Medical Billing and Coding Careers Guide 2021
By: Chaunie Brusie
Are you considering a career in the healthcare industry but not sure where to begin? Or maybe you’re interested in a career path that offers you the chance to work from home? Consider medical billing and coding! Getting a certificate in medical coding and billing can be a great way to begin a career in healthcare, as well as open the door to many different opportunities.
From advancing in medical code auditing to owning your own business, learn about all the different opportunities available in a medical coding and billing career.
Why Medical Billing and Coding is a Smart Career Path
Why exactly is medical billing and coding something you should consider for a career pathway? Let’s take a look at some of the benefits that a medical billing and coding career has:
1. It’s a Great Way to Get Started in Healthcare
For many people, a career in medical coding and billing can be an excellent way to get a foot in the door of the medical field.
Medical coding and billing are necessary for all areas of healthcare, so jobs exist in any specialty field you are interested in.
You can get a feel for the healthcare world and gain firsthand experience into the intricacies of medical jargon, diagnoses, and more, all right from your desk.
2. It Has a Promising Job Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical coding and billing has an 8% projected job outlook, which is much faster than average.
3. You Can Get Started Quickly
While it varies based on the program you choose, the specific certification you pursue, and of course, your own schedule, you can get certified in medical billing or coding in as quickly as four months.
4. You Can Work From Home
In a world where remote work has quickly become more accepted, you may never want to return to an office setting again -- and as a medical biller or coder, you don’t have to. Many medical billers and coders work from the comfort of their own homes.
5. You Can Own Your Own Business
On a related note, working from home as a medical biller or coder also means that you can own your own business and work for different clients, choosing your own schedule and workload.
6. You Can Do it Part-Time
Another great benefit? Medical billing and coding is an incredibly flexible career, meaning that you can choose to do it full-time or on a part-time basis. If you just want to work a few extra hours on the weekend or at home at night while you’re watching TV, you can absolutely do that as a medical coder and biller.
Medical Billing and Coding Jobs
Next, let’s take a look at exactly what a job as a medical biller or coder can look like. According to the BLS, as a medical biller or medical coder -- considered a career in medical records or as a health information technician -- here’s what you can expect in your position.
Medical Coding and Billing Job Setting
Most health information technicians work in some kind of office setting, and spend primarily all of their time in front of a computer screen.
As we mentioned earlier, you might also have the option to work from home, but you will still be performing all of your work at a computer.
Medical Coding and Billing Job Duties
If you are a medical coder, your primary role is transferring any medical diagnoses, procedures, or interventions that healthcare providers do to a patient into a code that will be sent to the insurance company.
Each medical procedure has a special code used by insurance companies that coincides with how much insurance companies will pay out in reimbursements to the office. For example, if a doctor performs a wart removal in-office, your job would be to code for the wart removal procedure on the medical paperwork that is sent to the insurance company.
The insurance company, in turn, would then process the paperwork using the approved reimbursement for the code for wart removal.
As you can imagine, medical coding is an integral part of any successful healthcare practice, so your role would be a vital one. Attention to detail is necessary for this role, as well as familiar with medical terminology.
As a medical biller, you would be the one that actually sends the paperwork that the medical coder has prepared--with all of those correct medical codes--and sends it to the insurance companies.
You’ll also be responsible for verifying the correct payment was received and communicating with the insurance company if any errors are spotted, such as if the wrong code was used or the insurance company did not send the correct payment for that inputted code.
You Can Do One or Both Jobs
Sometimes, an office can have two separate positions for medical coding and medical billing, or if you hold certificates in both, you may be responsible for both roles.
Medical coder and billers sometimes have other job titles, such as medical records specialist, coding specialist or health information technician.
Medical Coding and Billing Salary
According to the BLS, the average salary for a medical coder and biller is $44,090 per year or $21.20 per hour, though this will vary depending on your location and other factors.
Some full-time positions for medical coders and billers may carry benefits, but not all. And if you work for yourself, you will have to procure your own health insurance and retirement fund.
Career Advancement for Medical Coders and Billers
Medical coding and billing is often seen as an entry-level role, but it can be a great way to gain experience in the healthcare industry and can serve as a stepping stone to other medical careers.
Here are some of the careers you can transition into after a medical billing or coding career and what you’ll need to do to transition into them:
1. Medical Claims Processor - $46K per year
If you read the description of the medical biller and thought, “Hmmmm, I wonder if insurance companies use medical billers then too?” you’re absolutely right. Medical coders and billers with extensive experience and more certification can be hired by insurance companies as well to process claims and work directly with medical practices for billing and payment.
What you’ll do: As a Medical Claims Processor, you would work for a health insurance company to process the claims (read: codes) that healthcare facilities send in for reimbursement. You would need to be familiar with all aspects of medical coding and billing, as well as have personal skills, organization skills, and the ability to communicate between offices.
Requirements: Along with medical coding and billing experience, most claims processors have some kind of additional certification, such as a Certified Medical Reimbursement Specialist (CMRS) credential.
Salary: According to the Economic Research Institute, an average salary for an Insurance Claims Processor is around $46K.
2. Medical Secretary - $51.8K per year
You’re already familiar with the ins-and-outs of the behind-the-scenes work of a medical practice, so expanding into additional administrative tasks of a medical office secretary makes sense for medical coders and billers looking to advance their career.
What you’ll do: As a medical secretary, you could work for a medical practice or within a medical facility, like a hospital or surgical center, where you would be in charge of many administrative tasks. For instance, medical secretaries may schedule appointments, deal with billing and charting, communicate with patients and oversee staff duties as well.
Requirements: You could maintain your medical coding and billing certification, as well as pursue a medical secretary certification, but no formal education is required for this role.
Salary: According to the BLS, medical secretaries can make up to $51.8K annually.
3. Registered Nurse - $75.3K per year
It may seem like a pretty big leap to go from medical coder to Registered Nurse, but if you started down the path as a way to get your foot into the healthcare industry, it’s actually not a far shift at all.
Working as a medical coder and biller as an introduction to healthcare while pursuing a degree in nursing can be a smart decision -- it allows you time to make income while working towards a degree and helps you get familiar with medical terminology and practices.
What you’ll do: As a Registered Nurse (RN), you will be responsible for performing nursing assessments and nursing care, carrying out provider orders to care for your patients, communicating with healthcare professionals, and educating patients to meet their health goals. RNs can work in a wide variety of settings, from hospitals to home healthcare to public health to education, so duties will vary based on the specialty area you choose.
Requirements: Unfortunately, your certificate as a medical coder and biller won’t translate into your educational path as an RN, although you may be able to count a course in medical terminology or pathophysiology if you have taken one recently enough. To become an RN, you will need to take an accredited course -- either an accelerated program if you already have a Bachelor’s, an associate’s degree program (ADN), or a Bachelor’s (BSN), and pass the certifying NCLEX exam to earn your nursing license.
Salary: According to the BLS, the average salary for an RN is $75.3K per year.
4. Medical Coding Manager - $82,656/year
If you enjoy your work as a medical coder, but are ready to increase your salary, expand your skills and take on more responsibility, a career as a coding manager may be right for you.
What you’ll do: As a medical coding manager, you will be responsible for overseeing medical coders for more large-scale operations, like a hospital. You will need to be familiar with all of the medical codes at the setting you are working in (and as you can imagine, in a hospital, that will be a lot!), as well as be able to train, supervise, oversee, assess, and manage your staff of medical coders.
Requirements: The requirements for this role can vary, but you can expect to need several years of medical coding experience, as well as have some managerial experience. An AAPC or AHIMA coding certification should be expected as well.
Salary: According to ZipRecruiter, the national average salary for a coding manager is $82,656, with some salaries as high as $117,500.
5. Medical Coding Auditor - $94,936/year
While working as a medical coding manager means primarily managing a team of medical coders, as a medical coding auditor, you can still get your “hands dirty,” so to speak in medical coding. However, your role as an auditor will be much more comprehensive than simply working as a medical coder.
What you’ll do: In this role, you may work for an outside organization, insurance company or even as an independent consultant to perform audits on past and present coding that has been conducted. It would be your job to assess for accuracy of medical codes with the diagnoses and interventions done by providers, check for any errors and possibly work with the healthcare team to ensure compliance in the future as well as navigate any changes that need to be done to the medical coding process to avoid errors.
Requirements: Along with several years of experience as a medical coder, you will most likely need a medical code auditing certificate from the AAPC, which will make you a Certified Professional Medical Auditor.
Salary: According to ZipRecruiter, the national average salary for a medical code auditor is $94,936 per year.
5. Medical and Health Services Manager - $104,280 per year
What you’ll do: In this role, you would be responsible for running the administrative end of a medical practice office, which would include overseeing the billing and coding personnel and paperwork, electronic medical records and employee administrative tasks as well.
Requirements: While your experience as a medical coder and biller may be a great introduction to the inner workings of how a medical practice runs, advancing to a career as a medical manager will take additional experience and education. You will need to go on to earn at least a Bachelor’s degree and many managers also have a Master’s, such as a MPH (Master’s in Public Health) degree. Medical experience and administrative experience is also required.
Salary: According to the BLS, the average salary for a medical and health services manager is $104,280 per year, or $50.13 per hour.
For additional Medical Billing and Coding information, check out:
- This is How to Get Started in Medical Coding and Billing
- This is Why Starting a Medical Billing and Coding Business Was the Best Decision for Me
- Top Medical Billing and Coding Schools 2021
- What is Medical Billing and Coding? Codes & Fundamentals