clarification. Since the job involves interpreting medical reports, communication is critical. For instance, if the coder does not understand the treatment procedure written down by a physician, the specialist should ask for clarification to ensure the coded information is correct.

  • Flexibility: Great medical coders possess the ability to adapt to changes. Coding work involves many technological platforms and health care evolves with time. Since the organizational needs of medical clinics can vary, coders may be required to use a number of different software programs. Adapting to new technology is critical for coders, who must also be proficient with various technologies like ICD-10, document management software, billing and coding systems and Microsoft Office.

What is the job outlook for medical coders?

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of specialists working in medical records and health information, including medical coders, will rise by 8% from the year 2019 to 2029. The growth rate of employment opportunities is faster than the four percent average employment growth of all other industries. It is expected that 29,000 more employment opportunities will be added by 2029. The aging population is among the main factors that will lead to medical coders' employment opportunity growth.

Related: Job Outlook: What It Is and Why It's Important

Can a medical coding specialist work from home?

Yes, medical coders can work from home. Medical coding is a flexible job. However, to work from home, employers require confidentiality and trust from coders, which professional employees must provide.

Related: Learn About Working Medical Coding and Billing Jobs at Home

Why pursue medical coding career

A medical coding career is a desirable career path for anyone interested in healthcare and technology. As a coder, you help to maintain the integrity and accuracy of billing functions of healthcare providers. Here are other advantages of working as a medical coder:

  • Medical coding requires minimal supervision and thus, the specialists can be independent.

  • A positive job outlook is another aspect that can motivate you to pursue medical coding career.

  • If you like working out of the office, medical coding jobs offer the chance of working from home.

  • Only a short training program of around nine months is needed. The training can be in classrooms or online

  • You can earn a competitive salary without completing college degrees.

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