There seems to be a common misconception that obtaining a medical coding certification is of very little value. Although an individual can likely find a job as a medical coder without formal training, future opportunities and level of compensation are very limited.
Medical coding positions are in high demand, however, medical practitioners and medical facilities view the coding function as vital to their business operations. As a result, many employers set high standards, and most often require a medical coding certification, or at least someone currently enrolled in a certification program, as a minimum hiring threshold.
From the perspective of the physician or medical institution, hand holding and fielding basic questions is a time waster and has a detrimental effect on productivity. Hiring a medical coder who can hit the street running so to speak, is by far more cost effective and efficient. Further, liability risk is reduced as a medical coding certification exposes the coder to medical ethics and some fundamental medical law.
For individuals looking for a long term career as opposed to a short term job, it is imperative to receive a certification. Here a a few reasons why:
- Higher Earning Potential: Although experience is a main factor in earning potential, a credentialed coder will be hired at a higher pay rate, and reap the benefits of higher future compensation. In 2010, for example, the average earnings of a certified coder were slightly over $45,000, while a non-certified coder averaged around $37,000.
- Easier Access To The Industry: Employers are reluctant to hire, or even interview for that matter, individuals who are not certified or in the process of becoming certified. Simply taking the small step of enrolling in a medical coding training course or program will dramatically increase the chances of being interviewed and ultimately hired.
- Future Advancement: Larger medical practices and medical facilities such as clinics and hospitals generally have administrative departments offering a variety of roles. Individuals with a higher level of education are typically the first to be considered for higher paying senior administrative and managerial positions.
- Greater Job Variety: Obtaining a medical coding certification allows an individual to further their education and attain credentials in very specialized areas. By engrossing continuing education, a career path may lead to employment with a law firm, accounting practice, pharmacy, insurance provider, nursing home, or a specialized clinic.
- Expanded Geographical Area: Many individuals perform medical coding from home, and are able to secure clients in other areas of the country where demand and in turn, compensation is higher. Doctors and medical institutions are more apt to hire or contract medical coders in remote locations if they have a strong and credible resume, a big part of which is education and certification.
As you see, there are tremendous benefits to attaining a medical coding certification. Discussing and reviewing the various medical coding schools is beyond the scope of this article, however, there are many options which offer courses online as well as in the classroom. That being said, a good starting point are two very credible organizations, American Academy of Professional Coders which can be found at www.aapc.com and American Health Information Management Association which can be found at www.ahima.org.