Of course, as with any other career, there are disadvantages to medical coding. However, if you've got the right attitude and are persistent, you can turn the disadvantages into positives.
- Difficulty breaking in. Breaking into the medical coding industry, in many cases, takes time. Many employers want coders with experience. But, you need a job to get experience, right? And how can you get a job if no one will consider you unless you have experience?
It's a challenge faced by new jobseekers every day. Know that you are not alone - even those who have years of experience in another healthcare field find it difficult to break into medical coding without the experience employers want.
While it's admittedly a frustrating position to be in, you must take control of the situation and make things happen. The good news is you can break into medical coding and gain valuable experience as long as you're flexible and willing to put forth the effort.
- Internships. Internships provide students and new medical coders with the invaluable opportunity to get real world experience. Many medical coding programs help students find internships to help complement their classroom learning.
If you're not in a program that places students in internships, be proactive. Call local hospitals and physicians' offices, and ask if there are openings for interns. The worst anyone can say is "no."
Once you secure an internship, you want to impress your supervisors and those with whom you work. Give your best effort every day, and take your internship seriously. Make sure you show up to work on time every day, dress professionally and show that you want to learn and improve. Having a great attitude and doing your best goes a long way.
An internship can lead to a possible permanent position. Even if you're not hired after your internship, if you've done an exceptional job, you have a valuable reference you can use when you start your job hunt. Just as important, your internship will give you the important real world experience so many employers want.
- Entry-level positions. Another way to break into medical coding - if an internship is not a viable option - is to take any entry-level job in a hospital or a physicians' office. For example, you may get a job as a file clerk or as a receptionist at a local doctor's office. While it's not exactly what you want, you'll get your foot in the door, and that's the most important thing at this point.
Excel in your job. Give your best effort everyday, and talk with your coworkers. Let it be known that you're educated and certified as a medical coder. If a medical coding position opens, you may be the first person they think of.
- Relocate. This could be an advantage or a disadvantage, to breaking into medical coding, depending on your views. Are you willing to relocate to another city or another state to advance your career? In some cases, relocation may be your best bet. If you're having trouble securing work in your hometown, start applying for medical coding positions in other cities and states.
Once you gain enough experience, you may be able to return to your hometown. Experienced coders also have the option of working for employment agencies instead of in full-time positions. Employment agencies will offer an experienced coder contract positions throughout the country, paying a salary and housing expenses.
More Pertinent Information
An invaluable resource to finding your dream coding job is Advance for Health Information Professionals. At their website (click hyperlink), you can sign up for their free paper magazine which is jam-packed with job ads and the latest industry news. You can also read a plethora of articles and keep up-to-date with the news and changes in the medical coding profession. You'll also find all the latest job openings.
- Education is essential. While this isn't necessarily a disadvantage for everyone, you must understand that education is essential to success in the medical coding industry. In fact, without the pertinent education, you'll likely not even be able to get your foot in the door. You can't just decide to be a medical coder, and start looking for work. It takes time, patience and effort. But, your hard work will ultimately pay off if you're serious about becoming a professional medical coder.
Many medical coders have associate degrees from their local community or junior college or online colleges while others have bachelor's degrees. Still, some have master's degrees. There are many avenues you can take to get the needed education, and we'll discuss your educational options later.
- Certification is key. Employers, in many instances, want certified medical coders. Both the American Health Information Management Association and the American Academy of Professional Coders offer certification exams and prep material. (We'll discuss this in more detail in the Certification chapter.)
Cost to take the certification exams range from $195 to $400 in addition to membership fees. However, becoming certified is an essential part of a medical coder's credentials.
After weighing the advantages and disadvantages of a medical coding career, you'll be better able to decide if it's a field you think you'd enjoy. As with anything, it takes time, effort and persistence. But, if you put your mind to it, you'll be able to master the skills you need and become an important part of the medical coding profession.