The Best Career Path for a Medical Coder in 2021

You became a medical coder because you have a passion for data entry. But you also want to make a direct impact on the lives of others. When you got hired for the position, were you asked about where you see yourself in two or five years? Do you still see yourself in the field? 

In this article, we will go over a career path for medical coders that will withstand the test of time, starting from the beginning as a medical coder, and ending at the top.

How to Become a Medical Coder

To climb the career ladder as a medical coder, the first and most important step is becoming a medical coder. There are three routes that you can take including:

  • Do It Yourself (DIY) Method: Through studying independently and sitting for the CPC exam.
  • Career Program Method: You enroll in a short program that teaches you the necessary information covered in the CPC exam, and then you take the test to become a medical coder.
  • Associate’s or Bachelor’s Method: You enroll in either an AAS or BS program in medical coding/billing and graduate with the necessary knowledge and certifications to begin a career as a medical coder.

Next, we will go over what your options are for the next steps once you become a medical coder.

Job Boosting Certifications

The next step while you are a medical coder is furthering your career in the form of certifications. Each certification has an aim within medical coding and has certain requirements for testing/certification. Some of those include:

  • Certified Outpatient Coder (COC)
  • Certified Inpatient Coder (CIC)
  • Certified Coding Specialist (CCS)
  • Certified Professional Biller (CPB)
  • Certified Risk Adjustment Coder (CRC)

Each of these certifications can lead to more advanced roles, along with increased salaries.

In addition to traditional certifications, there are specialty certifications from the AAPC. These are designed for experienced coders that want to show expertise in a specific area of interest, a few of them are below:

  • Cardiology (CCC): focuses on heart-related diagnosis and procedure codes
  • Family Practice (CFPC): focuses on conditions for all age demographics
  • Pediatrics (CPEDC): focuses on conditions that are unique to children and infants

Job Advancement

After you have some experience working as a medical coder at the same location, it is important to know what your career trajectory looks like moving forward. Is there a lot of upward mobility and internal promotion? 

Here are some 2nd step careers that would be of interest to you and some example responsibilities:

  • Coding Manager/Coding Supervisor $82,656 (average)
    • Implements and enforces new policy and procedure changes
    • Assists in the hiring and training process for new employees
    • Facilitates communication between your company and a variety of healthcare providers
  • Specialty Coder/Cardiac Coder $70,017 (average)
    • Expertise in coding for cardiac conditions
    • Expert knowledge of all medical billing, medical treatment, and medical coding systems used
    • Coding patient charts as needed

Once you have developed managerial skills and developed tenure within medical coding, here are some sample third-step careers that may be of interest to you:

What’s Next?

In this article, we reviewed the process from start to finish in a medical coding career. Starting with being a medical coder and moving to a director of medical coding, you need a path. This might be a good time for you to branch out into a different specialty and try something new. Evaluate where your experience ranks up with these other medical coding-related positions, and see where your next opportunity will come from. 


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