Why is it so Hard to Get a Medical Coder Job?

HCquestionSeveral professionals in the medical coding field have written to us, asking about (and complaining about) job opportunities. Here’s one letter, and we thought you could help us respond:

“Why is it soooooo hard to get a foot in the door? Why are there not more mentoring programs? How can a first-time coder get experience? A lot of money and time is put into obtaining a certificate in coding and then you find out there are no jobs; unless you have any kind of experience, you feel defeated.”

Debbie, via email

What’s your advice for new medical coders who are trying to enter the field? Post your comment below!


  1. BY Wanda Thornton says:

    Dear Debbie,

    Please believe me that I share the same anguish as you. When I graduated with a Career Diploma for Medical Billing and Coding in 2007, it was suggested to take any job in the medical field and at least get in the door to have a platform to move up in the company. The sad truth about this position is that most employers want you to have a CPC or more and experience in the field before hiring you. In addition, the ICD-10 certification will be required for 2014. The best advice that I can give you is keep and maintain with medical contacts and pursue them. Wishing you the best. Paying back the educational grants is a big responsibility too.

  2. BY Rebecca Almquist says:

    I agree that it is tough to break into the coding world. It is an extremely competitive field and in my experience, it seems to be the most competitive are of healthcare. Why? Because with the continuing changes it is important for health systems and providers to hire the best of the best. Especially if you are looking for a remote position. It has taken me 7 years to feel comfortable to be set free from an office setting to work on my own at home. I was offered jobs to work from home in the past but I was not confident that I could because I didn't have that immediate life line of my co-worker next to me. I broke into coding literally working my way around a hospital: over nights in the ER, evenings on a psych unit and then AR. I firmly believe that getting into AR is the best route for anyone looking to get into coding. You need to dig into your knowledge of coding guidelines to successfully win an appeal. You also utilize your coding skills for post payment reviews and filing claims.

    Hint: Although we may consider working in other areas of the health system as non coding related, this is not always true. When you have first hand experience with the flow from when the patient is registered to discharge this does count as experience to some providers/facilities. Although the positions don't pay as well as coding, consider looking at positions in registration, accounts receivable, patient accounts.

    Best of luck!

  3. BY keola says:

    I also want to know that question? I have a masters certificate in medical billing and coding and haven’t been able to use it…. What do tor thing I should do, I’ve searched entry-level position and nothing. What I’m not understanding is, how they expect a person to gain experience and no one is willing to give chances

  4. BY Stacy says:

    I would say NEVER give up-you will find something

  5. BY veronica says:

    I have been certified since 06 I moved to a new state and I have been trying for a year to get my foot somewhere its not easy but don’t give up

  6. BY Jan W says:

    I am only in the middle of my training, HIT through LAUSD, got terminology and Office administration (s/b "Intro to…), am gonna start Insurance & billing, then Hospital and Ambulatory Coding. I suspect that there are a lot of practices that have specialists administering on-call services, since Medical Office Administration is taxing enough on staff members. Then there's the membership in the various Coding Societies that you need to subscribe to plus all the board exams to become unquestionably certified. It's a demanding field that has me all the more hungry for success because of the level of frustration involved. If it were easy, then everybody could do it.

  7. BY Marty Grant says:

    What I did when I started is look for a small employment agency. preferable a one person site. That way they work for you, also, they can test to make sure you are ready to go on interviews and the test that the employer's give. Look for a Medical Records position in Hospitals. I know it's not coding but it gets you in the door. That's what I did! Good Luck, Marty

  8. BY MaryAnn says:

    I received a certificate in Medical Billing and Coding after attending a Brown-Mackie college, graduating with a 4.0 GPA. That happened in March of 2011. I interviewed with most all companies in the Akron, OH area, performed very well on all testing, and received rejection letters from every single one of those companies. I not only interviewed with the HR depts., but with supervisors as well. I was told by all that my skills were impressive, my personality fit with their company, my past experience with insurance work was a grat boon and would be contacted shortly with a start date. So, now I owe the federal gov't. $13,000, cannot seem to find a job doing what I'm good at, and I work in a call center making peanuts for a paycheck and am stressed out on a daily basis! Here's the kicker….I'm 60 years old. No ageism in this country? Can't prove it by me. It's a health insurance issue, the cost of insuring me vs. someone younger. Even if I refused the medical insurance offered by the company, they can't risk me working for them. Companies would rather have younger people with no work ethic, home issues, children issues, than hire an older person without these things going on. Only in America! Good luck to ALL of you out there. Maybe it will be better for me once I can apply for Medicare!!!! LOLOL

    • BY Judy Smith says:

      I clearly believe we do have an Ageism problem in this country. We are also experiencing a lot of selfish management. What happened to the good old days when people were happy to be a Mentor and treated you as valued and developed you?
      The professional organizations in this field should be listening to the complaints and responding with professional education on how to break in new coders, etc.
      I also have insurance industry experience, a BA, and 3 post BA certificates, but I am 55 in CA and have gotten so tired of the interviews leading to nothing after 3 years. To top it off all three of my past supervisors have left the companies I worked for last.
      The good news is all the people that have shunned us are getting older too and eventually they will get theirs if they don't change their attitudes NOW. Peace!

    • BY cindy says:

      that is so true, I am learning that my self … i work at a hospital and they all are way younger than me and don't have any work ethics at all. I am about to have my associate degree and I work as a patient access specialists and I still can't get a position in the coding position for some reason

  9. BY Marti says:

    I too recieved my certificate as a Medical Billing and Coding Specialist from TESST College of Technology in Towson, MD in August 2011. I graduated with a 3.9 GPA and was working at Walmart all through school. It took me a year to find a home health care job…I was at Walmart for 18 months total…but I took it for experience in the medical field AND to get out of Walmart. I took a receptionist/ biller postion that I thought I would get hired after 2 weeks of 'training'…if you can call it that…at a podiatrist's office while I was doing home health care but it turned out to be he just wanted the free help and always requested externs for the free help. I wasn't even trained properly on the computer system and a lot of times the other 'receptionist' and I just sat there and occasionally answered the phone and entered as much information in the computer as possible. I was with the home health agency for 5 months when I got a call from a physical therapist I personally handed my resume to. He offered my less than what I was making at the home health agency but I took it because it was full time and the other was part time. Well, just 10 days before my probationary period was over…he let me go saying there wasn't enough money coming into the business. I was heartbroken! 4 weeks before that, I had finally 'gotten' the system and he seemed please with my work. Well, it turns out that he was cooking the books…I found out when I mentined to a friend that he trained me after you give a receipt to the patient that paid CASH, go back and delete the payment and enter it as a 'write off/ adjustment' and he pocketed the cash. She said that I should be glad that I'm not there anymore..which I'm glad I'm not! I thought that it was weird but I was just doing what I was told. So, now I've been totally unemployed for 3 1/2 months, still owing $15,000 on 2 loans and no way to pay them! Plus the usual bills! I'm 57 and looking for a job!

  10. BY Jane says:

    I hear ya; I think far too many people are going the same route that I did – get educated and certified, then go looking for a job. I started my job search with nothing more than a CPC-A and several years of pizza delivery under my belt. Here is what worked for me: 1) Know how to market yourself. I changed "pizza delivery" to "customer service" on my resume. Good customer service is a great skill, especially if you understand that the doctors and your coworkers are your "customers" just as much as the patients. 2) Use what network you have. I found a non-paying internship through my local AAPC chapter members. Don't be afraid to ask for help. 3) Be flexible. Take anything that will get you in the door and earning any kind of experience in the medical field.I was doing charge-entry and billing at my internship, but it counts on a resume. 4) Keep applying to the big companies. Large organizations can afford to hire a few "green" coders and train them up, whereas small private practices have to have someone who knows what they are doing on day one. 5) Go and meet people! Go to the job fairs, looking like you are ready to interview, with copies of your resume. The people at the job fair are the recruiters for their company. It is their job to find someone to hire. Make a good impression and they just might give you a call, or remember you when an eligible position opens up.

    Don't give up, there is someone out there who wants to hire you! You might not jump right into a coding position, but it will happen eventually.

    Good luck!

  11. BY Holly Chiem says:

    I was a biller, collector and reimbursement for ten years in hospital, but the job moved out of the State. I went back to school to get Certificate Coding Specialist (CCS) and I finished the requirement. Even, My background was a biller, collector, reimbursement still can not find job was studying. The main require is they need an experience.

  12. BY Gloria says:

    I agree. I have been searching for over a year (plus). If the healthcare jobs are opening up. Why are the jobs hard to get. Companies are not interested in helping by hiring entry level position.
    They want you to have 5 years of more. How are we to get a chance to get ahead.

  13. BY Shawn Anderson says:

    I would rcommend becomming a member of your local AAPC and attending the meetings. Networking with your peers is a good way to find a job. I was lucky I was hired before I sat for my exam. I was told if I did not pass I could not keep my position, luckily I passed! I am a CPC and am considering taking auditing classes to help further my career. I work in a small six provider office in a small town in Nebraska. Maybe that is why I had good luck in finding a position right away, that was seven years ago. Good luck!

  14. BY Des says:

    I too am older I recently moved to a new state after the loss of my spouse, I worked as a surgical assistant for 22 years. I have gone on at least 2 dozen interviews, they want my experience but don't want to pay, even when I am applying for a front desk or any position. They have told me you would get bored, or that my experience is too much for the job. I started to look into medical coding and now I am not so sure that's the way to go. I might be older but my mind is sharpe. I agree with the comment on insurance, it's way cheaper if your 20. Not 60. You guys keep pluging at it a door will open.

  15. BY Lizzie Carter says:

    I too am having a hard time entering into the coding world. I finish school in 2000 with a certification in Health information management work six years as a coder then was told I had to be certified. I worked in a hospital as a unit secretary for 4 years then went back to school and obtain my CCA from AHIMA but because I have not work in the field in six year no one want to hire me. I have the background and the skills to code but it is real hard when no one want to give you a chance. Just look for that chance to prove I can do it. I have been in the medical field for fourteen year and I have the know how and the means to do the job just want someone to see the potentials I have.
    I too am a older person but very responsible and reliable and willing to work anytime, detail and orientate, and willing to take on a challenge. Please let that door open.
    BY LIZ

  16. BY Heather says:

    I am a 50 year old single mother of two children and I am SO glad I stumbled onto this thread! I just got back from the Financial Advisers office at Rasmussen College, I was told a 15 month course would prepare me for the Certification and it would cost about $12,000. That is a lot of money but still willing to consider, after leaving with my "Career Plan", it was more like $20,000 and the starting pay is around 32,000 providing I can find a job. I think it's time for plan "J" or maybe I am on plan "K' by now… UGh

    Good Luck to ALL!

  17. Its NOT hard at all, you just have to want to get a job in the medical field.

    Really, take a look at that article, you don't even need any medical education in some spots like receptionist.

    • BY RD says:

      That's not necessarily true. Most Medical Receptionist positions require prior medical receptionist experience. Here is an example see below from the Kansas City area.

      Healient Physician Group has an immediate opportunity for an experienced front office Medical Receptionist/Registration professional. Healient Physician Group is a newly formed physician practice in Leawood, KS with five physicians specializing in Cardiology, Radiology, and Wound Care. This new medical office has 30 employees and is on a path for significant and exciting growth. This position will be part of a hand-picked team of professionals in the department and will work Monday through Friday 8:00 to 5:00 pm.

      Responsibilities will include:

      Check-in and Check-out of patients
      Demographic & insurance registration of patients
      Scheduling appointments
      Answering multiple phone lines
      Recording co-pays and other monies received
      Scanning pertinent documents into the system


      Outgoing personality
      Possess a high attention to detail
      Focus on delivering exceptional customer service
      Experience with EMR/EHR highly desirable

  18. BY M Ace says:

    I am presently unemployed and trying to find a job that is in demand. After doing some research, I was thinking about going to school for medical coding, but after reading all these comments I am not sure if this is the right field for me. Thanks for sharing your comments.

  19. BY Clare the WannaBe Coder says:

    I am like everybody else – sold a bill-of-goods about billing and coding. "Fortunately," I only spent about $1000 on a certificate from Penn-Foster. Every last billing/coding opening requires both certification and multiple years of experience in that specialty.
    My advice: RUN, don't walk, away from billing and coding school. Field is waaaaaay over-saturated.
    If you've already spent the money to get the schooling, don't throw good money after bad. Forget about paying more money getting certified.
    Look for another line of work, one that has openings.

  20. BY Lisa says:

    I am 53 years old and have been looking for a certified coding job for over a year now. I feel like I wasted my time and money going to school for something I will not ever use. I just need someone to take a chance on me and give me a start. I am a quick learner, and have been at my current job over 28 years. So I definitely am dependable. I have even applied over and over for any medical job to get my foot in the door, but always the same answer: No experience. While I believe that is part of it, so is my age. It is very depressing.

  21. BY Michele says:

    Thanks to all who posted their comments. I have more than 20 years experience in a wide variety of industries as an Administrative Assistant from starter-level to Executive to Contract Administration as well as Certification in Business from UC Berkeley. Having been laid-off, I've been searching since March 2013 and have come up with nothing, often interviewing with peers, or worse, the endless turnstile of youngsters (at the agencies or otherwise) who wouldn't remotely consider hiring someone with more years of experience in corporate support than they've been drawing breath on this earth! I was considering adding billing and coding to my list of capabilities, but after reading this collection of comments, I think I'll hang on to my money. From the sounds of things, I'm going to need it! Oh, and age disparity? You bet! 49, in CA. That's a long time from Medicare! Maybe there's something we can do to help ourselves . . .

  22. BY travel qn says:

    I graduated with my Medical Coding & Insurance. Got certified in 2005. To date I have been unable to find a job in the field. Still paying back a student loan, for a field with very few jobs and have only seen openings that require 10 yrs experience. It is now 2014, for me that was money wasted, and the school no longer offers the program. So no help there with an attempt for job placement or anything close for employment in the field.

  23. BY Dale V. Bentley says:

    Great job ladies and gents; you saved me from my a big mistake in my 5th career track. I thank each one of you for your courage and honesty about the coding buzz being the peak field in healthcare now… Thanks so very much for all your responses. I am glad you were bold yet wise to tell a newbie it is not worth the certificate to get into coding at all; thanks a lot. I am free to move on in 2014!

  24. BY Dinah Wiltz says:

    I have a hard time finding work in medical coding myself. I completed schooling at Virginia College in 2012. I am doing work in healthcare. Not giving up! I wonder if I picked the wrong career?

  25. BY Michele B., LMT says:

    Hi Everyone,

    I grappled with whether to do the AAPC certification course special which started February. I called the H.R. Manager of the local hospital. I went to an AAPC Chapter meeting. I made contacts and called each person. I also see that now, there are three positions available in Coding at the local V.A. Hospital and one at the regular hospital.

    I guess the answer is it depends where you live and how much competition for a coding job there is. I think where I live there might not be a lot of coders.

    I also learned that many coders are going to retire early as they don't want to deal with ICD-10. So, this is a good opportunity to break in if you haven't had luck before.

    By the way, I have confidence that I will get a job because I have been a Licensed Massage Therapist for the last 15 years and really know Anatomy.

    I should add: "I hope!" ;-)

    Good luck!!!

    • BY Michele B., LMT says:

      I forgot to mention that the H.R. Manager said becoming a coder is a commodity and there's a huge demand. So, I'm going to hope for the best. By the way, I used to make a decent living doing massage but not anymore… If you were thinking about that career, think again… Unless, it's something you know in your heart you want to do and have a secondary income, don't count on it to pay your bills…

  26. BY Dinah Wiltz says:

    i have completed in 2012 in medical coding. I am pursing on getting my cerification soon. It is hard to find work in that field. What should I do to get my foot in a door for employment. I am still in healthcare field but not medical coding as of yet. Need suggestion. Go back to college to pursue my goal?

  27. BY LAS says:

    No don't go back to college. Certification is more important than a degree. It really depends on where you live. In some parts of the country there are entry level jobs and in others, like where I live in Florida, the competition is fierce.

  28. BY Nicole says:

    Hello everyone,
    I just graduated from a Medical Coding program for 6 months and took my Cpc waiting for my results. I must say that reading some of you all reviews has me thinking. First off earning a Cpc certificate should not cost you $12,000. If it does those schools are ripping you off and are not accredited and jobs look at that on your resume. Some Local community colleges should offer the program under continuing education. I would say I paid close to $700 for the course and my books. Second, there are jobs out there you having to do research. Call every doctors office in your area to see if they ‘re hiring. A lot of doctors offices dont post openings on job search websites. You also can try an internship volunteer that will look good on your resume as well. Good luck to everyone.