About the Author: Hannah Rowland, CPC, CANPC

Hannah Rowland believes that the most important thing that you can do if you want a career in the healthcare field as a medical coder is to get your foot in the door. And that is exactly how she got into the field herself. In 1994 she started working in a doctor’s office in the medical records department and eventually moved to the reception desk at the front of the office. When she started to feel that she had gone about as far as she could go in her position, a colleague told her about the benefits of a medical coding career and suggested that she look into the certification program at nearby Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) in Charlotte, North Carolina. After doing a bit of research, Hannah was impressed with how well-organized and goal-oriented the program was. The school explained precisely how each class in their program prepared students to sit for the American Academy of Professional Coders’ (AAPC) certification exam.

Hannah was happy to put her natural way with numbers to work as she prepared for a career as a medical coder. At CPCC she took 4 courses over the period of a year while she continued to work full time. While she found the required medical terminology course to be a great help, she also recommends that students take an advanced coding course. Though this course was not required, she says that it was great practice for the AAPC exam. Hannah notes that the decision to continue working while she went to school helped her out in 2 important ways. First, her employer reimbursed her for the cost of her tuition, so she did not have to worry about the price of the program. Further, she did not have to search for a place to do her internship since she was able to put her new skills to work right on the job.

Hannah has now worked for 7 years in the field of medical coding and she still enjoys her job. In her experience, she finds that employers do not make a big distinction between students who have studied online and those who attended a traditional campus. Perceptions of online education have changed, she says. Employers today are more concerned with whether you have passed your certification exam and have work experience in medical coding than they are with whether you have an Internet or campus-based education.

Once you are a certified medical coder, you can expect a greater range of responsibilities on the job. And if you think that you might want to become a manager in the future, then an associates degree in medical coding and billing may be a better choice than a certification program since you can usually transfer these credits toward a bachelors degree in health care administration. The best way for you to advance in the field, however, is to keep up-to-date and earn additional certifications in sub-specialty fields such as obstetrics, pediatrics, chiropractics and cardiology. While Hannah says that she enjoys her work, she warns that medical coding is definitely not for the lazy. Every document has to be double-checked and there is no room for mistakes. Behind those numbers are real patients.