Medical coders, often called health information technicians, organize health records for easy billing and reference. An associate degree or postsecondary certificate is commonly required for employment in this field. Women are very well-represented in this profession, accounting for an estimated 87.6 percent of medical coders in 2010. Aspiring medical coders can potentially improve their salary prospects by finding employment at certain healthcare facilities and in high-paying geographical areas.
What is a High Salary for This Occupation?
As of May 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average pay rate for medical coders is $17.68 an hour, or $36,770 a year. Anything above this level of pay could be considered higher than average. The 25 percent of medical coders earning the highest rates of pay made at least $21.33 an hour, or $44,360 a year, in 2012, while the very highest-paid 10 percent of coders made $27.02 or more an hour, or $56,200 or more a year.
The easiest way for a medical coder to receive an above-average salary is to look for employment with a hospital. General hospitals paid an average of $38,860 per year in 2012, while specialty hospitals paid an average of $40,210 a year. Both offered substantially higher wages than outpatient care centers and physician's offices. Some industries offered even higher wages, although they employ relatively few medical coders and finding employment with one may be tricky. For example, scientific research and development firms paid medical coders an average of $48,060 per year. Insurance and employee benefit funds paid medical coders an average of $51,840 a year, and pharmaceutical manufacturers paid the highest wage of any industry, an average of $66,060 a year.
Before you settle down, it's worth considering what locations may pay you the most as a medical coder. Statistics collected by the BLS in 2012 indicate that medical coders in the Southeast and Midwest earned the least on average, while those in the Northeast and the West earned the most. This can amount to a significant difference in salary. Medical coders in the highest-paying state, New Jersey, earned an average of $55,130 per year. Those working in the lowest-paying state, Mississippi, averaged just $28,870 per year.
One advantage of pursuing a career in medical coding is that the job outlook is excellent. The BLS expects an estimated 37,700 new medical coding jobs to be created between 2010 and 2020. Specialization is a good idea, because the BLS reports that cancer registrars -- medical coders who specialize in cancer patient records -- will be in especially high demand during the same time period.
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