Medical Coding and Billing is one of the fastest growing careers in the nation, and provides a rewarding entry into the health care field for individuals with only a high school diploma. The Medical Coding and Billing field is:
- In-demand - Employment of medical records and health information technicians is expected to increase by 20 percent, much faster than the average for all occupations through 2018.*
- Fulfilling - Practitioners enjoy a stable income with great benefits. Medical coding and billing specialists make a minimum of $30,000 a year.
- Promising - Professionals in the field are rewarded with the opportunity to build a long-term career in healthcare, one of the most exciting employment arenas to be found.
There are many elements that influence the salary of medical billing and coding personnel. Geographic location alone, for example, plays a large role in determining level of compensation. In areas where the cost of living is higher and the local economy is thriving, medical coding salaries may be higher. For example, PayScale.com reports that as of 2010, a medical coder in Dallas can expect to earn between $30,968 and $41,500, while a medical coder in Los Angeles might well make $31,880 to $52,792. On an hourly basis, a medical coder in Chicago or Boston can expect to earn about $15.00-$20.00 an hour whereas the same position in a small city will yield perhaps $11.00-$15.00 an hour.
Also, the kind of company or organization one works for must be factored into the equation. Whether work is done in a hospital, private practice or in some other kind of setting has a huge effect. There may even be significant differences between one kind of medical facility and its sister institution down the road. And, an experienced, self-employed medical coder who has been building a business from home for years will likely earn a higher salary compared to someone who is just starting out on such a venture.
Of course, education level and amount of work experience affect the size of one's paycheck as well. Entry-level positions as a medical coder may pay $14.73 per hour, but that average increases to $19.33 after five years of work experience. After ten years, many medical coders make $21.75 per hour, while 15 years of experience in the field can increase salary to $23.37 per hour.
One interesting factor that affects a medical coder's salary is the specialty of the professional coder. Coding for neuropsychiatry, for example, looks to be the most lucrative specialty, oftentimes earning these professionals $62,500 a year. Coding for rheumatology is not far behind with a salary of $57,800 a year. Nephrology, plastic surgery and interventional radiology are all specialties that also pay coders higher salaries, often in the range of $47,100-$50,900 a year.
Because of all the factors above, and many others as well, it is difficult to predict what any single medical billing and coding salary will be. However, by looking at national human resources data available on the Department of Labor/Bureau of Labor Statistics website , it is possible to say that the middle 50 percent of medical billers and coders made between $38,137 and $50,002 as of December, 2010, while the top 10 percent of medical billing and coding salaries were $55,590 and above.
In some cases, health-care providers farm out their medical billing process to a third party known as a medical billing service. These entities promise to reduce the burden on medical staff and recoup lost efficiencies. But exactly what their impact is on the work environment and compensation of medical coding and billing personnel is less clear.
In general, the single most important point regarding the employment of medical coders is that the country has seen an 11 percent increase in the compensation of medical billing and coding personnel over the past year alone (2010). This is a field that has not seen, nor is likely to experience, the negative impact of the recent economic downturn.