How To Become a Medical Coder

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 17 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Medical coders are an integral part of the health care industry's daily operations. These individuals work with patients, doctors and nurses to analyse medical records and create specific codes related to each patient's medical needs. If you're detail-oriented, interested in the healthcare industry or want to explore different ways to use your computer coding skills, working as a medical coder may be right for you. In this article, we provide steps for how to become a medical coder, discuss specific salary information and offer six frequently asked questions with answers.

How to become a medical coder

If you're interested in learning how to become a medical coder, here are some simple steps you can follow to achieve your career goal:

1. Understand the duties

Prior to deciding whether you want to become a medical coder, it's important to understand the duties you might handle. Specifically, recognising that medical coding differs from medical billing and requires the knowledge of many unique medical codes. Periodically checking these codes is useful because it may change over time depending on different information regulations regarding compliance or billing. Understanding these duties might also help you identify specific skill sets, like analysis and organisation, to focus on developing for your medical coding career.

Related: How To Find a Rewarding Career Path in 9 Steps

2. Meet the prerequisites

To work as a medical coder, you need at least a diploma or general education degree equivalent to work as a medical coder. Although you don't need an advanced degree, an associate or bachelor's degree might help make you more competitive during your medical coder job search. Another common prerequisite you may need for medical coding jobs is the successful completion of a criminal background check.

3. Engage in medical coding training

Engaging in medical coding training can help you solidify your foundational knowledge of relevant medical coding topics. Some examples of the topics you might learn about include:

  • Coding foundations

  • Medical terminology

  • Ambulatory care coding

  • Revenue cycle and billing

  • Healthcare communication

  • Medical law and ethics

  • Medical records management

  • Diagnostic and procedural coding

  • Coding technology and applications

When selecting a programme for your medical coding training, it's important to research different available options in your area. Specifically, you might choose to examine accredited courses from colleges, universities or reputable organisations. The training programme you engage in may influence the time it takes for you to complete, but typically these courses can take several months.

4. Gain medical coding certifications

After you complete your training, you can begin gaining medical coding certifications. Earning these credentials is important to help demonstrate your industry skills when searching for a medical coding position. There are many professional medical coder certifications you can gain in Singapore from the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), including:

  • Certified Professional Coder (CPC)

  • Certified Coding Associate (CCA)

  • Certified Coding Specialist (CCS)

After gaining foundational certifications, like these, you might enrol in more advanced or specialised medical coding training certifications. The topics you may learn in these courses can focus on medical coding for family practice, surgery, ambulatory care or anaesthesia. Typically, to earn medical coding certifications, you can complete a course and exam.

5. Revise your resume

When you're ready to start your medical coder job search, take time to revise your resume first. Doing this can help ensure your resume features all of your medical coding training, certifications and relevant skills. You can also tailor your resume to the specific medical coder positions you apply for by including keywords from the job description. This might mean updating for resume for each position you apply for in medical coding.

Related: Why Creating Multiple Versions of Your Resume Works

Salary of a medical coder

The average salary of a medical coder is $2,998 per month. Individual salary amounts for this role may vary on education, experience and location. Please note that this average salary is based on fewer than 100 reported salaries.

6 frequently asked questions about being a medical coder

If you're interested in learning more about being a medical coder, here are six frequently asked questions with answers you can examine:

1. What's the difference between medical coding and medical billing?

Although medical coding and medical billing share similarities, they're also different. Specifically, medical coding documents a patient's visit and the services they received. Coders work to document this information within patient medical records and assign relevant coding to indicate associated costs for billing. Meanwhile, medical billing processes insurance claims and provides patients with medical invoices for the services they received.

2. What types of technology do medical coders use?

You can use a variety of different technologies and applications in your medical coding position to help you attach important codes to patient medical records. Some examples of what you might use include:

  • Encoder software: Technology that acts as a digital dictionary for medical coders to search for specific procedure codes.

  • Computer-assisted coding programs: These use natural language processing to help computers translate medical data for coders.

Besides these computer-based technologies, medical coders may also use relevant mobile applications on their smartphones. For example, applications like ICD10 can help coders look up medical codes or convert codes immediately. Typically, the specific technologies you use as a medical coder depends on the coding needs of your position.

3. What skills are useful for medical coders?

There are many useful skills you can develop for your career as a medical coder. Here are some examples of these skills and information about how you might use each of them:

  • Organisation: Strong organisation skills are beneficial for medical coders because they can help them effectively keep track of patient records.

  • Attention to detail: You might benefit from attention to detail as a coder to ensure you code each patient record correctly, which can help prevent costly medical record mistakes.

  • Verbal and written communication: Both verbal and written communication are useful for medical coders because they may communicate verbally with other coders or write coding-related notes in patient records.

  • Collaboration: Depending on your medical coding position, you may need collaboration skills to work with coworkers to ensure everyone has coded their medical records properly.

  • Computer literacy: Strong computer literacy skills are beneficial for medical coders because most of the work they do is computer-based and requires interactions with confidential medical data.

  • Memorisation: You may benefit from memorisation skills in medical coding roles because you can use them to help you remember specific medical codes.

  • Analysis: Maintaining analysis skills can also be useful for medical coders because their job requires them to work with medical data consistently.

  • Time management: Time management skills are also beneficial for medical coders, especially if they handle multiple patient records at a time.

Related: Teamwork Skills: Definition and Examples

4. Which associate or bachelor's degree study areas are beneficial for medical coding?

Although you don't need an associate or bachelor's degree to work as a medical coder, there are some study areas that can help you gain important skills and knowledge for your career. If this is something you are interested in, you may select a medical coding specific study area. Although, if your college or university doesn't offer this option, you can consider other related study areas like health care management or computer science.

5. Where can I find medical coding positions?

You can usually find medical coder job openings on employer websites. For example, if you want to work within a specific hospital network, you might check the openings they currently have on their website. Another way you can search for medical coder job openings is with Indeed's Job Search website.

Related: Guide: Using Job Search

6. Where do medical coders usually work?

If you're working as a medical coder, where you work may depend on the specific type of coding you handle. For example, if you're an ambulatory care coder, you may be working in a hospital. Meanwhile, if you work as a general medical coder, you may be working in a doctor's office. Medical coding positions might also offer remote work environments for contracted workers. You might research work environments for different medical coding positions if you have a preference.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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