Medical coding has become a standard way of recording patient histories and reporting health care service for reimbursement purposes. A coding associate or coding specialist attaches codes to procedures using classification software, which is then reviewed by private insurance companies and Medicare and Medicaid to determine coverage. Certified coding associates can specialize in a number of medical areas and work in a variety of health care settings, but salaries will vary based on some of these conditions.
Certification and the Effect on Wages
In 2009, the American Academy of Professional Coders conducted a salary survey in which it discovered that certified coders earned an average of $44,740 a year. This is over $7,000 more than coders that have not obtained certification. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in May of 2010 that while the bottom 10th percentile of medical coders made less than $21,240 a year, those in the top 10th percentile earned over $53,430 annually.
Salaries By Type of Certification
Some coding certifications lead to higher average wages than others based on the AAPC report. For example, coders with hospital certification (CPC-H) reported an average income of $51,980 a year, at least $6,000 more than those with the CPC (Certified Professional Coder) credential. Those with a specialty coding certificate earned $53,725 a year on average, and coding associates with the CPC-P certificate, who code for payers as opposed to providers, made an average of $55,172 annually.
Experience and Education
Certified coding associates also reported different wages based on experience. Coders starting out averaged $30,323, but after just five years on the job, they made $39,770 a year. Those with 20 years of experience garnered $50,350 a year on average. Education also played an important role in salaries. A certified coder with a high school diploma averaged $40,746 a year, and those with an associate degree made $42,304 a year. With a bachelor's degree, the average jumped up to $51,820 annually, and coding associates with a master's degree reported an average annual salary of $66,137.
Type of Working Environment
The most common place of work for certified coding associates in the AAPC report was a large group practice with more than 10 physicians. In this environment, the average salary was $43,187 a year. Those in medium and small practices made $40,714 and $40,155 a year respectively. Lower wages were found in rehab centers, averaging $37,500 a year, but coders working for insurance companies averaged $49,680 annually. However, the highest paying jobs for certified coding associates were as consultants, averaging $75,849 a year.