Career Change After 50: I Became a Medical Coder

Coding and Billing45 Comments

I was ready for a career change so I researched to find my best option, and I chose the Career Step Medical Billing and Coding program. I liked that medical coding is an in-demand profession and that my age would not be an issue to entering the field. I also loved the fact that the Career Step program was completely online. I was still able to work at my previous profession (a necessity for me) while I was going through the program.

I started the course in March of 2013 and finished in February of 2014. I graduated with honors and took the CPC exam on March 22. About a week later, I found out I had passed! Career Step prepared me very well for this vital credentialing exam. If you pass their final exam with honors, you will be in a much better position to pass your CPC.

As recommended by Career Step, I joined the AAPC as a student in January. I started attending monthly meetings as soon as I could. This networking really helped me land my first job. After passing my CPC exam, I applied for a coding position with a large local healthcare organization in my area. I got an interview in May and started my new coding job in June.

You really could not have asked for a better outcome than I have had; I have a full-time job as a Health Information Coder, a great starting salary, benefits and lots of opportunities for advancement. Everyone I work with is very nice and we are able to get help and feedback from each other—especially me, as I am the newest coder and still being trained. The lead coder that I work with told me she started in a non-coding related position and slowly worked her way up. I told her I knew I was very fortunate to have been hired with no coding experience other than my Career Step program. So far, I find the work very engrossing and interesting. I look forward to being a great employee for years to come.

The program wasn’t always easy. In fact, I struggled with the E/M section and the practicum reports. At times, I questioned my ability to finish, not to mention actually be a medical coder. Career Step was wonderful. They were always available to help me with my questions or to offer encouragement when needed. The student forums were also extremely helpful. We were all going through the same things. We could vent and provide information and resources to each other. The coding supervisor, the person who interviewed and hired me, told me she especially looks for people who she feels can work independently and do not need to be “micro-managed.” Well, I don’t know of any more independent types than those who go through and complete an online training program like Career Step’s. The Career Step program, although challenging and difficult at times, gave me an excellent foundation to succeed. I am very happy that I selected them as my education provider, and I would wholeheartedly recommend them to others.

I owe a lot to Career Step. Other people I know have taken similar programs that cost much, much more but were not more comprehensive than Career Step’s program. It’s a great value and great education. If you apply yourself you can go far. Career Step provides all the tools and support you will need to start your new career. If you want to be a medical coding/billing professional, you can’t go wrong with Career Step!

Candace Burklew, CPC-A


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  1. Cami37 June 23, 2014

    Thank you for posting this article, Candace. I worked for a major utility for 17 years and resigned to care for a sick parent full time. When I was able, I thought I could return to the company, but conditions have changed a lot since I was there, and I have not been rehired. I turned 50 earlier this year, and realized I need to consider my age (because others might) when choosing a new career to pursue. I just started the program in early June, so I have quite a lot of work ahead of me! Your article is very encouraging. Thanks again!

  2. Annette Gollotte June 25, 2014

    So glad to read your comments i too am 58 and starting a whole new career path. I am halfway with the course now and i know the end is going to be the hardest. You gave me encouragement to keep moving forward . I started the course in May 2014 and have been working really hard on it because i need to get back to work so i put in at least 40 hours a week on it.  Good luck on your new job . And congrats on the accomplishment…

  3. Laura Robillard June 25, 2014

    Congratulations Candace! Your story gives me a little more reassurance that I’ve made the right choice with Career Step.

    I lost my job of 42 years in January when Safeway pulled out of the Chicago area. I saw my coworkers getting turned down over and over for jobs, and I know these people to be great assets to any company.

    We all feel that age is holding us back. I couldn’t bear the thought of going back into retail, and none of us were getting hired anyway. So at the age of 60 I am starting a whole new career path. I’ve always been interested in medicine, and my knees can’t take the 6 days a week on my feet any longer. I am the primary source of income as well as insurance for the family, and anticipate working past the age of 70. I am greatly encouraged by your post Candace. Thanks

  4. Todd June 29, 2014

    Just what I needed to hear! Fantastic! I hope that it is as easy as you experienced to find that first job without any healthcare experience. That is my worst fear! So far I was able to zip through the first couple modules fairly quick. However, now that i’ve reached the medical terminology mods, I have slowed down considerably. There is just so much information that I want to perfect before moving on. Pushing on without getting discouraged is essential. Hoping sacrificing all my free time to career step training will pay off eventually! Thank you for sharing!

  5. Sue July 06, 2014

    Thank you Candace. I wasn’t sure about moving into a new career at my age, I turned 51 in February. But after reading your message I am truly convinced that this was the right decision for me too. I am also struggling with the terminology and remembering everything. Several years ago I was in an accident where it was uncertain whether I would live or not. I have encountered many obstacles but have not let them stop me. I consider myself a walking miracle. I want to make a good life for my daughter and myself and feel this is the way to go. Career Step was the perfect choice for me.

  6. Debra Kilander July 12, 2014

    would like more information on coding

  7. Suzy Bernard July 14, 2014

    Great to hear this news of success from you Candace!  Helps me complete and fulfill my continuous with this online class that is hard to me.  I feel I’ve lost my patients with my age possibly.  My timeline has run out and I will have to buy an extension yet after reading your success I can do this at 47, and I will!

    Thank You Candace:]

  8. Marcia Orland July 16, 2014

    I just started today by completing the introduction and part of the computer module which shouldn’t take me too long.  I’m 58 and was very concerned about starting this and trying to do it so late in life, but your story has reassured me and made me feel better about my choice.  I was a legal assistant/secretary for over 30 years and have been unemployed for quite awhile now.  I know I won’t earn as much as a did before, but I’m really looking forward to getting out there and really do something worthwhile that I hopefully will be good at!

  9. P. Quigley July 24, 2014

    How much does this course cost?  I am 65 is this too late?

  10. Career Step July 24, 2014

    Hi P. Quigley,

    Our Professional Medical Coding and Billing program is $2,995. And it’s never too late to start something new! There was an article a few years ago about an 88-year old WWII vet who had just trained for and started a medical coding and billing career—if he can do it, you can too!

    Best wishes!

  11. Diane July 27, 2014

    I’m 60 and just finished my first module today.  I have been a transcriptionist for many, many years and am excited to take the next step into coding!  Thanks for the great article Candace.. very encouraging!

  12. Isaac Pennington August 12, 2014

    I AM IN MY LATE 50’S WITH A DETERMINATION TO GET IN THE HIM field,
    I would like to be a medical coder at first or work in a records dept. I HAVE ZERO EXP.; TOOK A MEDICAL TERM. CLASS AT A COMM. COLLEGE, EARNNED A B; HAVE AAS IN ELECTRONICS, HAVE WORKED AS A COMPUTER OPERATOR IN THE DISTANT PASS;
    HAVE SOME THINK OUT THE BOX IDEALS TO
    GET IN FIELD, LIKE DEVELOPING EXCELLENT
    COMPUTER SKILLS, ALLOWING THE BUILDING OF FILES WITH MEDICAL CODING INFORMATION AND CRITIQUES A MEDICAL CODER WILL OFTEN USE WHEN MAKING A CHOICE OF WHAT CODE TO SELECT. PARTICULLARY WITH THE COMING INTRO.
    OD ICD-10 vs. ICD-9,WOULD ALSO LIKE TO
    PROVIDE INFORMATION OF WHAT CODE WOULD BE PRACTICAL AS CERTAIN DISEASES
    EVOL. I.E. SIMPLE COLD TO FLU.,
    OR LACERATION TO INFECTION TO GANGRENE.
    I AM DETERMINE TO BE A MEMBER OF THIS
    PROFESSION. Please comment on initial
    age with regards to age, professional
    family member in IT believes a candidate can go to school anywhere.
      p.s. irony of age issue is the majority of population is from baby-boomer generation.
    regards,
    Isaac
                   

  13. Career Step August 13, 2014

    Hi Isaac,

    Medical coding and billing is a great career no matter your age (as our graduate, Candace, talks about above). However, you definitely need specialized training to start a career in this field. For more information on Career Step’s training program, please visit http://www.careerstep.com/medical-coding-billing.

    Best wishes!

  14. Marg August 18, 2014

    Career Step was the right choice for me to pursue the medical coding profession. Don’t give up when you feel overcome or frustrated—it does get better and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Started in Oct 2012 and worked a PT job right to graduation. Am over 45 and chose coding as my continuing career. Recently (July 2014), graduated with Honors from Career Step; am preparing for the CPC Exam. Am not soley relying on Career Step info to pass the CPC Exam. I purchased a CPC Study Book with 3 sets of 150 questions. I feel I need this guide to prepare for the exam to answer all 150 questions and pass. Advice: Keep studying and working.

  15. Marsha Johnson September 29, 2014

    Congratulations to you Candace!  I am SO glad I came across this article.  Because of you, I am totally convinced that yes -I too can do it!  Have been contemplating transitioning from Medical transcription to coding and long-term goal of a CDI (clinical documentation improvement specialist) for 2+ years but ‘fearful’ that I would not accomplish this goal.  I will be 56 in October ‘2014, and I will begin courses in coding in Oct./November.  Thanks again for the encouragement!

  16. Ali January 18, 2015

    I have a question, I liked this career because it’s stable more than IT which I am in right now. So what;s the potential hourly rate for this job. Thanks

  17. Career Step January 19, 2015

    Hi Ali,

    Of course hourly rate depends on your employer, geographic location, experience, and more, but we’ve found that most medical coders make about $40,000/yr starting out.

    You can find the most recent data in this salary survey recently published by the American Association of Professional Coders: http://news.aapc.com/index.php/2014/12/aapcs-2014-salary-survey-see-how-your-salary-stacks-up/.

    Best wishes!

  18. Gloria January 23, 2015

    Hello, I am in my mid 50s and have been in the business world in customer service all my life.  I have 0 experience in the medical field.  I’m thinking of retiring in 2016 and wanted to take a Medical Coding and Billing course throughout 2015. 

    I have a BS in Business Administration and was so afraid of the Biology course that I elected to take a Nutrition course as a substitue. I’m worried that I won’t be successful in the Medical Coding course due to my lack of a medical background.

  19. Career Step January 26, 2015

    Hi Gloria,

    Our program is designed to take you from zero medical experience to a confident graduate who knows everything you need to be successful in the field. No healthcare experience is required, and thousands of our graduates have had no prior medical knowledge before starting. You’re in good company. =)

    You’ll also have access to a whole team of coding instructors. They’re available by phone, email, and chat to help you, one-on-one, through every step of the program and can help you overcome any of the challenges you face during your time in the course.

    Hopefully that helps ease a few of your concerns! Best of luck as you’re getting started!

  20. Melanie May 29, 2015

    Is a college degree necessary to start working as a medical coder?

  21. You are not required to have a college degree to work as a medical coder. The most important thing is that you are certified as a medical coder.  A great reference on the required education is our Medical Coding Career Paths infographic.

    Best wishes!

  22. Bill June 01, 2015

    At 57 am I to old to become a medical coder. I have been out of work for almost a year now due to a work injury and would love to start a new career.

  23. Career Step June 02, 2015

    Hi Bill,

    Nope, you’re not too old to start a career as a medical coder—you’re young! Our oldest student to complete the medical coding and billing program was 79. =)

    Medical coding is a great field to get into because there’s such a need for well-trained professionals. By the end of the year, the shortage is expected to be up over 50%! This doesn’t give employers a lot of room to be picky, and as long as you know your stuff and have the proper industry credentials (along with a little persistence and dedication in your job search), you can start a career in this field at any age.

    Best wishes!

  24. Joyce Weaver July 23, 2015

    i am so interested in taking classes in medical billing and coding. I am 54 years old I was wondering if I’m to old to even start doing something’ like this? And I was wondering if I could do the job at home? Thank you

  25. Nope, you’re not too old to start a career as a medical coder. A lot of our graduates are able to work remote through a company called IOD, so this would be an option for you. Contact one of our Enrollment Adviser’s at 1-800-411-7073, and they can help you register for the Medical Coding Program. We look forward to see you as one of our students. Good Luck!

  26. Lloyd Miller October 01, 2015

    I am a 66-yr old trauma RN (associate degree)who will be retiring in approximately 2 months. I am interested in coding as an avenue to expand my post-retirement opportunities such as greater flexibility in relocating as well as the future possibility of working from home.

  27. Dena Yakley October 07, 2015

    I graduated with an Associates Degree in Health Information Management in 2008. Started to work in coding that same year. Obtained my RHIT in 2009 and continued to work in coding until 2010 when layoffs took place. Since that time I have worked in other areas of HIM. I am interested in getting back into coding for the flexibility and income potential. What is the way to go about this especially now that ICD-10 is in place and I have no expericene in it. Thanks for any advice you can give.

  28. Instructor Michelle Malquist October 09, 2015

    Since you already have an RHIT, and have worked in a coding department in the past, I would recommend that you take our ICD-10 for ICD-9 coders course, as this will teach you what you need to code in ICD-10. Good luck with your studies.

  29. melissa de la cruz October 09, 2015

    I been a medical assistant for almost 9 years working in a pediatrics office I currently switch fields and I work at a surgeons office but I realized I don’t want to be a medical assistant anymore,  I still want to be in the medical field and that is why I want to become a medical coder, im currently looking for a school for billing and coding, my question is should I continue to work here until I finish school, will still working as a medical assistant help me more to get my foot in the door?  Since my husband is fine with me quitting and going to school full time?

  30. Graduate Support October 09, 2015

    Melissa,

    You are welcome to call us, and we can have an enrollment advisor go over a few different options for you.

    You can call 800-411-7073 to see what options are best for you.

  31. Mary October 30, 2015

    I am interested in the medical coding career. I’m 49 yrs of age but soon…April of 2016, I will be 50. I am a Penn State student and I have a couple of semesters left. My degree is Human Development Family Studies. I use to work as a medical biller about 12 yrs ago but that was so long ago. I am wondering if the degree will be sufficient and also is tge program only 4 months? Also, I am concerned there will not be jobs for me at my age and because I live in the Charlotte, NC area….this place has a lot of people residing here so competition for jobs are high stakes. Might I add there is a huge issue with people being hired if their young, skinny, and fresh faced recent college grads. That, I am not. Another concern is the difficulty.  hmmm Thank you for responding. It is much appreciated.

  32. Instructor Michelle Malquist November 03, 2015

    Mary,

    Our program takes approximately 1 year to complete. Your previous experience as a medical biller will help you with the program, but there have also been a lot of changes that have taken place in 12 years. Once you have completed our program, you are able to count this as 1 year of experience on your resume. Plus you will have the knowledge necessary to take either the CPC or CCA certification exams. This will set you apart from other applicants in the job market and give you an edge to get job. Companies want to hire people who know how to code properly, and we are able to get you there and enable you to stand above the competition. We look forward to having you as one of our students.

  33. Robert November 06, 2015

    Is this online training?

  34. Career Step November 09, 2015

    Hi Robert,

    Yes, our training is online. You can learn more by calling an Academic Advisor at 1-800-411-7073.

    Best wishes!

  35. kat November 17, 2015

    I have been researching jobs in this field (medical billing and coding), and I have yet to find any jobs looking for coders/billers with less than 3 years of experience.  How do you find jobs that will take someone fresh out of training?  I need to find justification for the cost of training.  If I can’t find jobs now that hire new coders, how will I find them after I have become certified?

  36. Career Step November 18, 2015

    Hi Kat,

    Career Step graduates have access to our graduate resources which are designed to help turn your education into a job.

    To support our graduates, Career Step has partnerships with employers, such as IOD Incorporated, which often hires our graduates to work remotely immediately after graduation.

    You can learn more about it here:

    http://www.careerstep.com/medical-coding-graduate-resources

    Best wishes!

  37. Emma November 19, 2015

    I am a 66-yr old with an associate degree and is a RHIT, currently working as a Data Analyst for Quality Improvement Dept. I will be retiring in approximately 2 months. I am interested in coding as an avenue to expand my post-retirement opportunities to work remotely as a medical coder. With no coding experience, where would you suggest I start?  Thanking you in advance for your assistance.

  38. Career Step November 19, 2015

    Hi Emma,

    A great place to start is with training and certification. It can give you the experience you need to get a job and become a successful medical coder.

    You can find information on our medical coding program here:

    http://www.careerstep.com/medical-coding-billing-career

    You can also contact an Academic Advisor at 1-800-411-7073 that can give you more information.

    Best wishes!

  39. Cindy Campbell December 02, 2015

    Hi Mary..is Career Step ahima credentialed?

  40. Career Step December 02, 2015

    Hi Cindy,

    I can confirm for you that Career Step’s Professional Medical Coding and Billing program is approved by AHIMA.

    Best wishes!

  41. Jean Loveland March 31, 2016

    I have been a medical transcriptionist/medical language specialist/editor/health documentation specialist….(they keep changing our title) - for nearly 30 years and am interested in changing careers to medical coding because the transcription service/companies have all but ruined the ability to make a living wage and have degraded our field.  I was curious to know if there is any accelerated method available for coding in view of many years of dealing with anatomy, physiology, and medical language in general.  I have been in a semi-retired state since leaving my field, but miss the daily exposure to medical terminology, the patient’s story, and being part of the healthcare profession, so I thought coding could be a natural transition.  Because of many years of being able to work from home, I am also curious as to how long it generally takes to be able to work in the home environment - and is coding moving in that direction any time soon?  Thanks for whatever info you may have.

  42. Laura Sands April 03, 2016

    I am a medical transcriptionist and am considering changing careers to medical coding. I have read where computer programs automatically place codes now in some EHRs. Do you have any insight as to whether human coders will eventually be replaced by computer programs as transcription has been by VR? I would really appreciate your thoughts as this does worry me coming from an industry this has happened to. Thank you.

    Hi Laura,
    Thanks for your comment! Check out this blog post on the topic:
    http://www.careerstep.com/blog/coding-and-billing/computer-assisted-coding

    Computer programs assist coders to be more productive, they can help the process along, but does not replace coders as we often have to correct the programs, add modifiers, ext.

    Good luck and best wishes!

  43. joan April 14, 2016

    I am now 64 years old, wanting to start a career in Medical coding. I am very scared
    at my age. I have owned my own decorating business for most of my life. I am afraid finding a job for an old gal with no experience, will be challenging, but I am READY. Hope I am not making a BIG mistake.

    Dear Joan,
    Thank you so much for your comment! We commend you for your willingness to take a new step in your life! It’s completely understandable how you feel, but rest assured you are not alone. Read these stories about other people in similar circumstances and how they have found success in studying for and starting a new career!

    http://www.careerstep.com/career-success/debi_hammond

    http://www.careerstep.com/career-success/laura_neidlinger

    http://www.careerstep.com/blog/medical-transcription-news/student-review-lillian-desoto

    http://www.careerstep.com/blog/medical-transcription-news/student-spotlight-sylvia-bell

    Good luck and please let us know if you have questions!

  44. p n, v, srinivasa kumar September 01, 2016

    I am 49 years with diploma in pharmacy in 1987,after that studied b.pharmacy but discontinued)in s3rd year. If i earn mediccal coding basics am i suitable for this jobs or not…pl.suggest me

  45. Career Step September 06, 2016

    Hi p n,
    We would recommend taking a medical coding and billing course to be prepared for a career in this field.

    Best wishes!


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