Many people consider medical coding as a career for multiple reasons – as a growing field, jobs are increasingly easier to find for certified coders, many jobs have flexible hours, and some coders are even able to work from home. As of 2016 BLS stats, the anticipated job growth for medical records and health information technicians is 15% for the years 2014-24.
What attracts others is the potential of a reasonable salary without years of college. But everybody is looking for the bottom line–what kind of money are we looking at?
Average Medical Coding Salary as of 2016
In 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Medical records and health information technicians can earn an annual median pay of $37,110 per year, with the top paying states being: District of Columbia, New Jersey, Alaska, California, and Maryland.
Historical Medical Coding & Billing Salaries
Comparatively, in 2008, the Bureau of Labor Statistics placed the median at only $30,000, but did say the highest 10 percent earned more than $45,260.About 20% of medical coders in the US are employed in hospitals. Medical coders can also be found in doctor’s offices, nursing homes, government agencies and insurance companies. In 2008, according to Salary.com, the middle 50 percent of medical billers and coders earned between $35,999 and $44,562 a year.
Medical Coding Salary Variables
There are a number of different variables that will affect how much a medical coder earns. Geographic location plays a role, as those who live in the Midwest are likely to make less money than coders who in the northeast or in central California, for example. The best paying area is in the Atlantic region. Cost of living plays a big role in this of course.
Medical coders who specialize, have a bachelor’s degree and oversee others in their department are likely to make more as well. Like most jobs, your pay is directly related to your education, experiences, and licensure/certification. While you may be able to get a job without a formal medical coding certification, it isn’t likely to pay as well.
In fact, the American Association of Professional Coders (AAPC) says that uncertified coders will make about $10,000 less than certified coders – that’s an 18% difference. Experience matters as well, with the average newcomer to the field making $14.73 an hour, compared to someone with 15 years of experience who averages $23.37 an hour.
Medical Coding Generalist or Specialist?
It makes sense – the more narrow your specialty, the more money you are likely to make. If you are willing to get certified in a specialty area and focus in that area, your salary may well rise accordingly. What is surprising is the variability even among specialists. According to the AAPC, neuropsychiatry medical coders make an average of $62,500 a year, almost $15,000 more than someone certified in plastic surgery. So doing a bit of research and knowing what areas make the most may help point your career in a specific direction.
Owning your own business
Donna Avila-Weil, the author of “Independent Medical Coding : The Comprehensive Guidebook for Career Success As a Medical Coder” explains that “many facilities finding it necessary to meet coding timetables are turning to contract vendors to provide these skilled services.”
Only about a third of medical coders are able to telecommute, while the rest are in offices or medical practices. For people who are committed to working from home, starting your own medical coding business is an appealing alternative. One common mistake beginning medical coders make is thinking that they will be able to attract new clients as long as they have completed their courses and have some software. Certification is just as important in a solo business as it is in a doctor’s office.
As is true with many fields, you will generally make more money if you own your own business than if you are working for someone else. That being said, owning a medical coding business requires actively selling your services to attract new clients among other hassles. Plus there are certain personality traits you will need to have to effectively start, and manage a business.
Rachel Ballard, RNC, BSN is a registered nurse with almost a decade of clinical experience in both acute care and public health settings.