Although you do not have to pass a medical billing and coding certification exam to find a job as a medical coder, certified specialists do earn a higher medical coding average salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the medical coding salary payscale in the U.S. ranges from around $22,000 to over $55,000.
BLS statistics estimate that the average medical coding pay for all specialists was around $36,000 in 2011. However, an unofficial survey from the American Association of Professional Coders (AAPC) indicates that the average annual salary for CPC-certified coders in 2011 was almost $47,000.
If you enter the medical coding profession with no credentials other than a basic medical coding certification, there are a number of ways to increase your pay and further your medical billing and coding career advancement. Aside from simply moving to a higher-paying region, the best ways to increase pay are through experience, additional education and specialization.
One of the most important factors that will influence your medical coder pay is the type of healthcare employer that you work for. The BLS states that the average salary for medical coders who work at general medical and surgical hospitals is almost $38,000 per year while physicians’ offices pay an average of around $30,000 per year.
At the top of the medical coding salary range are specialists who work for the federal government and research and development institutes. Medical coders in both of these fields earn around $46,000 annually. However, it is important to remember that these types of jobs are quite rare and only make up a small fraction of all medical coding jobs.
The largest number of medical coders are employed in hospitals and offices of physicians. Hospital-based medical coders alone make up almost half of all medical coding employees in the U.S. Other common employers of medical coding specialists include nursing care centers, outpatient centers and home healthcare services.
One of the simplest ways to increase your salary is to simply stick with your job. Employers are likely to offer higher medical coder salaries to medical coders who demonstrate strong technical skills, efficiency and reliability. For this reason, it can pay to remain with a good employer for several years rather than jumping from 1 job to the next in search of better pay.
However, medical coders who have only a basic certification may find that they reach their peak medical coding earning potential fairly quickly. For experienced medical coding professionals the way to earn more is sometimes to learn more. There are several types of advanced specialty certifications that can earn that will make you more valuable to employers and possibly bump you into a higher salary bracket.
Advanced specialty certifications are available through national professional associations such as the American Association of Professional Coders (AAPC), the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), as well as the Board of Medical Specialty Coding and Compliance (BMSC), the Professional Association of Healthcare Coding Specialists (PAHCS) and the National Cancer Registrars Association (NCRA).
Advanced certification exams typically assess specific medical coding skills that are not covered in basic certification courses. These advanced certifications will give you a competitive edge on the job market, make you more valuable to your employer and increase your medical coding earning potential.
A few of these specialty certifications include Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT), Certified Coding Specialist (CCS), Certified Interventional Radiology Cardiovascular Coder (CIRCC) and Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR).
If you already have an associates degree in medical coding, then you are already in a good position to pursue a bachelors degree in healthcare administration. This degree will prepare you for managerial roles in the healthcare industry that go beyond coding and billing.
Graduates with a bachelors degree in healthcare administration can expect to earn a starting salary that is on average about $10,000 higher than average medical coding salaries. In addition, they also have many more opportunities for professional advancement.