How to Become a Medical Coder?

Are you thinking of becoming a Medical Coder or already started your career and planning the next step? Learn how to become a Medical Coder, what skills you need to succeed, how to advance your career and get promoted, and what levels of pay to expect at each step on your career path. Explore new Medical Coder job openings and options for career transitions into related roles.

Steps to Become a Medical Coder

A medical coder transcribes what occurs during a patient visit so insurance companies and health organizations can comprehend the information. If you have excellent communication and problem-solving skills, you might consider a career as a medical coder. In this article, we cover the steps required to become a medical coder.

Obtain an undergraduate degree.

Once you graduate high school, you can follow one of three pathways to becoming a medical coder: a certificate program, an associate degree, or a bachelor's degree. A certificate program is the fastest option since most take less than one year to complete. Most programs cover terminology, treatment processes, and basic coding. An associate degree in health care administration or health information management includes courses in liberal arts, which improves your writing, speaking, and critical thinking skills. With a bachelor's degree program in either health care administration or health information management, you learn about health policy, data analytics, and project management.

What type of degree should you pursue to become a Medical Coder?

63% of people working as a Medical Coder earned a Bachelor's Degree

What skills do you need to be a Medical Coder?

  • CPT Coding
  • Excellent Organizational
  • Releases
  • Excellent Communication
  • Microsoft Word
  • Written Communication
Based on resume data from Glassdoor users who reported working as a Medical Coder in the United States.

Earn credentialing.

No matter what type of program you take, almost all educational programs prepare you for credentialing exams. Two of the more popular choices are offered by the American Health Informatics Management Association (AHIMA):

  • Certified Coding Associate (CCA): This nationally recognized credential is the standard for health information management. AHIMA recommends that you have at least six months of experience before you take the exam, but you don't need to complete any specific coursework beforehand.
  • Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT): Although you don't need any specific work experience to sit for the exam, you need at least an associate degree in health information management.

Once you gain enough experience, you might decide you'd like to specialize your coding career. If so, you might consider pursuing a specialty medical coding certification in an area such as family practice, general surgery, anesthesiology, or ambulatory care.


Gain medical coding experience.

After you earn your certificate or degree, you're ready to put your knowledge to the test. Use the resources at your school and your peer network to find employment. Certain educational programs might include an internship or volunteer opportunities with health care facilities. Consider joining professional organizations so you can learn more about potential entry-level job opportunities.


Determine your preferred workplace setting.

To figure out where you should seek employment opportunities, consider what environment you prefer to work in. Medical coders can work in a variety of locations, such as hospitals or physician's offices, and each comes with its own benefits. For instance, a hospital might have a more fast-paced feel compared to specialized clinics that have a steady and streamlined flow of treatment.


Seek professional development opportunities.

Working as a medical coder allows for plenty of growth, whether you're taking continuing education courses to recertify your credentials or attending industry-sponsored conferences. Learning new skills or earning additional degrees can help you advance in your field even further. Oftentimes, medical coders who have advanced degrees and years of experience receive promotions to senior-level roles in medical settings.

Medical Coder Career Path

Medical Coder

2 - 4Years of Experience
$40K - $62K /yrMost Likely Range
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9% advanced to

Senior Medical Coder

2 - 4Years of Experience
$58K - $97K /yrMost Likely Range
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Medical Coder IV

5 - 7Years of Experience
$45K - $72K /yrMost Likely Range
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Total Pay Trajectory

Medical Coder Career Path

Medical Coder I
Medical Coder
Senior Medical Coder
Medical Coder Manager
Medical Coder IV
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Related Careers in the Healthcare Industry

Interested in other Healthcare careers? Below are occupations that have high affinity with Medical Coder skills. Discover some of the most common Medical Coder career transitions, along with skills overlap.

Medical Language Specialist
No skills overlap
13% transitioned to Medical Language Specialist