Discover Career Paths, Find a Job and Boost Your Salary Potential
The days of color-coded file folders are waning as electronic health data and technologies become omnipresent in the healthcare field. The transition has put medical billers and coders in high demand, but before jumping into one of these health information fields, it's important to know what billing and coding careers entail, the education and certifications necessary, and how to find a job and advance in the field.
Medical Billing and Coding Career Paths
Increased access to healthcare, combined with an aging population, are fueling the growth of healthcare jobs and the administrative support services needed. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 15 percent growth between 2014 and 2024 for medical records and health information technicians, a career that can be entered fairly quickly – often in less than a year – through earning a certificate, diploma or associate degree. Graduates may then take positions in a variety of settings, from doctor's offices to private billing firms. The following sampling of careers shows the diversity of jobs available to medical billing and coding professionals.
Billing Customer Service Specialist
Work Environment: Call Center
Answers phones to respond to general customer inquiries, invoice questions, and customer complaints. Also prepares memos and correspondence, and contacts customers regarding outstanding balances.
Team Lead: Hospital Collections
Work Environment: Hospital or healthcare system
Oversees billing and re-billing procedures and troubleshoots problems. Ensures that compliance, quality, call model accuracy, client specifics and collections practices workflows are adhered to.
Work Environment: Remote/At home
Codes, reviews and audits medical records to ensure that diagnostic codes and modifiers align with coding guidelines. Ensures work is accurate and has been submitted for payment.
Coding Coordinator: Physician Practice
Work Environment: Physician's Office
Oversees coding department operations, such as managing electronic medical records (EMRs), performing coding edits, and analyzing data. Advises and educates employees in various coding departments, assesses performance and compliance, and implements various tactics to improve the coding and billing process.
In 2013, the unemployment rate for Certified Professional Coders was just 1.7 percent, compared with 7.4 percent national unemployment rate. (Becker's)
According to the BLS, the following types of industries employ the highest number of medical billers and coders:
|Industry||Employment||Hourly Mean Wage||Annual Mean Wage|
|General medical and surgical hospitals||66,780||$20.71||$43,080|
|Nursing care facilities||11,970||$18.05||$37,550|
|Outpatient care centers||7,060||$17.97||$37,370|
|Management of companies and enterprises||6,350||$22.13||$46,030|
Working Remotely as a Biller or Coder
Need to stay home with the kids? Prefer to work in the middle of the night? Want to cut the commute to save time and money? Working remotely is one of the main draws for people who become medical billers and coders. Since work is done via computer, many employers hire independent contractors, or allow employees to choose when and where they work. The only requirements are high-speed Internet access, a secure connection to comply with HIPAA privacy requirements—and enough self-motivation to get the job done.
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Roles and Responsibilities
Although individuals in both medical billing and medical coding can expect to work closely with each other, they will also have their own, specifically defined workplace roles and responsibilities.
Since all types of medical practices need billing services, medical billers can work in a variety of settings, including large outpatient clinics, small private practices, or specialty facilities like nursing homes. Most medical billing work takes place on a computer and over the phone.
Medical coders can work in many different settings, from in- and outpatient treatment centers to insurance companies or healthcare software development companies. Coders do most of their work on a computer.
Medical Billing and Coding Salaries In-Depth
Salaries for medical billers and coders depend on several factors. Education, certification, experience, location and employer can all affect earnings. On average, annual earnings are between about $35,000 and $50,000, although wage estimates vary depending on the source. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a 2015 median annual salary of $37,110 for U.S. medical records and health information technicians, which includes coders. The AAPC reports that member earnings averaged at $50,775 in 2014. The employment data site Payscale shows that the median annual wage is $38,463 for medical coders and $35,139 for medical billers.
Jobs for both medical record and health information technicians, as well as medical and health service managers, are both growing faster than the national average for all careers, at 15 percent and 17 percent, respectively. (BLS)
Top Paying States for Medical Billers and Coders
District of ColumbiaEmployment: 610
Annual Mean Wage: $69,290
New JerseyEmployment: 1,630
Annual Mean Wage: $60,310
Annual Mean Wage: $52,040
Annual Mean Wage: $48,590
Annual Mean Wage: $47,930
Boosting Salary Potential
Medical billers and coders have multiple opportunities to increase their earnings, from specializing in certain aspects of their field to gaining new skills that will allow them to switch careers paths. Following are some of the most common strategies:
Education has a direct link to earnings. Employment in medical billing and coding typically requires a certificate or associate degree, but those seeking a salary boost should consider earning a bachelor's or graduate-level education. According to the AAPC's 2014 salary survey, professionals with bachelor's degrees earned about $10,000 more annually than those with no college experience, while those with graduate degrees earned more than twice as much as those with no college experience. Additional study in areas such as medical records technology, health information management, and health care administration can help medical billing and coding professionals increase their earnings.
Certification can also affect salaries, as employers often prefer to hire job candidates with recognized credentials. Salary surveys conducted by AAPC in 2015 show that members with one certification earned an average of $46,899 annually, whereas those with two or more credentials increased their earnings to $58,399. Three or more certifications boosted pay even higher, to $65,643.
Specialization and enhanced expertise is another path to higher pay. Specialty credentials range from Certified Cardiology Coder (CCC) to Certified Pediatrics Coder (CPEDC). Individuals with AAPC specialty coding certifications have an average annual salary of $53,489, more than $6,600 above the overall average salary reported. Similarly, the average salary rises as coders, billers, practice managers, auditors, and educators gain experience.
Job transfers offer another option for those seeking higher wages, depending on the particular employer and type of workplace. The BLS shows that pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing ranks among the highest-paying industries, while government agencies pay more than outpatient care centers or diagnostic laboratories.
Career crossovers may increase wages or provide alternative benefits in other allied health occupations. With the right training and qualifications, coders might make the switch to a similar career, like medical transcription, a field that paid a 2014 median wage of $34,750, according to BLS. Like coders and billers, medical transcriptionists can often work from home.
Moving into supervisory roles typically requires additional experience or qualifications, but such efforts can pay off. Coding and billing specialists who transfer into auditing, management or education typically earn $10,000 to $15,000 more than AAPC members who stick strictly to billing and coding. The BLS reports a 2014 median annual salary of $92,810 for medical or health services managers, who generally hold certification and a bachelor's degree.
Medical Billing and Coding Career Search Resources
Unlike some industries that are concentrated in a particular region, healthcare jobs are everywhere, so people seeking a job may stay in their own communities or widen the net as much as they want. Following are several places to not only find jobs, but also pick up tips and other information about working in the field:
Medical Billing and Coding Jobs
Healthcare Job Sites
General Career Sites
What's Next? Beyond Medical Billing and Coding
With its relatively quick educational and training path, medical billing and coding is an attractive option for many who want to enter the healthcare field. Rather than being an end goal, however, it can also be a launch-pad to careers that require more specialization or managerial responsibilities. Take a look below to see how professionals can combine medical billing and coding experience with additional training to leverage them into a more advanced job.
- Medical Biller
Submit medical claims to insurance companies, government assistance programs, and individual patients.
- Health Information Technician
Prepare medical documents by collecting and organizing patient information, and provide analysis as needed.
- Clinical Informatics Coordinator
Plan, implement and evaluate information systems used in medical care facilities.
- Director of Clinical Informatics
Serve as primary resource for information systems, especially EHR, managing.