Getting Started in Medical Coding

The medical field is growing and projections have moderate to accelerated growth over the next decade. One of the areas experiencing the fastest expansion is the medical coding and medical billing field.

Proper training is vital to students wishing to pursue a career in health care administration.
A proper education in medical coding or billing  enables individuals to correctly and efficiently process standardized diagnoses and procedure codes that have been performed by physicians. This process is key for medical professionals to be properly compensated for their work and to ensure proper billing to the customer. This also facilitates electronic processing and payment by insurance companies and other third party providers in a more expedient manner.

Many schools offer medical coding or billing courses and students should evaluate every program to determine which will help them land a job in the area they desire. In most cases, medical coding schools will provide in-depth curriculums covering subjects such as medical billing, medical coding, medical terminology, medical insurance, chart analysis, health management, medical law, HIPIAA Compliance matters, pharmacology, human anatomy, and preparatory courses for medical coding certification.

Medical coding certification is a separate process completed after graduation and offers many different credentials offered mainly though two agencies, American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC®) and American Health Information Association (AHIMA®).

The AAPC® offers three main certificationsCPC, CPC-H, and CPC-P. These are the most common certifications and the certifications sought after by employers. They also offer other specialty certifications plus Continuing Education Units (CEU’s) required to keep a coders certifications current.

AHIMA® offers many certifications with the most common are Certified Coding Associate (CCA), Certified Coding Specialist (CCS), and CCS-P. These certifications are based more around medical records and health information. Most AHIMA® certification require more schooling or experience prior to taking the exams.

Gaining your credentials increases your salary and offers the employer proof of your expertise.

The Medical Coding Exam is 5 hours forty minutes and consists of 150 questions separated into three sections. Each section focuses on a different area of coding and you must pass all sections with a score of 70% or better.

There are many medical coding exam preparation tools available to help you prepare for this exam including practice exams and exam strategies to get you ready for certification.
Graduates of a medical coding education program and who have gained their certification may earn $38k to $43k annually depending on certification, experience, location and employer.

The AAPC published a salary survey in 2011 which highlights the different salary ranges and the qualifications likely needed to secure a job within that range.