Medical billing and coding can be a lucrative job for the right person. In order to earn top dollar, you must be certified in medical billing and coding and build a base of experience with doctors or hospitals so that you can command higher pay.
Even entry-level coders make decent salaries, however, when you compare the amount of study and the cost of schooling with potential earnings. Many college graduates with four-year degrees earn about the same amount as a medical coder with a certification and a few years of experience.
Medical Coder Starting Salaries
Starting salaries for medical coders are difficult to calculate exactly because the level and type of certification and the market for medical coders will definitely affect your earning potential.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and its Occupational Outlook Handbook, the 2010 median income for a medical records and health information technician was $32,350 per year, or about $15.55 per hour. However, this median should not be considered the definitive amount for a beginning coder, who may earn much less or perhaps even more, depending on the job conditions.
Medical Coder Job Outlook
Medical coding jobs are expected to increase much more quickly than the average occupations in the United States between 2010 and 2020. The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates that the job field will grown by 21 percent during that time period. This means that more offices and hospitals will be looking for medical coders, which may bring salaries up in some areas where competition is fierce for certified employees.
Working Conditions and Other Variables
The American Association of Professional Coders conducted a survey in 2008 to determine the average salaries and working conditions of medical coders. They found that at least 18 percent of coders had a four-year college degree, although many of them had majored in areas other than the medical field and switched to coding as a better option. Of the 69 percent who did not have college degrees, most had completed vocational school training or had an associate’s degree prior to beginning work.
More medical coders are working from home now than ever before; at least one-third of medical coders are now part of home-based businesses, and this number is expected to increase in the future. Working from home often means cost savings for employees, so this may actually enhance a salary figure in an intangible way. By not paying for gas, clothing, or other expenses related to office work, at-home medical coders earn more even with smaller salaries.
The 2008 AAPC survey showed that the average salary for a medical coder was $43,500 for a certified coder and $36,500 for a non-certified coder. They found that the average starting salary was $14.73 per hour when starting, and went up to $23.37 per hour after fifteen years in the field.
The type of office in which you work also has a direct impact on your salary as a medical coder. The AAPC found that medical coders working in neuropsychiatry offices made the highest salaries, with an average of $62,500 per year. Coders in plastic surgeon’s offices earned an average of $47,200 per year.
Other factors that influenced salary were location and schedule. If you are a full-time medical coder, you will obviously earn more than a part-time worker. If you live in an urban area, you are more likely to make more money than someone in a rural area. Of course, medical coders in urban areas typically have higher costs of living than those in rural areas, as well.