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How Do I Become a Certified Medical Coder?

A certification exam must be passed before an individual can become a medical coder.
A certified medical coder may work for small medical practices or large hospitals.
Coding training is required to become a certified medical coder.
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  • Written By: P.S. Jones
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 08 August 2014
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A certified medical coder is a medical administration professional who takes the reports provided by medical transcriptionists and translates them into a numerical code. This code is universal, and allows insurance companies to match medical services to their own equivalent. Coding is essential to submitting health insurance claims and no insurance company will issue payment without the proper coding. All certified medical coders must complete coding training, and then pass a certification test before beginning work.

Becoming a certified medical coder starts with a good understanding of medical terms. Prospective coders will have several choices to obtain the training they need. They may take a college program to learn coding, or undergo training in a vocational program or technical school. There are also some self-taught online courses that offer the medical knowledge necessary to be successful in this field.

The next step is the actual certification to work as a medical coder. Nearly every employer requires that medical coders be certified. This is to assure that the coder has the skills needed to get the job done. The certification exam is offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). Once the coder has passed the exam, he or she is then officially certified, and can seek employment.

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There are many different job opportunities for a certified medical coder. They range from small individual medical practices to large busy hospitals. Virtually every medical provider needs to have a medical coder on staff. There are even some coders that work from home. The number of coders on staff depends on the size of the institution. An average sized hospital may need as many as fifty coders on staff.

A medical coder’s work crosses over to other medical administrative professionals. For example, medical transcriptionists review the medical provider’s notes and generate a report. Those reports are then given to the coders to determine specific treatment and diagnostic codes. In fact, many transcriptionists also undergo the training to get a job as a certified medical coder. Their medical backgrounds make them excellent candidates, and filling two positions with one staffer makes the whole process run more efficiently.

The medical billing professional is another position that often crosses over to coding. The codes provided by the medical coders are used on the insurance claims forms and billing statements. The medical biller and certified medical coder often are the same position in smaller medical establishments. One employee with all of these skills is usually more valuable than several individual ones.

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Discuss this Article

anon351918
Post 5

I am a coder/biller. I have been doing this for 12 years. I would like to become certified but don't think I need to be trained for two years in school. Like I said, I have been doing the job for 12 years. Any advice?

honeybees
Post 4

Would it be easier to get a medical billing coding job if you got your training through a vocational school.

I know there are several online programs to choose from, but often wonder if you get the same education?

I would like to train to be both a medical coder and to work in medical billing. I think this would make me much more marketable and feel like the jobs kind of overlap anyway.

I don't want to work in a big hospital, but would like to work for a small doctors office. Being trained for both of these jobs should be a big asset when it comes to finding a job.

I just want to make sure the schooling I receive is what I need in order to succeed.

John57
Post 3

I went through an medical coding online program and then became certified to work as a medical coder.

There are many advantages to taking your courses at home, but it can also be very challenging. Sometimes I think it would have been easier if I was in a classroom setting.

This is one of those jobs that does get easier the more you do it. It can be overwhelming at first trying to learn all the codes and become familiar with the medical terminology.

I do feel like there is some job security working in the medical field. If I wasn't working as a coder, I would have found some other position within this field.

Mykol
Post 2

@sunshined - It all depends on how much experience you have and if you are certified or not.

I think you might make more if you work in a hospital setting, but you also wouldn't have to worry about travel time and additional expenses if you worked from home.

Most medical coders can expect to make around $20 per hour. The location where you are working, and part of the country you live in can also be a factor.

My sister works as a medical coding specialist and once she was certified, she didn't have any trouble finding work at the hospital.

She enjoys her job, and feels like she could find work in this field no matter where she lived.

sunshined
Post 1

I have been trying to find a way to work from home and have been considering either working as a medical coder or transcriptionist.

I am wondering how long you have to go to school and how much a medical coding salary is?

I also like the idea of being able to take the courses online at home. With young kids at home, it is not very convenient to find someone to watch them while I attend class.

I also don't live close to a school where this is taught. Being able to get my education online and working from home sounds like it would be the perfect solution for me.

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