2008 Medical Coding Salary Survey

Sunlight on Coders’ Compensation

By Brad Ericson, CPC, CPC-ORTHO

Ask coders what they do and how much they make, and their answers are as varied as how sensitive to the sun they are. Some are easy burners, with salaries and careers that show the results of outside forces quickly. Some are seemingly immune to the forces that buffet our careers. All-in-all, we’re doing pretty well; and, it appears that average salaries have increased more than 11 percent since our survey in 2007.


Sunning the Fruit Trees
This year’s survey was completed by more coders than ever and conducted via the internet during July and August. Over 12,000 coders participated. Like trees in the sun, the information continues to bear fruit, but here are some highlights.

More than 45 percent of respondents bear titles indicating they are coding professionals. Those who coordinate, manage, or supervise billing make up 13 percent. Practice managers represent 10 percent of the survey while those who assure accuracy and compliance make up five percent of those responding to the survey. The remainders were consultants and a wide variety of other titles.

How qualified are we? A striking 89 percent of respondents have a CPC®, CPC-H®, CPC-P®, or CPC-A®. We are educated, too, as shown below:

  • 18 percent having a bachelor’s degree or above
  • 69 percent having attended some college

While CPCs® made up 82 percent of the survey’s respondents, members also exhibited other certifications. Those with specialty certification include three percent of those surveyed. Other certifications respondents hold include CCS, RHIT, CTR, and others.

Some of the results were surprising:
Certification is still optional for many. Certification is required for only half of us in our current jobs; however, up from the 42 percent reported in the 2007 survey.

We stay at our desks. Two-thirds of us aren’t allowed to work from home but nearly a third may work from home some of the time.

Most of us still code from paper. Those who code all procedures from medical records make up 64 percent and those who code from a paper billing forms make up 25 percent of the respondents. In fact, only 10 percent of our respondents code from electronic health records. This fits with CMS’s report that only 13% of physicians had an electronic health records system.

We are working average weeks. Although some days it may not seem like it, 60 percent of coders work less than 40 hours a week. But that means 40 percent work more than 40 hours a week.

Coders still do most of the coding. Fifty four percent of our respondents do not use computer assisted coding (CAC). A growing number—27 percent—do.

We’re working regular schedules. The number of members who have opportunities for flex-time is down to 50 percent this year compared to 52 percent last year.

$43,100 in a Sunny Market
The average annual wage for a credentialed coder is $43,100, compared to. $36,500 for a noncredentialed coder. But when we consider other factors, the complicated forces yield a surprisingly narrow range of results. Overall, the average range for most coders is $39,400 to $46,500.

The survey indicated that compensation differences result from several influences: employer, training, work sites, schedules, complexity of the coding being done, and geographical location. For example, business size impacts your average salary, certified or not. Those who work for larger employers tend to get paid more.

Average salaries by hour to use as a comparison are as follows:

  • $14.73 per hour when your start
  • $19.33 per hour after five years in the field.
  • $21.75 per hour after 10 years in the field.
  • $23.37 per hour after 15 years in the field.

Which Side Gets the Most Sun?
It’s no surprise that the specialty for which you code influences average salary levels. There are a lot of factors that impact your salary. But based on our data, the top five earners may surprise you.

  1. Neuropsychiatry………………. $62,500
  2. Rheumatology…………………. $57,800
  3. Nephrology…………………….. $50,900
  4. Plastic surgery…………………. $47,200
  5. Interventional radiology……… $47,100

Wait! That can’t be right! We’ve always believed physicians paid coders based proportionally on what the physicians earned. Yet, according to our survey, the range of compensation for most specialties is within a few thousand dollars of their peers. Here are some examples in Table 1.

What’s the Sunniest Region?
Our salaries prove to be as affected by our location as our exposure to the sun. Some states provide more sun to coders. Not only is this a function of cost of living and population, it results from the mix of workplaces and specialties that make up the coding workforces in a particular state. Regions rank by average salary Shown in Table 2.

Productivity Standards
Our respondents say productivity isn’t typically measured. Eighty-three percent of respondents aren’t required to meet productivity standards for coding from operative reports, and 85 percent don’t have to code a minimum number of evaluation and management visits.

We can present average benchmarks by specialty in those specialties where we received sufficient responses to be statistically accurate. While the data was not as voluminous as desired, below are a few specialties where we received enough responses on the benchmark standards for coding and billing operative reports per hour.

Your own work may vary from these, however, we believe we received enough responses to help assist your personal productivity goals.

As we learn more from this data, we will make it available. Whether you’re a starting or experienced coder, moving from one venue to another, or just curious about where you compare with the averages, this information is important.

“This information is very helpful to employers and coders,” Reed Pew, CEO and President of AAPC said. “I was surprised by some of it – for example, that the Atlantic region is the highest compensated region, and that for most specialties, the pay amounts were quite comparable. However, most important was the 18 percent difference between non-certified coders and certified coders and the increase in wages for coders since last year. It is our belief that employers that employ certified coders improve their accuracy of billings and cash flow and reduce their risk of audit by engaging certified coders; and by more than 18 percent. There is a solid return on investment for those that certify their coders.”

2008 Medical Coding Salary Survey PDF Version

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84 Responses to “2008 Medical Coding Salary Survey”

  1. kathy says:

    I’m interested in getting help in passing Biology 146 class. It’s the only class I need to complete to get my certification. I’ve completed all the other classes I needed with good grades, but I struggled in the Biology courses. I passed Biology 145 with a “C”, but I need at least a “B” in 146 to pass. I worked full-time and finding the time to study for this class is very difficult. Are there any courses online that is available for me? Also, I have a friend that is having a terrible time finding a job as a coder, because of no experience. I would like to finish my course that I need to get my certification because of the time and money that I have spent to reach my goal.

  2. sue says:

    I took an online course for one year and took my certification test last November. It was a big gamble for me being I have never worked in the medical field. But I took a job as a biller, was in that position for 4 months and then they moved me into coding. I just wanted to encourage all of you to keep trying, it might not initially come as a coder but they will appreciate your certification if you can just get your foot in the door. I also encourage any one interested to get involved in there local aapc chapters. I have found a great deal of support from the local members. Besides I now believe that learning the aspect of billing will make you a better coder.
    Your 2009 books will work fine for the exam. The certifications are nationwide.

  3. Kathy Eversole says:

    I need to find out the cost of becoming a medical coder. How long it takes, and if you need to have a degree. Basically, from start to finish, how long would it take to pursue this?

  4. Kathy Eversole says:

    Basically, from start to finish, how long would it take to pursue becoming a medical coder? Is there one school where I can go to from start to finish? How much does it cost and can I get financial help?

  5. Jennifer says:

    I found this form so far very helpful. I am currently thinking about taking up Medical coding. I am looking for a career that will always be around… I am thinking about going to this community college near my home for either their associates program or certificate program but i don’t know which one to choose?? I do not know anyone who is a medical coder and looking to hear from someone with that field experience to let me know what/how they feel about it. thank you.

  6. Debbie says:

    I finished online school last Dec. I am just now able to take my certification exam. I just found out that my books are outdated. You will need to use 2009 books.
    All the Dr.’s want at least 2 years experience for billing and coding. To be a coder from home you will need min 2-5 years experience. I was not told this before I went $10,000 in debt. I am already repaying student loans before finding a job.
    Good luck to all who seek employment.

  7. Jennifer says:

    Its so hard then, sounds like no one would hire someone with just the schooling and no experience?

  8. haryani Kwanarta says:

    I am taking a medical coding,billing and Administrative – will be done 5/17/2010. After that I will be able to take test to be certified for my CMA and CBCS. I was told that I wont be able to take exam for my CPC after I have some works hours. But reading all of the comments – it seems some of you are able to take that exam-CPC after taking the class.
    Please advise. thanks Yani

  9. Jen says:

    I am interested in becoming a Medical Coder but I have no prior healthcare experience. Can anyone give me some advice as to what schools North of Boston offer a good education that will prepare me to eneter the field of Medical Coding as well as prepare me for the CPC exam? Has anyone gone to American International College (Woburn) or Northshore Community College, if so do you think it has prepared you well? Any suggestions for good programs in the area would be appreciated. Thanks for your help!


  10. bev says:

    I too am looking at going to school for becoming a certified professional coder and after reading most of the comments on here, I’m a little nervous. It looks as if noone will hire you unless you have 2 yrs experience in the field. I need to know exactly what I need to do to get hired on somewhere. I have been in the IT /telecommunications field for 25 plus years and medical coding and billing would be a completely different field for me. I would think that I could get on somewhere with that experience and then move into the coding job that way? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  11. shelly says:

    Hi i’m already working in a medical office as a biller, but i would like to take CPC exam, but you says that certification requirement to have an associate’s degree which is i don’t have, i don’t even have a high school dipolma. Am i still be able take the exam?

  12. caroline says:

    How can I become a certified biller? I have been a medical biller for over 10 years now they are saying this is required? Are there any online classes I might could take?

  13. Portia says:

    Caroline, please visit the AAPC.com site and they offer online or you can locate a PMCC near your city. I hope this helps. Thanks…

  14. Portia says:

    Shelly, I am not sure where you heard this. You do not need an assoc. degree to take the CPC. They require 2 years of coding experience and if you do not have the 2 years then you can take the exam and pass with a CPC-A( which indicate that you have no experience in the field). Please visit http://www.aapc.com and locate a PMCC site near you. They offer online or classroom. Here in Michigan the price range is $1750-$1900 which the instructors let you make up payment arrangements….also some employers will pay for the course. Good Blessings…….and I hope this helps.

  15. Portia says:

    haryani, You do not need experience although some experience would be helpful but not necessary. You can take the exam right after class if schedule 4-6 weeks in advance with the AAPC. If you do not have experience then you would be awarded CPC-A until you get 2 years under your belt. Thanks…

  16. Portia says:

    Shari …if your are referring to externship with your CPC coding course…I believe that the AAPC offers an externship…they will put you in place with organizations that interested in your state. Please go to http://www.aapc.com for more information

  17. Theresa says:

    Hi guys this information was very helpful in helping me make the decision to get certified I have been here at my job 3.5 years now and still only make 12 an hour have not gotten a raise since i been here . I am a medical biller.

  18. Sang says:

    I am interested in taking medical coding class, but I am not sure that this field is as promising as people said. I am not sure about the job market. As few people mentioned in this blog, it looks like it will be hard to get a job without few years of medical coding experiences with or without certification. No one wants to spend lots of money in that course without promising job availability. I do not wish to unempolyed months to years after I spend lots of money and time. So anyone can tell me why this field is such a promising career????

  19. Carol Favreau says:

    Do you have home study courses to offer for coding? WHere I would study at home and then take the test?
    Please advise.

    Thank you.

  20. magda says:

    I need some advice.I plan to get certified with AAPC because of one free retake.The “A “thing makes me nervous.How the employers take the “A” part. To me , it seems that the AAPC test is not serious and AAPC does not have confidence in its test.Ahima does not care if you have no experience in coding if you can pass its test you good ,no one will know that you have no experience.

  21. Kelly says:

    Hello i live in Ohio I would like you to guide me in finding a great school that will fit my needs, which are– Low tuition– On line program– Credited school– Certified ready school with Associate or Certificate with the option to become certified with one of the certified agencies which offer your certification. Thank you Kelly

  22. Harry Dooling says:

    I am an electrician and looking for a new career.Possibly medical billing and coding . I am 50 year old male. What do you guys think?

  23. Ashok krishna reddy says:

    I am a medical coder for 2 years, now i certified coder cpc -A,i am interested to work abroad.But i have any experience certificates. please guide me

  24. Ashok krishna reddy says:

    I am a medical coder for 2 years, now i certified coder cpc -A,i am interested to work abroad.But i have not any experience certificates. please guide me

  25. Matt McCumber says:

    I am interested in what happened to Deon Haynes and what school did she choose? I am also having a hard time deciding on what school to choose and I was also looking at US Career Institute. I have inquired with several schools and the tuitions range from $1500 (Certificate) to as high as $30,000(AS Coding). HELP me, Please!!!!

  26. Richard Drey says:

    Thank you for your informative site. I am currently an Associates Degree RN with over 15 years experience. I am currently enrolled in WGU’s HIM program with over 33% of the Bachelors program out of the way. I am wanting to sit for the CPC R exam in the near future. I am currently unemployed due to bilateral knee problems. I can nolonger run the floors in nursing but wish to use my experience and knowlege. Have some experience with DRG’s in nursing. I am seeking advice on procuring a coding job that the income will help with school and living expences. Am I on the right track so far? I thank you for any recommendations or direction at this point. I realize that the job market is soft right now. Any help you may give will be very much appreciated.

  27. Richard Drey says:

    Matt, WGU has an IT and Health Information Management Bachelor’s program. Tuition is based on six month semester period and not number of credit hours. Under $3000.00 per semester! Much cheaper than other online schools. Program is fully accredited and working in over thirteen states. After being deceived by another big name correspondence school I found WGU much better choice and wish I had discovered it initially. Councellors are knowlegable and the program is non-profit so they are not working on comission! Good luck. One other thing. They only offer Bachelors and Masters programs no Associates or Tech license programs. But considering the above threads and employment this is probably the way to go. Get the degree and spend as much as you will with those tech programs out there that only get you prepared for the exam!

  28. Courtney Underwood says:

    I am searching for a new career opportunity and have been considering Medical Coding. I have looked into US Career Institute and Penn Foster College. They seem similar. I was just curious if these were good schools or if I should be looking some place else?

  29. Sherrie Keller says:

    Hello from Kansas City, MO…I agree with Sang, what is the big deal about this new career option?? I just finished a 10 month certificate program from Wright’s Career College (mid-America locations only, I think). I got the medical terminology, body systems classes and 45 weeks of medical coding, but now I need the certification in order to be even considered for a job. Most jobs I have seen require a high school diploma (or GED) AND the CPC Certification. There is alot of learning between those two diplomas!. I hope to take the CPC test in Sept 2010. School offers a competency testing (?), but who cares about that? When I talked to the local AAPC Chapter President about employment, she said it was very, very unusual for a person to be hired as a coder straight out of school. The usual path is front-line medical office, billing, insurance and then coding. Well, why didn’t someone tell me that 10 months ago? I enjoy coding very much and do well, but discouraged about the job market. Who sets these requirements for experience? I definitely think I need experience, but not by making medical appointments for patients. Is there an ICD9 code from depressed job market?


    I am a Medical Record personnel working in India. I have passed Coding Basics from AHIMA, USA and CPC from MEDESUN, USA (Through India Branch office, Hyderabad).
    I have experience in Medical Coding ICD-9CM, CPT and HCPCS coding.
    If any body recommends for a Medical Coder job, I will be grateful to them
    Yours sincerely,

  31. David George says:

    I have been in the medical billing business for nearly eight years and have decided to earn a coding certification. I looked at many avenues and for me the route will be taking courses through AAPC.

    David George

  32. reddy says:

    hi every body. For coding and Billing career for fresh and experienced

    pls send your resumes to hrudayam1 at yahoo dot com

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