My Career Step: Andrea Neske
- Find a career that put her medical experience to good use
- Train for a new career while working full-time
Benefits of her Career Step Education
A Rewarding New Healthcare Career
When I started thinking about going back to school and continuing my education, I had already worked in the medical field for 13 years as a pharmacy technician. I enjoyed working in healthcare and didn’t want all of the knowledge and experience I had gained over all those years to go to waste. I did some research to see what career paths might interest me and what was available at local colleges. One day at work I was talking to a co-worker about my plans when a patient overheard and mentioned that she worked as a medical coder and really enjoyed her job. After talking to her about coding for a little while and doing some research on my own, I decided medical coding was the right path for me. It would make good use of all my healthcare experience, there is always room for advancement and enhancing your education, and I loved the idea of possibly being able to work from home some day.
Once I had decided on medical coding, I started looking at the training options in my area. I wasn’t at a place in my life where I could stop working my full-time job and attend classes at a traditional college, so when I saw there was a program available online with Career Step I decided to look into it further. I read reviews for the Career Step program online and decided that the flexibility was just what I needed. I also liked that the Career Step program was laid out in a way that I could graduate within a year, and the tuition was very affordable. It fit all my needs to be able to go back to school.
Online Training at My Pace
When I enrolled with Career Step, I was working full-time. I was usually home by 5 p.m., which would leave me time in the evenings for my school work. At times, I did find it hard to stay motivated after working all day to return to my studies each night. I tried different study plan variations—I tried working 2 hours 5 nights a week and taking weekends off, then working only on the weekends, and eventually settled on 2 hours a night 4 nights a week and then at least 4 hours on the weekend. Finding the study schedule that worked for me helped me accomplish my goals without becoming completely worn out. Career Step’s progress tracker tool was invaluable in helping me plan my study time.
In addition to the progress tracker, I also spent a lot of time on the student forums. I loved the forums because they let me gather information from others who had already taken the course as well as get encouragement from those who were working on it at the same time as me. I think the positive environment of the forums was just the encouragement I needed when I felt like giving up. You could write about your struggles and someone would be quick to respond with a friendly and encouraging word. Career Step’s student support advisors were also a great help; I emailed them frequently and they were always incredibly quick to respond and wonderful at explaining things clearly.
All in all, it took me 14 months to complete the training program. I went through a time when I lacked motivation to study after working all day, and I pushed my coursework to the side. But I got back on track by remembering how much I wanted to graduate. I knew I could never start my new career if I didn’t put in the time to accomplish my goal. I do believe that I could have finished the course in a year if I hadn’t gotten off track for that brief time period.
Credential and Employment
The same day I applied to take my final, I also applied to take the AAPC’s CPC exam. I took the exam 1 month after graduating and passed on my first try. Without a doubt, I believe Career Step prepared me for the exam. The layout of the final was very similar to the CPC exam format. I believe my credential played a major role in gaining employment. Not only was it a required part of the job, but my employers were so impressed that I had been able to obtain my credential so soon after graduating that it played a big part in their decision to hire me.
I started actively applying for jobs about 3 weeks after passing my certification exam. I found my new job at the hospital where I had already been working as a pharmacy technician for the past 9 years, so I was able to just transfer within the same organization. I was offered my new job about 4 months after graduation, and I now work for a very large cardiology practice coding the physicians’ inpatient visits.
I have told everyone I can about the Career Step program. I felt very well prepared for my new career, and my managers and co-workers have been very impressed with my level of coding. People are often surprised to find such a program exists and at how in-depth it actually is. Co-workers were amazed that I was able to learn so much from an online program. There are lots of new things to learn once you get into the “real world” of coding, like insurance policies and coding compliance issues, but Career Step builds a solid foundation.