When all is said and done the objective of any interest in medical coding is being able to land a job in a dynamically growing career. The American healthcare industry is growing by leaps and bounds and the need for medical coders has increased along with it. It’s all well and good, but a primary concern is understanding specifically what it takes to secure one of those desired jobs.
Job descriptions can give some needed clues. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has a general explanation of the types of duties that people in medical coding and/or medical records are required to do on a daily basis. The Bureau’s overall job description gives an idea of the work environment and the job outlook as well. While this is an important source of information about what it takes to be a medical coder, often the qualifications will vary from job description to job description. Still, it is a start.
It is pretty much a given that a medical coder has to have an acceptable level of proficiency in medical codes. ICD – 9 codes are used extensively, but a new and much larger set of codes, the ICD – 10, will come into use in late 2013. Anyone looking for a medical coding job would be wise to get thorough training in ICD – 10 codes and show a good knowledge of medical terminology as well. Solid knowledge in the codes can be effectively demonstrated if the job applicant has a certified professional coder (CPC) designation. The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) can provide both the training and the CPC designation (this, of course, comes after the successful completion of the CPC examination). Another medical coding related certification is offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Known as the registered health information technician (RHIT) certification, this is a particularly good qualification for those who are seeking management positions.
Work experience is a very common employment qualification for any job, and medical coding is no exception. A problem for most medical coding students is a situation that puts the cart before the horse – i.e. how can one get the right amount of job experience without the right job qualifications beforehand. There is a very simple remedy for this and it is internship. Student interns work for free in exchange for gaining needed job experience. The AAPC has the Project Xtern program that offers internships in a large number of participating facilities. The AHIMA also offers internship opportunities for students. It should be noted, though, that membership in the organizations is a basic requirement to gain access to any of the offered internship programs. Another means of getting experience in a roundabout way is to work in a health care setting without actually being a medical coder. It would be possible to say in a job interview that work experience was gained through activity in a job related to medical coding.
There is one final way to meet any work experience requirement, and that would be to have one or more academic degrees. It is often the case that an associate degree in medical coding or medical records can be substituted for one or two years of hands-on experience. It all depends on the needs of the employer and what that company’s job description demands of a candidate.
The qualifications for entry level employment in medical coding are not that difficult to achieve. A person ought to take a look beforehand regarding general requirements and map a job search with that information in mind. This is a growing field with a great number of job opportunities. Taking a look at medical coder job descriptions of various health care facilities can educate a person on what, at the very least, are the basic qualifications for the position.