Reality Check: Is Medical Coding Really as Difficult as You Think?

Coding and BillingMilitaryCareer Advice25 Comments

difficulty studyingMedical coding and billing careers are in-demand—a 50% shortage is expected nationwide by the end of the year, meaning a great job is waiting for you! So don’t get discouraged if a medical coding training program seems too hard to begin or finish; it may be easier than you think. Here are some tips and words of encouragement for choosing and enduring a formal training program to become a medical coding pro.

What is medical coding and billing?
A medical coder is a health information professional who assigns universally identifiable codes to a patient’s medical diagnoses and procedures. Medical billing professionals, on the other hand, are the liaisons between health insurance companies and healthcare facilities. They create and present health insurance claims then collect the funds. In smaller offices, the same person often handles both coding and billing. Sometimes coders are also asked to abstract information from the records for statistical and tracking purposes.

Is medical coding difficult?
Accuracy is essential with this profession, which can be challenging. Medical coders and billers use thousands of codes from multiple code sets (ICD, CPT, HCPCS) that are updated frequently. They convert complex medical information into thse clearly defined sets of codes, which demands a knowledge of health topics such as anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology, and more. Proficiency in medical coding means being extremely accurate at all times while having a keen eye for the tiniest details.

But wait! Before you quit your training program, you should know about the very shiny silver lining to medical coding: you don’t need to memorize all those codes. Medical coders reference codebooks and coding software programs in order to make the correct assignment. Just be sure to keep abreast of frequent code updates, such as the transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10, and technological advances like the electronic health record (EHR) system.

Is medical coding a good career?
You may be wondering if medical coding is a good career for you. At the moment, the demand for skilled and qualified medical coders is high, as the population continues to age at a rapid pace. With that high demand comes higher wages each year. The most recent reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show medical records and health information technicians, medical coders included, earn a median pay of $17.84 per hour, or roughly $37,000 per year. If you get into the top echelons of the profession, you could end up making more than $56,000 every year. And the future continues to look bright for medical coding. The field is expected to grow at a much faster rate than average. Most medical coders work in hospitals and clinics, but some work-from-home opportunities are also available. A job in medical coding also offers a good potential for advancement opportunities as you gain more experience. It’s clear that knowledge in medical coding and billing can lead to a prosperous career for many years to come.

Can I learn medical coding?
Because healthcare is currently going through some big changes, now is a great time to jump in and get involved in the field of medical coding. With the help of a quality medical coding training program, you can be a certified pro within months. A good training program will teach you everything you need for success and help you find a job and make professional connections. What really makes a training program top-notch is if it provides hands-on experience and job-finding helps. Programs should include practice on authentic medical records and reports as well as tools for graduates.

Make sure your training program covers all aspects of the job including CPT, HCPCS, and ICD-10 code sets; classification systems; medical terminology; health information guidelines; and reimbursement methodologies. The program should also prepare you to earn industry credentials such as the CCA (offered by AHIMA) and CPC (offered by AAPC) certification exams. Thorough training and passing a certification exam will put you in a great position to get a job right out of training.

Are you already enrolled in a program? Be sure to take full advantage of the resources your program offers. For example, Career Step’s online medical coding and billing training offers students valuable graduate resources, including established employer relationships, resume and cover letter review, personalized interview tutorials, new job notifications, and an advice hotline. The Career Step program is also one of the only online certificate programs that has been approved by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), which is the largest medical coding industry association. Once you’ve completed Career Step’s online training, you’ll be prepared to get your CPC and CCA credentials quickly, meaning a job isn’t too far away.

With the right training and a little hard work, you can conquer the challenges of medical coding and billing and land a great job at a critical time in the field. Becoming a medical coder is worth the effort it takes when you enroll in the right program. Already finished with school? What has your training experience been? Comment below and let us know what encouragement you have for any of the newbies in the field.

If you are interested in this in-demand career and would like to become a medical coding and billing specialist, browse through Career Step’s medical coding program with comprehensive ICD-10 training. Call us now for more info!

Leave a comment below »

  1. Kim Workman July 28, 2015

    Is medical coding a job that can be done from home, or in an office setting only.

  2. Hi Kim,
    It is possible to work from home as a medical coder. We have a company by the name of IOD, who like to hire a lot of our graduates. Sometimes, when just starting out as a coder, you may need to work in an office setting to gain experience, but then you have the ability and knowledge to work remote. So, there are possibilities out there, its just a matter of finding them. Good luck!

  3. Adriane August 13, 2015

    Do you have to have excellent and a quick memory/comprehension to ace the training in coding?

  4. Coding Support August 14, 2015

    It is very important to be able to comprehend medical reports in order to code them. In the program we cover medical terminology, pathophysiology, ext to train and assist in this area.
    Medical coding involves research, as coders we are often required to meet industry/company quotas, so being a quick researcher can become important.  Most of the time speed comes in time with practice.

  5. Aquila Cummings August 16, 2015

    How do you get the training that is needed? I have a degree already in Medical Billing and Coding, and I need the training.

  6. Coding Support August 17, 2015

    Training is provided in the CareerStep program. In addition to the teaching we have a practicum, providing experience coding real medical reports.

  7. Sharon Boney August 21, 2015

    I am already enrolled in CareerStep’s Medical Coding and Billing for ICD-9,  with hopes of being finished by the end of January 2016. Should I enroll in the ICD-10 program once I am finished with my current program?

  8. Sharon,
    I would definitely enroll in the ICD-10 fast track once you have completed the ICD-9 portion of the course. This will prepare you for the ICD-10 implementation beginning on 10/1/2015.

  9. Janice Totten September 21, 2015

    I was an administrator for a large family practice as well as a member of MGMA (Medical Group Managers Association). I have experience in computerized medical records, computerized and electronic billing, coding, negotiating with HMO’s and Fee for Service reimbursement rates, computerized scheduling, human resources, creating encounter “cheat sheets”,and all aspects of overseeing the day to day operations of a family practice. I also was trained as a broadband support specialist working from my home office troubleshooting poor connections and ensuring customers were connected to the internet. However, I am now physically challenged and unable to work a full time job. I want to learn the new ICD10 codes and work from my home office. However, due to my physical condition, I need flexibility and a part time work schedule.  Voc-Rehab will help pay for the classes but I need to be sure there will be a position that is flexible and allow for part time work. I have an appointment with Voc-Rehab on October 1st and would like to assure them that I spoke with a potential employer who would hire somebody like me with my skills and limitations.  Is it possible to speak with a potential employer about this prior to signing on to take the classes?  Thank you for your help.  Janice Totten

  10. Graduate Support September 22, 2015


    You are welcome to contact your enrollment advisor, or contact graduate support directly. We would need additional information on what you are looking for.

  11. Anneliese Wade October 09, 2015

    Dear Janice Totten,

    I wanted to respond to your question. I went through BVR for my education. Not only did they pay for my classes, they paid for me to join AHIMA, my exam and all my books(through ALBIRIS) needed to take the exam.Talk with your vocational counselor to have it put into your plan.I have seen many part time jobs available in this field.Good luck with your future.

  12. Mike January 06, 2016

    I was thinking of getting into medical coding but what discourages me a bit is that I read somewhere that most coding jobs give you a quota you have to,meet.  Is this always true or does it depend in where you work To me, working quickly and rushing increases your chances of making errors. Thanks!

  13. Amanda January 11, 2016

    I have a certificate from Ross Medical Education Center in Medical Insurance Billing and Office Administration. We coded some as well, although coding was not the bulk of our training. I unfortunately have not used my certificate because of I’m on SSI due to degenerative disk disease, migraines sensitive to florescent lighting and Asperger’s. I enjoyed coding the best because of the analytical aspect. Are there particular employment websites that look for disabled workers looking to work in their homes?

  14. Coding Support January 11, 2016

    Hi Mike,
    Some employers may hold productivity standards, you will need to check with the employer for their requirements.  Other places may not hold you accountable for your rates, especially as an entry-level coder.  Often the productivity standards are not a requirement until you have some more training and experience with their systems.

  15. Ingrida July 25, 2016

    I am soon to be 50 and English is my third language, which is OK but not perfect. Do you think it would be too hard for me to pass this course?
    Thank you in advance,
    Sincerely Inga

  16. Career Step July 26, 2016

    Hi Inga,
    Thank you for reaching out to us—and Happy (almost) Birthday!

    All of our courses are in English and our instructors only speak English. Feel free to contact an academic advisor at 1-800-411-7073;  they can help you assess whether the medical coding and billing course would be a good fit for you!

    Best wishes!

  17. Heather Albert August 12, 2016

    Ive been considering a career in medical coding and billing. However, I have been reading alot about how hard it is to find a job because employers want someone with at least two years experience. How is someone at entry level suppose to get that experience? I live in a small town and am worried if I go through with the program it will be a waste of my time and money.

  18. Career Step August 15, 2016

    Hi Heather,
    Thank for reaching out to us!
    You’re right, employers are looking for experience. However, with the shortage of medical coders, experience isn’t always available, and they hire newbies. (We recently published a blog post on this. Check it out at…/why-would-i-apply....) Our program was also developed with lots of employer feedback to make sure students are ready to earn industry certifications and have the skills employers are looking for. That’s how you get to be one of the only entirely online certificate programs approved by AHIMA. Best wishes!


  19. Ismaila Olu October 22, 2016

    Thanks for the info.
    Please I will like to know what minimum level of education one can attain before venturing into the medical billing/coding career. I am a high school graduate, I do not know if this can reduce my chances of getting a job as well. Thanks.

  20. Career Step October 25, 2016

    Hi Ismalia,
    Thank you for reaching out to us! To enroll in a Career Step course a GED certificate or high school diploma is required. We offer graduate services to help you in finding a job and training that will help prepare you for the job market.

    Hope this helps!

  21. Kim Smith February 08, 2017

    Hi Career Step ppl

    Enquiring about doing clinical coding from home for a company, you mentioned in a previous post about a company by the name of IOD.

    Is it possible to give me a contact so I could enquire about the prospect of employment from them, or could you please direct me as to how I could get into doing work from home.

    Any information would be much appreciated thank you.

    Kim Smith

  22. Career Step February 09, 2017

    Hi Kim,
    IOD has paused the internship program they were piloting with Career Step. We do however partner with a number of coding companies and hospital facilities that in some cases allow for remote employees. We offer graduate services to all of our graduates, helping them to connect with potential employers. You can contact student support at 1-800-411-7073 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Hope this helps answer your question.

  23. CINTYA ENCISO March 21, 2017

    Medical coding is not as hard as people make it seem. You do have to know anatomy, procedures, medical terminology. Also there are guidelines that explain what codes to use for each specialty. You learn the codes you need based on your specialty. Software, books and insurance companies memos or trainings are available and explain and sometimes literally tell you what codes to use for certain procedures that you bill for. I am a coder and medical biller and it can pretty boring that i must add. Very repetitive. Easy job.

  24. Judy Bush April 24, 2017

    I got my certification in Administrative medical assistant about 14 years ago but i didnt keep it up expired. Will that help me in any way getting certified in medical coding and billing..

  25. aturner April 24, 2017

    Hi Judy!

    Any knowledge you have from medical transcription could be beneficial in a medical coding and billing career. Reach out to our Enrollment Advisors to see what knowledge would specifically be helpful: 1-800-411-7073.

    Best of luck!



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