Medical Billing and Coding Salary and Career Outlook

Written By: Jordan Beliles

Published: 5/2/2022

With more and more medical processes becoming digitized, the need for medical billing and coding experts continues to grow. Complex information is constantly being transferred back and forth between insurance companies and medical facilities. Hospitals and doctors' offices rely on trained professionals to make sure this data is well organized and properly coded. According to the latest National Electronic Health Records Survey, more than 78% of physicians' offices use digital medical records. This stat highlights the need for medical billers and coders who have earned their online program certificate and know how to catalog data from patients' diagnoses.


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What Do Medical Billers and Coders Do?

Medical billers and coders work in a specialized niche within the medical field. Professionals use analytics and organization to process important information about patients. They work on behalf of a hospital to code diagnoses and send payment requests to insurance companies. However, there is a distinct difference between a biller and a coder.

What Is the Main Difference Between a Medical Biller and Coder?

Medical coders work primarily with analytics. As medical information gets transferred, it follows a process that goes through several entities. Medical coders receive data from doctors, surgeons, pharmacists, nutritionists, and physical therapists. They then translate that information into codes which are widely understood by insurance companies. Medical coders play an important role in translating the data into a series of numbers and letters that help in the next step of the process.



[M]edical coders have strong memorization and data skills while medical billers rely on their ability to communicate and translate that information.

When the medical biller receives a form from a medical coder, they are responsible for submitting that information to the patients and insurance companies. Medical billers use the codes from a provider and file claims with a patient's insurance company. They also handle disputes, such as rejections or denials, and work to develop revenue on behalf of their healthcare organization. As a medical biller, you may be called on by patients to explain certain medical codes.

To summarize, medical coders have strong memorization and data skills while medical billers rely on their ability to communicate and translate that information.

Why Become a Medical Biller or Coder?

If you've always envisioned yourself in the medical field, medical billing or coding can offer a fast-track to a career in healthcare.

There are several benefits to working in the field of medical coding and billing. While both job titles tend to vary in terms of responsibilities, each one is responsible for an important step in the healthcare process.

One of the benefits of being a medical biller is the chance to work directly with patients. Going through a medical procedure isn't easy, and as a biller, you'll often be in contact with patients to explain a bill. If you enjoy the idea of walking patients through complicated processes and addressing their concerns, you may find career satisfaction working as a medical biller.

Another plus to consider for either a billing or coding role is having the opportunity to work remotely. Many healthcare providers outsource their billing and coding to third-party companies. Therefore, you may be able to work from home instead of in a hospital or physician's office. Some positions are part-time as well, offering more flexibility in your work schedule.

Medical Billing and Coding Programs

You can pursue training and certification through a number of colleges or external organizations

Costs

Many schools offer affordable certificate programs that cost about $1,000. Some programs, however, can cost around $5,000 per year. To cover some of the costs, you may be eligible for financial aid or grants. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) also offers scholarships for a select number of students.

Requirements

Most programs can be completed in one to two years on a part-time schedule. Keep in mind, some programs will require you to have completed previous coursework in medical studies. This way, you'll more easily pick up on the medical terminology when performing coding and billing tasks. You'll also need a high school diploma or GED to apply.

Curriculum

Throughout the course of your studies, you'll learn the appropriate coding programs to utilize in a healthcare facility and their associated procedures. A large emphasis will be put on learning the Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS), which includes important classifications and terminologies. Here are some examples of common courses you might come across in your online programs:
  • Fundamentals of Health Information Management
  • Medical Office Procedures
  • Introduction to ICD Coding
  • Applied Medical Terminology

Careers for Medical Billers and Coders

Billers and coders specialize in very specific tasks in the medical field. While the job outlook is promising, there aren't many variations to the available career paths. As a medical biller or coder, you can become a medical records technician, health information clerk, or medical records clerk. Many of these roles involve both coding and billing tasks.

As a medical biller or coder, you can become a medical records technician, health information clerk, or medical records clerk.

Are Medical Billing and Coding Jobs Hard To Get?

By law, you are not required to earn a certificate to become a medical biller or coder. While this seems to make this career choice more obtainable, individual employers may still require a postsecondary certification before they consider you for a position. Some even require an associate degree.

Where Do Medical Billers and Coders Work?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most medical billers and coders work in hospitals or physician's offices. Private institutions — such as UnitedHealth Group, Anthem Blue Cross, and Humana — also employ a large number of individuals to handle health information processing. There are also opportunities to work in outpatient centers and other medical facilities. Some individuals in this field are able to work from home through outsourced companies.

Important Qualities for Medical Billing and Coding Careers

There are some quality and skill differences between medical billers and medical coders. A biller, for example, requires a great deal of empathy, as they are often in contact with patients directly. They might have to explain why a medical bill is so high or why a patient was denied a claim. For this reason, communication is an important skill for medical billers. They'll be required to speak with insurance companies and healthcare employers to investigate and analyze bills.

Coders, on the other hand, require exceptional skills in memorization and analytics. They must interpret and memorize hundreds of codes that correlate to different medical procedures. For this reason, they are often very meticulous, technical thinkers with a strong aptitude for understanding data.

Opportunities for Career Advancement

As a medical coder, you'll have the opportunity to advance your career in a number of ways. You can go from analyzing codes as an individual to overseeing entire departments of medical coders. After gaining some experience, you can apply to become a hospital coding manager. The same is true for medical billers, who can grow into roles as medical billing managers or medical records directors.

If you have ambitions of growing your role into a health services manager, some employers may expect you to have a bachelor's degree while others require a master's.

Are Medical Billers and Coders in High Demand?

Medical billing and coding jobs — which are listed under medical records and health information specialists in the BLS — are growing at the normal 9% rate into 2030, as compared to the average American industry. This means that medical billers and coders offer the same amount of job opportunities as many other fields in the US. Approximately 34,300 new jobs in this field are projected each year leaving plenty of room to join the workforce. Over 453,000 individuals are projected to be working in this field by 2030.


According to Reuters, COVID-19 has increased the amount of claims that many insurance companies are receiving. This new data, in part, contributes to an increasing demand for more medical billers and coders.


Medical Billing and Coding Salaries

Not unlike most specialty careers, a medical billing and coding salary depends largely on your level of experience. Those with no certifications, education, and less than two years of work experience can expect to earn a lower starting salary.

What Is the Average Salary for Medical Billers and Coders?

According to BLS, the median annual salary for medical records and health information specialists is $45,240. This falls in line with similar roles in healthcare, such as surgical assistants, health technologists, and other medical technicians.

What Is the Starting Salary for Medical Billers and Coders?

Since those just starting out will have the lowest pay, the BLS also notes that the earners in the lowest 10% make less than $29,130.

Which Medical Billing and Coding Jobs Pay the Most?

Government jobs tend to pay the highest annual median salaries in this field at $54,650. Salaries at general medical and surgical hospitals and administrative support organizations fall between $43,000 and $46,000.

Top Employer Types for Medical Billers and Coders
IHealth systems, hospitals, and outpatient services are where medical billers and coders most often work. As of 2022, only 11% of individuals reported working for solo practices or small offices. More than half of employees now work at large healthcare organizations. There are also job opportunities at education institutions, consulting firms, and billing companies.

Which Medical Billing and Coding Certifications Offer a Salary Increase?

According to the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), several certifications offer salary increases. From 2021 to 2022, the Certified Inpatient Coder (CIC) credential increased individual salaries by 7.67%. The Certified Professional Biller (CPB) was the next highest with a 5.10% increase. Certified Documentation Expert-Outpatient (CDEO), Certified Professional Coder (CPC), and Certified Professional Compliance Officer (CPCO) credentials also increased salaries between 3% and 5% throughout the year.

Keep in mind, these certifications are most relevant for medical coders. This is due to the more analytical nature of the profession. Medical billers do not rely as heavily on certifications to join the workforce, but additional credentials may help you land a job with a higher starting salary. As a medical biller, you can pursue the Certified Professional Biller (CPB) program. With this certification, you can expect to earn an average salary of $55,078.

How Much Does a Degree Increase Your Salary?

Medical billing and coding certifications offer the best chance for individuals to increase their salary. According to data from BLS, workers with a bachelor's degree earn $502 more each week than those with only a high school diploma. If you're determined to earn a master's degree in this field, that number can increase to $997 above high school diploma holders. The data shows the more education you receive, the higher your earnings potential becomes.

Highest Paying States for Medical Billers and Coders
The AAPC reports that the District of Columbia offers the highest average salary for medical billers and coders. This falls in line with data from the BLS, which says government jobs have the highest wages overall. States in the West and Northeast tend to pay higher than the rest of the country. Washington, California, Massachusetts, and Maryland all have salaries over $66,000.

FAQs About Medical Billing and Coding Programs

Do Medical Billers and Coders Make Good Money?


The BLS states that the median annual wage for all workers is $45,760, and they also gauge that medical billers and coders earn approximately $45,000. Although this industry's median falls slightly below the national average, a certificate can increase your chances of earning a higher wage.

What Is the Highest Pay for Medical Billing and Coding?


BLS data shows that the top earners in medical billing and coding earned upwards of $105,690 per year. Certified medical billers and coders with a master's degree earn the highest salaries. Furthermore, having those credentials can often land individuals in executive roles, such as coding director, VP of coding, or even CEO.

Are Medical Billers and Coders in Demand?


Electronic health records are becoming the norm in hospitals and physicians offices around the country. From 2020 to 2030, medical billers and coders are expected to see a 9% increase in job growth.

Is Medical Billing and Coding a Good Career Choice?


Ultimately, this question comes down to your personal preferences and career goals. If you enjoy working with patients but prefer to stay on the administrative side of the healthcare industry, medical billing can be considered a suitable career choice for you. Conversely, if you prefer to dissect codes and analyze data, medical coding is ideal.

Although these specializations offer wages just below the national average, it does put you on a growing career path in the medical field. Medical billing and coding also offers long-term career stability. However, you'll need years of experience and the right certifications before you earn an above-average salary.

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