Roadmap to Becoming a Medical Coder

Medical coders can follow different career paths, but there are three important steps professionals should consider to evaluate whether they are interested in medical coding work and ensure they are ready for the position.

Step One: Evaluate Your Interest

Before beginning down the path of becoming a medical coder, it is important to evaluate your interest. To begin this evaluation, professionals should ask themselves if they are generally interested in working in the healthcare industry. Without an interest in healthcare, prospective medical coders may find it difficult to learn the skills, such as knowledge of medical terminology, anatomy, and pathophysiology, required to perform medical coding work. As part of this evaluation, professionals need to ask themselves are they willing to study to gain this information, and pass required medical coding certification exams.

Step Two: Take Training Courses

Once you have decided that a job in medical coding is right for you, it is time to begin training for the position and the required certification exams. The two major associations offering medical coding training courses are the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). You can find training courses from both of these associations that help entry-level professionals, and intermediary professionals looking to advance in the medical coding field.

Step Three: Get Certified

The most common types of medical coding certifications that professionals receive are Certified Coding Associate (CCA), Certified Coding Specialist (CCS), and Certified Professional Coder (CPC). These certifications all require professionals to pass a rigorous exam that demonstrate a coder’s knowledge of medical terminology and coding guidelines. The CCA and the CCS certifications are both offered by the AHIMA.

The CCA is an entry-level certification designed for professionals who have do not have prior coding experience.  The only requirement to take the CCA exam is having a high school diploma, but it is also recommended that professionals have some exposure to medical coding or complete an AHIMA approved coding program like the Professional Certification Approval Program (PCAP).

The CCS certification is the next progression for professionals who have experience working as a medical coder. This certification demonstrates a professional’s tested skills in data quality and accuracy, as well as, a mastery of coding proficiency. To take the CCS exam, professionals are required to have at least one year of prior coding experience and a CCA credential or completion of related courses in anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology, medical terminology, reimbursement methodology, intermediate/advanced ICD diagnostic coding, and procedural coding and medical services (CPT/HCPCS).

In comparison, the CPC certification is offered by the AAPC as an intermediate-level certification meant for medical coders who have more experience and knowledge. The CPC exam requires professionals to have at least two years of medical coding experience, and it is recommended they also have at least an associate’s degree. Obtaining a CPC certification demonstrates a proven expertise in physician/non-physician provider documentation review, abstract professional provider encounters, coding proficiency with CPT®, HCPCS Level II, ICD-10-CM, and compliance and regulatory requirements for physician services.

Medical Coding Jobs

Once you have become certified as a medical coder, it is time to get a job! Here is a list of some of the entry-level, intermediate-level, and advanced-level positions medical coders are qualified for.

Entry-Level Positions

As an entry-level medical coder you may be tasked with coding medical records, but you also may be asked to do non-coding work closely associated with billing or insurance claims. Entry-level medical coding jobs can be a great way to gain experience in the healthcare industry and learn the skills you need to advance your career. Here are some entry-level medical coding jobs to look for as you start your career:

  • Medical coder
  • Physician coder
  • Medical coding assistant
  • Medical transcriptionist
  • Collection Specialist
  • Insurance Claims Specialist

Intermediate-Level Positions

If you are a medical coder with some experience, you may be interested in pursuing an intermediate-level medical coding job. These jobs offer more responsibility than entry level jobs, and they can be a great way to advance your career in medical coding. As an intermediate level medical coder, you will typically be responsible for more complex coding tasks, such as coding for inpatient and outpatient procedures, and coding for complex diagnoses. You may also be responsible for training and supervising entry-level medical coders. Here are some popular intermediate-level medical coding jobs:

  • Medical coding specialist
  • Medical coding auditor
  • Coder II
  • Inpatient Coder
  • Specialty Coder
  • Coding Educator

Advanced Positions

Once you have several years of experience and a strong track record of success, you may be interested in pursuing an advanced level medical coding job. While these jobs come with more responsibility, they also offer professionals a chance to make a significant impact on the healthcare industry. As an advanced medical coder, you will typically be responsible for the most complex coding tasks, such as coding for rare and unusual diagnoses, and coding for new and emerging medical procedures. You may also be responsible for developing and implementing coding policies and procedures, and for training and supervising other medical coders. These are some advanced-level medical coding positions for professionals to consider:

  • Medical coding supervisor
  • Medical coding manager
  • Coding director
  • Compliance auditor
  • Health information management (HIM) manager
  • Medical coding consultant

Benefits of Working in Medical Coding

There are many benefits of working a job in medical coding that may interest a prospective healthcare professional. Below is a breakdown of some of these benefits:

  • High demand: The demand for medical coders is expected to grow in the coming years, as the healthcare industry continues to expand.
  • Flexible work options: Established medical coders can often work from home or in a variety of settings, which can offer a lot of flexibility.
  • Opportunities for advancement: There are many opportunities for advancement in the medical coding field, as coders can move up to more senior positions such as medical coding supervisor or medical coding manager.
  • Providing meaningful service: Medical coders are a vital part of the healthcare process and keeping patients happy. They ensure that patients are charged the correct amount for the procedures they undergo, while also making sure that insurance providers are being accurately paid for these procedures as well.

Our Michigan Medical Billers Association (MMBA) is a non-profit organization founded in 1990 by a small group of medical billers from Genesee County. As word spread and interest grew, our membership expanded to several areas throughout the state of Michigan. Today, we are an organization comprised of several hundred members representing medical specialties of all kinds. Our membership consists of a diverse group of medical billers, coders, practice managers, billing companies, and consultants and we aim to help them achieve the highest standard of education and networking capabilities.

MMBA Chapters:

MMBA is dedicated to meeting the educational and networking needs of our members, physician employers, and third-party payers. Our existence is dependent upon having the respect and support of each of these groups.