Entering the Job Market as an Entry-Level Coder

Coding and BillingNo Comments

job interviewPutting in the time and effort required to finish your medical billing and coding program and getting certified is a big step, an essential one—like putting on pants before leaving the house. Getting ready for the day also requires putting on a shirt (“top” or “blouse” for the ladies) and (hopefully) brushing your teeth. And just like the accomplishment of successfully putting on pants as a step in getting ready for the day, the journey to a coding career is not complete without additional work.

This convoluted attempt at an analogy means one thing—landing your first coding job takes work! Here are a few things you should pay attention to when you’re gearing up for your job search.

Pay attention to your resume
Your resume should your first priority. Make it clean, make it professional, most of all, make it YOURS. Don’t copy samples or use format templates. To start from scratch, list your education, experience, and skills on a Word doc and go from there. Don’t forget to list your certification credentials; they are your golden ticket to get in to the Chocolate Factory! If you have access to Career Step’s graduate services, take advantage of the resume review—you will thank me later.

Don’t sell yourself short
You will likely look at an impressively large pile of job openings before you land your first job. Most of them will say “experience preferred.” DO NOT let this deter you from applying for coding positions! All employers “prefer” experience because they won’t have to train as much. The reality is that your Career Step coding training and industry credentials will open doors and our graduates get coding jobs regularly.

Employ a few old school tactics
The majority of the jobs you will apply for will have online application processes. Although this will be your most common means of contacting prospective employers, it is still a good idea to do some personal contacting. This idea may seem old school and antiquated, but there is definitely something to be said for both letting an employer match a face to your name and showing that extra measure of persistence and motivation to go into the office and introduce yourself.

Following up may seem like an ancient practice as well. I assure you that it is well worth your time. Keep track of the jobs you apply for and make a call or send an email to any contact you have between 10 to 14 days after applying to check on the status of the position and reaffirm your interest.

Tap that network
Fishing is more effective if you use a big net. Think of your network as your fishing net (really, I just want an excuse to talk about fishing). Let all your friends and acquaintances know what you are doing and what you are looking for. The wider your net, the more fish you can catch. Using your network can get you info about jobs that may not get posted online. You may also be able to take advantage of the age old “who you know” factor by leveraging your network.

So let’s wrap this up. Despite the comparison at the beginning of this blog, finding a job takes far more work than putting on clothes. Consider using some of the ideas above. Your search will take patience, persistence, organization, and the proper use of strategy.

Don’t give up! Don’t get discouraged! Remember, you have put in the time and work and you are well trained. Don’t let this home stretch scare you into giving up. If you’re willing to put in the time, effort, and work, the right medical coding job IS out there!


Comments
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  1. Trish October 07, 2014

    I have been concerned when I see on job postings, “experience preferred” or “at least 2 years experience required”.

  2. Amber LeClaire October 08, 2014

    Being middle age and changing my career entirely from Marketing to Medical Coding is scary…but exciting! I appreciate these tips and will keep them in mind as I pursue my new career in hopes that my previous experience in marketing and office management might help open some doors despite being new to the Medical Coding field.

  3. Career Step October 20, 2014

    Hi Amber,

    Congrats on making the jump and best of luck as you’re working through the course!

  4. Instructor Cari Greenwood October 20, 2014

    Hi Trish,

    Your question about getting your foot in the door without have experience is a common question we get from students and graduates. In response I’d like to suggest 3 things.

    1. The AAPC (American Academy of Professional Coders) is the main certifying body for outpatient coders. The Career Step medical coding course is recognized by AAPC as being equivalent to 1 year of coding experience. When it comes time to fill out applications or update your resume, make sure to include and emphasize the experience you gained while a student.

    2. There is a current shortage of certified coders and that shortage is expected to grow (see this recent CNBC report for more details: http://www.cnbc.com/id/102053684). Typically when an employer needs to fill a coding position they will work within their own organization or professional network first. If a job opening makes it to an open call for coders this often means they have exhausted all their other avenues. In this case, when the employer writes the job ad they are going to “shoot for the moon” and list the qualifications for their dream candidate in the hopes that someone with all the qualifications they want will apply. However, that does not always mean this is the only type of candidate they will consider. While it’s true that there are some jobs that entry level coders are just not qualified to fill, in many cases an employer has few options and they will take someone who is certified with no practical experience over the alternatives which are an expensive contract coder, an uncertified coder, or someone with no coding experience at all. So, if there are jobs you are interested in but for which you don’t seem to meet the experience qualifications, my advice is to apply anyway and be sure to emphasize your education as a year of experience.

    3. Join AAPC as a student member. Remember the professional network mentioned in point #2 that employers look to first to fill job openings? Joining AAPC is a good way to become part of that network as it allows you to become acquainted with current coders and to find out about job opportunities in your area. Going to the monthly meetings gives other coders the opportunity to get to know you, so that when an opening becomes available with their employer they can be used as a reference that the employer will trust.

    I hope that helps, and best wishes!


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