3 Basic Employment Qualifications for Medical Coders

The objective of any aspiring medical coder is being able to land a job in a dynamically growing field. The American healthcare industry is growing by leaps and bounds, and the need for qualified professionals is growing right along with it. A primary concern, of course, is understanding specifically what it takes to secure one of these desired positions. While qualifications can vary based things such as setting (e.g. Hospital, Physician’s Office, etc.), responsibilities, and geographic location, the following will be expected by just about any employer.

1. Hands-On Work Experience

Work experience is a common employment qualification for just about any job, and medical coding is no exception. A problem for many students, however, is acquiring the experience necessary for employment before obtaining this job qualification beforehand. A common solution to this is an internship. Student interns work for free (although the lucky ones get paid!) in exchange for gaining needed job experience. AAPC offers Project Xtern, a program that provides internships in a large number of participating facilities. AHIMA also offers internship opportunities, referred to as Professional Practice Experience (PPE), by credentialing third party facilities that offer coding related internships. It should be noted, however, that membership in both organizations – AAPC or AHIMA – is required in order to gain access to their corresponding internship programs.

2. An Academic Degree

Another employment qualification that is becoming increasingly common in the field is obtaining one or more academic degrees. While a degree isn’t required to work in the profession – at least not in terms of any state or federal regulations – it shouldn’t come as a surprise that better positions and higher pay often accompany higher education. It is often the case that an associate degree in Medical Coding or Medical Records can be substituted for one or two years of hands-on experience, but this will depend on the needs of the employer and what the job description demands of a candidate.

3. Proficiency in Medical Codes

It is pretty much a given that industry professionals should have an acceptable level of proficiency in medical codes. ICD-9 codes are used extensively, but a new and much larger set of codes, ICD-10, will come into use in late 2013. Anyone looking for a medical coding job would be wise to get thorough training in ICD-10 codes, and be able to show basic knowledge of medical terminology. This knowledge can be effectively demonstrated if the job applicant holds a reputable credential, such as the Certified Professional Coder (CPC®) designation provided by AAPC, or the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) certification provided by AHIMA. Both AAPC and AHIMA provide training courses for these, and other credentials.

Next Steps

The qualifications for entry-level employment in medical coding are not that difficult to achieve; however, because they vary from employer to employer, a little research beforehand can go a long way in saving both time and money. A good first step is to research employers in the areas you’d like to work, see if they have any jobs posted (either on their website or third party job board), and learn what they require. You may even consider contacting them to ask – say you’re just getting started in the profession, came across their company, and it seemed like a great place to work. Most people are happy to help an honest and eager person. Better yet, some companies offer internship or apprenticeship programs, and contacting them directly could be your way in.

Comments

  1. Dear Sir / Madame,

    This is ahamed from UAE. I would like to do exam for medical coding and currently i am working in hospital as a insurance assistant also know the CPT code from all department as well. i want to know what is qualification required for to do medical coding exam?? how many days it will take? how much for course? i dont want to leave my job during studying medical coding. so kindly clear me said issue.

    thank you

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