Medical Coder Job Description and Career Path

What It Takes to Become a Medical Coder and How Much Salary to Expect

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Medical coders are responsible for the interpretation of clinical documentation and convey that information to payers in the form of ICD (International Classification of Diseases) diagnosis codes, CPT (Current Procedural Terminology) procedure codes, and HCPCS (Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System) procedure codes.

Medical coders work in different types of settings including physician offices, hospitals, nursing homes, surgery centers, dental offices, home health care agencies, or other health care facilities.

Medical coders rely on their knowledge of medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, diagnosis, and procedures to translate medical documentation into standardized codes. Medical coding is a major factor in obtaining insurance reimbursement as well as maintaining patient records. Coding claims accurately lets the insurance payer know the illness or injury of the patient and the method of treatment.

Salary Expectations for Medical Coders

A medical coder can expect to earn a salary ranging from $25,000 to over $60,000 per year. The average salary per year is around $34,000 per year. The salary is contingent upon variables such as location, size of the facility, hours, incentives, education, experience, and other factors.

The Salary Comparison Tool at can give more specific information based on many factors for medical coders and other administrative professionals.

The job forecast for medical coders is excellent. The growth rate for this career is expected to be at or around 21% over the next 10 years due to continued growth in the healthcare industry. Opportunities are expected to increase in all medical and health care facilities.

Find current job opportunities for medical coders by visiting

Nature of the Work

Medical coders have a wide range of job duties that include but are not limited to the following:

  • Maintain familiarity with medical terminology and anatomy and physiology
  • Utilize ICD, CPT, and HCPCS code books to select the correct medical codes
  • Review medical records, correctly extract information and translate into correct codes
  • Know the rules and guidelines for coding based on payer guidelines with special attention to Medicare and Medicaid billing and coding regulations
  • Maintain coding credentials and continuing education credits (CEUs)
  • Understand and practice HIPAA privacy and security rules and regulations

Position Requirements

Most medical coders only require a high school diploma or an associates degree in Health Information Technology in addition to a certification in coding. Two main coding organization offer certifications that can be obtained by anyone interested in a career in medical coding.

  1. The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) offers:
    • CPC (Certified Professional Coder): Outpatient Physician Credential
    • CPC-H (Certified Professional Coder - Outpatient Hospital): Outpatient Hospital/Facility Credential
    • CPC-P (Certified Professional Coder - Payer): Payer Coding Credential
    • Specialty Coding Credentials: Specialty Credentials for Expert Coders
  2. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) offers:
    • CCA (Certified Coding Associate): Competent in both hospitals and physician practices
    • CCS (Certified Coding Specialist): Mastery in hospital-based settings
    • CCS-P (Certified Coding Specialist - Physician-based): Expertise in physician-based settings

Medical offices may also require that a candidate has a minimum of one to three years of experience in a medical office setting.

Working in the Medical Office

Some of the physical and mental characteristics of a successful medical coder will include the following:

  • Critical thinking skills
  • Detail oriented
  • Time management skills
  • Organizational Skills
  • Ability to handle stressful situations
  • Ability to communicate effectively
  • Computer skills

Basics of Medical Coding - Is It for You?

Medical coding is a system of number and letter labels distinct to each diagnosis, symptom or symptom set, and cause of death that can be recognized in human beings. Additionally, codes are used for standard communication of supplies and procedures used in the treatment of human conditions as well.

One set of codes is called The International Statistical Classification of Diseases, or ICD codes. These are specific to classifications of diagnoses, symptoms, and causes of death in humans. The World Health Organization creates, copyrights, and oversees these classifications and they are standard and thereby recognizable by every medical facility and practitioner worldwide. In the United States, the National Center for Health Statistics, which is a part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, manages any amendments to the ICD codes alongside the WHO.

CPT codes are Common Procedural Codes and were developed and trademarked by the American Medical Association in 1966. These are a system of five character alphanumeric codes that describe in a standardized method medical, surgical, and diagnostic services.

Another coding system is the HCPCS, or the Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System levels I and II. Level I is comprised of CPT codes, and Level II includes alphanumeric codes which are used to identify products, supplies, and services not included in the CPT codes when used outside a physician's office.