Career Trends for Medical Coders

HCmed-codersAs part of our series of question-and-answer chats with healthcare leaders, Raemarie Jimenez, CPC, CPMA, CPPM, director of exam content for the AAPC, discusses how healthcare reform will impact the profession and how medical coders can best advance their careers. AAPC is known as the  organization for “Advancing the Business of Healthcare.”

What’s the biggest change you either already see or foresee with healthcare reform specifically for medical coders?

We anticipate there will be an increase in claims submitted with the upsurge of the insured population as a result of healthcare reform. With larger volumes will come more job opportunities in the business side of healthcare (eg, coders, billers, claims follow-up, denials management). Healthcare reform also includes quality initiatives. Claims data will be needed and quality measures will need to be accurately reported. This goes hand-in-hand with accurate coding. There will be a bigger emphasis on thorough diagnosis coding to support the quality measures reported.

What are the biggest changes in the workplace for members of your association?

Coders will need to stay educated with the regulatory requirements for new payment methodologies such as ACOs and HCC coding. ICD-10 is another big change in the industry. Coders that do not have a strong understanding of medical terminology, anatomy and pathophysiology will need additional education. Coders must be educated on the ICD-10 code set and have adequate time to practice using the ICD-10 codes prior to implementation Oct. 1, 2014.

There will be a loss in productivity as the industry adapts to ICD-10. This may bring a need for additional coders and could result in longer work hours to make up for the loss of productivity. We also expect there to be an increase in claim denials and claim delays as a result of the shift to ICD-10. Dedicated staff must be available to quickly work the denials so that the reimbursement does not suffer.

What specialties or certifications do you see growing in the next five years?

It is really difficult to pick only a few. Any certification dealing with the business side of medicine will grow. There will be an increase in the need for clinical documentation improvement with the emphasis on quality care and reporting instead of fee for service. With all the governmental incentives and programs, there will be a larger need for auditors.

For newcomers in coding, what’s your best advice?

It can be difficult to land your first coding job. Be willing to take any job to get your foot in the door. Any job that you take in healthcare will help you have a better understanding of the industry. Once you prove yourself to be a valuable team player, opportunities will come. Strive to be the best in whatever position you take on. A good work ethic is hard to find. If you are not dedicated and committed to doing your absolute best with every opportunity, you will have a hard time making it in this industry. Keep in mind that physicians are counting on you for healthy revenue streams.

And for mid-career professionals?

You need to be willing to evolve with the industry. Enhance your skills. The days of the heads-down coder are changing. There is a need for coders to be multiskilled. We must learn to embrace technology that will help us be better at our jobs. Stay up-to-date on all the changes in the industry. As payment models shift, we need to determine how our workflow will change and adapt to it so that provider reimbursement does not suffer. Continuing education and flexibility will help set you apart from peers.

Our series of question-and-answer chats features leaders in various healthcare organizations and associations. Want your association leader to share their vision for the future of healthcare? Email your contact information to the

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© Health Callings, Dice Holdings Inc., 2013


About Terry Sheridan

Terry Sheridan is a New England-based freelance writer who has covered business issues for 20 years.


  1. BY Rakesh says:

    In your article you mention more coders will be needed to pickup the increased work in billing due to growth insured/patients. But later in the article you mention it will be difficult to land a first job in coding. Where will the new additional coders come from?

    • BY Terry Sheridan says:

      This is a similar Catch-22 situation to the one facing RNs — there's a shortage that promises to grow but new grads have a tough time getting that first job. Why? Because there are a lot of experienced people still in the field who are poised to retire, and also experienced people who have gone back for advanced degrees, which makes them even more formidable competitors. In coding, the more certifications you have, the better — especially those beyond the basics. And more people are entering the field as second or third careers, with advanced degrees. That makes them formidable competitors, too. Watch for an article in August about the coding profession.

  2. BY Debbie Noreski says:

    Why is it soooooo hard to get a foot in the door. Why are there not more mentoring programs? How is a first time coder suppose to get experience. A lot of money and time is put into obtaining a certificate in coding and then once you find out there are no jobs unless you have any kind of experience you feel defeated. It is just not right. I to want to know where will the additional coders come from? It does not make any sense to me.

  3. BY Karen Sue Braddock says:

    I have two certifications ( physician office and outpatient facility), tons of CEU's, 20 years experience in ED/trauma nursing, and an education degree. I have leadership skills from being a nursing supervisor, a teacher and the president of an AAPC chapter. I have 10 years of curriculum development experience. I have developed an ED coding presentation. In four years, I have not been able to get a job.

    This article did not mention CAC, computer assisted coding. The articles I read seem to feel CAC will take care of much of the production problem with ICD10. I am amazed to find my 14 years in the communications industry directly relates to coding with CAC. Coders need to know, accept and work with computer applications used and about to be used in coding.

    I think the profession actively needs to develop a mentoring/internship program and a concern to move the new coders into the field. I think we need paid apprenticeships through Department of Labor just like any other apprenticeship. We need to become a profession and have medical and legislative involvement in the health care field.

    I wanted to learn PCS and, in fact, think the CPC-H's will need to. I have a mentor who is the most wonderful encouraging person in the world full of constructive ideas. As an ex-nurse, I was interested in surgical coding.

    There are no jobs unless you have coding experience.

  4. BY Beverly Morris says:

    I hear a lot of frustration in these replies, and I must say, I was once one of these coders. I graduated from a coding program and thought that I was going to be hired right away and was always told that I needed the experience. Yeah, right, how was I suppose to get the experience if no one hired me? Very frustrating to say the least. I would just like to say the same thing someone told me, "Just hang in there, it will come"

    There are jobs and you don't have to have experience! I was hired one year later after school, I had no experience, someone took a chance on me!

    I was hired as a hospitalist coder, worked it for 1 1/2 years, moved on to a contracting job for Andrews AFB, been doing outpatient coding since November 2012, and just started working as a PRN remote coder, SEE WHAT NO EXPERIENCE CAN GET YOU:)