A medical coding career is so broad that often people are not aware of the options a career in medical coding provides. Knowing what is available helps you market yourself as a coder. You can fine tune your education to reach a specific goal in your career path.

Medical Coding Career Options — Two Major Types

The two major types of medical coding are the physician-based coder sometimes referred to as an outpatient coder and the inpatient coder. When you ask someone what sort of coding they do you most likely hear one of these mentioned. The physician based coder will want to focus on CPT® codes as this drives reimbursement for the physician. Evaluation and management codes also known as E/M codes will be codes that the physician based coder deals with frequently. It does not take long for an outpatient coder to become skilled in E/M coding as they get real world experience. On the other hand inpatient coders have slightly different rules in coding. Diagnosis coding or ICD-9-CM codes play a larger role in the life of an inpatient coder. There is more money involved when coding for inpatient stays therefore rejections can hold up the bottom line for a hospital. This is why you will see employment adds that require two or more years of experience desired for an inpatient coding position. The first step in the career of a medical coder is often in the outpatient setting.

Outpatient coding can be extremely diverse. It doesn't matter if you work for a sole provider or a multi-provider association you can specialize as an outpatient coder. In the past the top three specialties on the pay scale were: Oncology, OBGYN and Cardiology. Every year the AAPC does a survey which can be located in the recourses tab under research on their website.

Medical coders are not limited to the outpatient and inpatient setting. Remote coding has become very popular especially with the upgrades into electronic health records (EHR). Know that these positions are often limited to those that have five years of experience in coding and they will also want to confirm you have secure internet with experience in applications like Excel and other Microsoft office programs. These positions allow the coder to work the hours they want but it is not a job that is suitable to interruptions by children or people who think because you are working from home you  are available during your working hours.

Another option for medical coders is to work over seas. If you are contracted with a military base you can live on base in other countries. The military will provide housing and it is an option to see countries you might not have been able to travel to otherwise. This does require a military background check and may have other restrictions.

There is an increasing need for auditors in medical coding. Again this requires a higher then entry level experience. Some hospitals have started employing nurses who are certified as coders to pre-audit a patients chart before the patient has even left the facility to confirm documentation is adequate.

Education is a need for the coding community. If you feel that you like being an educator you can specialize in this field. As medical coding changes and evolves it is important to have those out there who are willing to keep us informed.

A medical coding career is not a job that lends to boredom. If you have not found your niche or are looking into a future career in coding know that you have options as you set your goals. Recourses are growing for the coder as choices expand.

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About the Author:

Alicia has been working in the medical field for over 20 years. She first learned about medical coding while working in a medical records department at a resort town hospital near where she was raised. Through the years she has held several jobs in the medical field from, CNA, EMT, Pharmacy technician and Medial Records Abstractor and Analyst. Outside of the medical field she has worked as a Real Estate agent, and owned her own on-line retail business. The medical field has always been where she felt the most comfortable. Alicia has taught medical coding, billing and medical law and ethics at a private college. She also did contract work in HCC Risk Adjustment and discovered she really enjoyed ICD work. Because she loves to learn Alicia is working towards her Masters in Health Care Administration with an emphasis on education. Having taken many online classes through the years to complete her degree she feels very comfortable with both face to face and on-line learning. Alicia will tell you that not only does she love medical coding but she has a passion for teaching it. Alicia lives in the middle of Texas with her husband who is a Pastor, five of her six children, three dogs and two cats.


  1. Nicole Strovich December 10, 2012 at 10:32 pm - Reply

    It is really good to know the path that medical coders take up in order to be successful in their work.

  2. Rlouis May 7, 2013 at 8:51 pm - Reply

    Thank you for posting this article. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do with my career. It is not until I became a medical record coordinator last year that I began to explore the options of a coding career. Please continue to post. I am sure there are many more like me that stumble across your post.

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