Certified Coding Specialist Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about a certified coding specialist's job duties, salary and certification requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of this specialized career.
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Pros and Cons of a Career As a Certified Coding Specialist

Certified coding specialists are healthcare professionals who maintain records and health data through a system of codes that are used to categorize patient information. Read the Pros and Cons listed below to see if this is the right career choice for you.

PROS of a Career As a Certified Coding Specialist
Considerable job growth is expected over the next decade for medical information professionals (22% growth between 2012 and 2022)*
Jobs exist in a number of healthcare settings*
A certificate is typically sufficient for entry-level work*
There are multiple types of certification credentials available for different types of health settings*

CONS of a Career As a Certified Coding Specialist
Overnight shifts may be necessary*
Sedentary job with many hours spent in front of a computer*
Little opportunity for part-time work*
Job responsibilities may change often as health information technology advances*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information

Job Duties

Certified coding specialists use a system of coding to categorize patients and their ailments for the purpose of billing, record keeping, archiving and cataloging. Coders are also responsible for acting as a communication link between a billing office and a care-provider's office. They file and retrieve medical records and also review patient information for pre-existing conditions and other health concerns.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

In May of 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) determined that medical records and health information technicians, such as certified coding specialists, earned a median annual salary of $35,900. The agency also projected a substantial amount of job growth in the medical information technology field. Specifically, the BLS projected a 22% increase in medical records and health information jobs between 20102 and 2022. The BLS noted that job opportunities should be best for technicians that have received certification.

Education Requirements

A high school diploma is sometimes sufficient to be hired; however, students may complete two-year Associate of Applied Science degree programs to become health information technicians. Such programs typically consist of learning skills in health data management, medical billing practices, procedure coding, health record maintenance and information technology. Course topics include anatomy and physiology as well as medical terminology and ethics. These programs are designed to prepare students to work in a number of healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics and medical offices. Graduates are prepared to sit for certification exams offered by the American Association of Professional Coders (AAPC). Additionally, for those who already hold a license or certification, such as nurses or medical assistants, there are shorter certificate programs designed to prepare them to sit for the AAPC certification exams.

What Employers Are Looking For

Most employers are looking for someone with some experience working with medical records. Different types of jobs may also require knowledge of different types of coding. For example, some employers may want an individual with knowledge of Medicare coding, while others are interested in someone who has done inpatient coding. Additionally, many employers prefer coders with good communication skills, good analytical abilities and excellent computer skills. Here are some real job listings that were found in April 2012:

  • A family medical practice in Florida is interested in hiring a certified medical coder and biller. The practice prefers a coder with at least a year of experience working in a physician's office. The practice would also like an individual with knowledge of electronic health records.
  • A Massachusetts medical practice is interested in hiring a certified medical coder who will also help with billing. The successful candidate will be responsible for checking patients in and out, collecting co-pays and general medical coding. Some evening work may also be required, and the practice prefers candidates who have previously worked with Vitera coding software.
  • A South Dakota surgical institute is looking for a certified medical coder with a minimum of a high school degree. However they prefer a candidate with an associate degree or bachelor's degree. The successful candidate must also hold CPC certification and have at least five years of surgical coding experience.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Although certification is not required, most employers prefer to hire certified coding specialists. In order to obtain the Certified Professional Coder (CPR) designation, prospective coders must pass a 5-hour and 40-minute test that includes 150 multiple-choice questions. The test is offered by the AAPC, which offers coding certification in a number of areas in addition to the CPC credential. Additionally, learning different types of coding software and how to handle a variety of electronic health care records is also beneficial.

Career Alternatives

If becoming a certified coding specialist doesn't sound quite like the job for you, there are some other occupations you may want to look into. These jobs require similar skills and educational background but offer different types of opportunities and work.

Medical Transcriptionist

Medical transcriptionists convert voice recordings into written reports. These recordings are usually from doctors and surgeons. Transcriptionists must be able to interpret medical terminology and transfer information to patient records and medical reports. As of May 2011, the BLS reported that transcriptionists earned a median annual salary of about $33,000. The agency also projected a six percent increase in transcriptionist jobs between 2010 and 2020.

Medical Assistant

Medical assistants take care of both clerical and clinical tasks in a physician's office or hospital department. Most assistants can obtain entry-level work after completing high school. However, many attend certificate or 2-year degree programs at a community college or vocational school. The BLS determined that medical assistants earned a median annual salary of about $29,000 in May 2011. The agency also projected a 31% job growth for medical assistants between 2010 and 2020.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Health Informatics
      • Master of Health Information Management
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Healthcare Admin
      • BS in Health Information Management
      • Health Information Management
      • Bachelor: Health Science
    Certificate
      • Medical Billing and Coding Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Health Information Management
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Insurance Billing and Coding Specialist
      • Associate: Health Information Management
      • Associate: Healthcare Management
    Certificate
      • Diploma: Medical Office Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
    Master's
      • MBA: Health Systems Management
      • MS in Health Care Administration
      • Master of Public Administration - Health Care Management
      • MS in Health Care Informatics
      • MS in Nursing: Health Care Informatics
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Health Care Administration
      • BS in Health Sciences: Professional Development & Advanced Patient Care
      • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Health Admin
      • MS - Health Admin Informatics
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Regent University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Public Administration - Healthcare Policy and Ethics
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
    Master's
      • MS - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Science in Management - Healthcare Management
      • MS - Healthcare Management - Informatics
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Health Care Management
      • BS - Business Administration - Health Care Management
      • B.S. - Health Care Management - Health Informatics
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Penn Foster Career School

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Career Diploma: Medical Billing and Coding
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
  • Campus and Online Programs
    9. Fortis College

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Medical Billing and Coding
  • Online Programs Available
    10. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Healthcare Management
      • Master of Business Admin: Healthcare Admin
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Healthcare Management - HSA Mgt.
      • Bachelor of Healthcare Management
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Healthcare Management

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master of Health Informatics
  • Bachelor: Healthcare Admin
  • Medical Billing and Coding Certificate

Which subject are you interested in?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Technology Management
  • Bachelor: Health Information Management
  • Associate of Science - Insurance Billing and Coding Specialist
  • Diploma: Medical Office Admin

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
  • MBA: Health Systems Management
  • BS in Health Care Administration

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS - Health Admin
  • MS - Health Admin Informatics

What is your highest level of education completed?

Regent University

  • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
  • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Healthcare Management
  • Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
  • MS - Healthcare Management
  • B.S. - Health Care Management

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Penn Foster Career School

  • Career Diploma: Medical Billing and Coding

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration

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