Career Comparison: Certified vs. Uncertified Medical Coders

Certification is not required for employment as a medical coder. As such, there are plenty of professionals who stop their education/training as soon as they land their first job. It may be that they can’t (or don’t want to) budget the time required for study, they don’t have ambitions to advance their career, or are intimidated by the five and a half hour examination. Whatever the reason, conventional wisdom holds that not going for certification may be a mistake, as certified coders gain several advantages over those lacking this credential.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

AAPC estimates that certified coders make approximately twenty percent more in wages than non-certified coders. The difference ought to come as no great surprise, as successfully passing a rigorous examination, combined with experience, demonstrates that he or she has the skill set needed to be an accurate member of any health care staff. It is possible that a non-certified individual is doing quite well at their place of employment, and doesn’t need the financial incentive―nor may it matter to the employer, particularly if they’ve worked there a long time. That possibility, however, is shrinking as more and more facilities expect credentials as part of their employment and promotion process.

The Impact on Employment

The employment angle is something to take seriously. While the field holds a large number of job opportunities, there is still competition for openings. More and more companies are including certification as a job requirement which limits the number of positions for which a non-certified coder can apply. Further, if a company does not require certification as a requirement, it is likely that they will want a couple extra years of experience from non-certified candidate.

Career Advancement

In addition to the edge earned by a credentialed professional, certification can also open up new career opportunities, including management positions. The CPC® designation will become increasingly important in the years to come, as higher level positions call for certification and additional education, including baccalaureate degrees.

Conclusion

No one should ever think that a non-certified medical coder is lazy or unqualified, but their employment and advancement opportunities may require them to show even greater proficiency than their certified counterparts. Lack of certification, regrettably, creates barriers to both promotion and wage increases. Fortunately, the profession as a whole is aware that obtaining a certification is not easy, which is why a number of organizations exist to prepare students for the various exams. Some employers even have educational assistance programs to help pay for coursework as well as the exam itself. In sum, certification opens up avenues for a person’s career and is very much worth the effort to obtain one or more of them.

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