2009 Salary Survey Results

Certification Protects Members from Recession


By Brad Ericson, CPC, COSC, and Jennifer Rothlisberger

View the entire 2009 Medical Coding Salary Survey.pdf

Credentialed coders prove recession-proof in this year’s AAPC Salary Survey, which shows your salaries rose 4 percent to an average of $44,750. And even non-certified coders benefited from their affiliation with AAPC, with a 2 percent average salary gain to $37,290.

And this, mind you, in the midst of bank failures, foreclosures, layoffs, and a housing bust.

“It appears certified coders are more recession proof than others, that multiple specialty credentials improve your career, and that education, of course, adds to that benefit,” Reed Pew, AAPC president/CEO, told Coding Edge. The type of credential makes a difference, too, when paired with work venue. Those who work in the insurance industry or facilities are naturally more likely to make more than those in a smaller physician practices. But the results of this and another study are encouraging not only for those who are certified but for all those who are AAPC members.

More than 10,000 members responded to the annual salary survey, which was conducted this summer over the Internet.


Medical Coding Salary by Specialty

Medical Coding Salary by Specialty

Being certified adds more than $7,000 to the average salary over being noncertified. CPC-As, many of whom are just entering the workforce, have a lower average income, and there is no underestimating the effect experience has on one’s career. Coders with more than 21 years of experience averaged $54,477 this year.

Salary Years of Experience/Education

Salary Years of Experience/Education

Education is the other part of the equation: This year, more of us report having been to college: 73.5 percent compared to 69 percent last year. There are 17.5 percent of the respondents who completed their bachelor’s degrees. Your education level, not surprisingly, has a significant impact on salary level.

This is the second survey of coders this year indicating we are being recognized for our professional skills and that our coding community is relatively immune to downturns. “Not only do certified coders show a jump in salary and opportunity in this data, but paired with an earlier study published in the March 25 journal For the Record, we find coders with an AAPC certification fared positively while those with other credentials suffered during the downturn,” Pew said. “In the earlier study, 17 percent more CPCs than CCSs said they had not been negatively impacted by the economy.”

Coders who work for physicians, groups, ambulatory surgery centers (ASC), outpatient departments, and payers are seeing their careers blossom, according to the For the Record study.

The bottom line for AAPC coders at a time when bottom lines are looking pretty bleak is simple, Pew said. “It is clear we are increasingly recognized for who we are and how our skills add value to our employers.”

This is especially true of those who have specialty certification. While it’s difficult to accurately determine what specialty credentials are most financially advantageous, we can look at the salaries of those who indicated they work in a specialty for a hint. Those who work in radiology, cardiovascular and thoracic, plastic and reconstructive, and rheumatology specialties report the highest average salaries this year. While little has changed this year in the order of specialties, we note that last year’s highest paid specialty, neurology, fell off the list because too few responded to the survey.

Coders have a lot of roles, carry a lot of titles, and present a number of responsibilities founded on our professional skills. This data is interesting enough that we present it in two ways: by salary and by title. Those whose professional titles are consultants, managers, and administrators do better, not surprisingly. Consultants historically are at the top of the list, but we see those working in physician groups and practices moving up.



More Interesting Tidbits

  • 31-40 hours per week. Those reporting they worked an average of 41 to 71 hours per week amount to 38 percent. Those who are part-time, working 30 or fewer hours, amounted to only 5 percent. Coders work hard for their employers.
  • A significant 81 percent don’t have productivity standards in your offices and work at the office each day. A third may work from home some days of the week. Half of the respondents say they work flex-time schedules.
  • More than 91 percent of you receive health insurance, 89 percent receive paid holidays, 82 percent receive paid sick time, and 78 percent receive dental insurance as benefits. Slightly over half who do have health insurance as a benefit said their employer help pay for coverage.
  • Almost 9 percent work with physicians who have coder certification. New information, this is something we look forward to
    watching in subsequent studies.
  • Who’s doing the coding and how? Are they using documentation and electronic medical records (EMRs)? Here’s a breakdown directly from the study:
    • The majority of coders code all procedures from the documentation.
    • The next largest group codes all procedures from a paper billing form.
    • Only 8 percent code only a part of the claim on an EMR program.
Salary Map 2009

Salary Map 2009


Salary by State

Salary by State

How do you fare compared to your state average? Again, you’ll notice that location affects the salary, considering cost of living, urban vs. rural setting, and regional economic pressures.

Where is Key, Too



Location, location, location makes a difference in how much respondents say they are paid. Here is the breakdown of those who work in the cities, suburbs, and in rural areas:

While salaries in the New England, Southwest, and Mountain regions grew by at least 4 percent, it appears cost of living helps mould average salaries. The economy, no doubt, had an impact this year as downturns in other industries impacted coders in the Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic region.

The Good News

It appears we are being recognized for our professional skills and our certifications not only helped protect us from the economic downturn, they are helping us in addition to our titles, roles, and locations. Paired with results from an earlier survey, we find being a coder is a pretty good gig with possibilities and opportunities, and that your CPC® credential gives you a pretty beneficial professional and personal network with which to be associated.

View the entire 2009 Medical Coding Salary Survey.pdf


Brad Ericson, CPC, COSC, is AAPC’s director of publications
Jennifer Rothlisberger is a marketing communications specialist and statistician for the AAPC


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22 Responses to “2009 Salary Survey Results”

  1. MaryBeth Ginkel says:

    I live in upstate NY. Being a student ready to graduate I am now looking for a job. The problem is that many of the Physicians in our area do not hire certified coders. We discussed this at our chapter meeting and most of the member agreed – The Physicians need to know how important we are and that we are the key for them to increase their revenue.

  2. kenda chandler says:

    i am a mbandc student in florida. this information was extremely helpful. thank you

  3. Sara Kirwan says:

    I live in rural Wisconsin and work for an ambulance billing company as a call enterer/analayst. I am entry level and started just 4 months ago. My recent review reported my job performance as excellent. I am not certified at all, just an EMT-B, but have just started school for my associates in medical billing and coding, set to be finished November of 2011. My gross earnings for the year are roughly $20,000. Do I need to wait to finish school to improve my income?

  4. Rajah AZ says:

    I live in AZ. I work in DME company for 9 years as claims auditor, biller, collection and verification of benefits. I don’t have any certification. I make $37K a year and I’m thinking of going to school as certified coder. I just want to know if it’s worth it to go to school and pay almost $10k for the school or just stay where I’m at right now? Thank you

  5. Deltagirl says:

    I graduated about a year ago and found a job right away because I live in a very small town in SE Arkansas. Looking at the average salary shown on this page I should be making quite a bit more than I’m making. Even for the lowest paid states I’m not even close to the lowest average. I do feel very lucky to have a job but extremely fraustated about the pay. I have to travel about an hour both ways and I’m away from my two babies WAY more than I want to be. For the money, it’s not balancing out. I’m starting to regret going to school for this. I spent thousands on school and we aren’t even coming out balanced at the end of the month. Anyone thinking about attending school for this my suggestion would be to speak with people in the field in your area. Make sure it will be worth it in the end!

  6. THERESA says:


  7. redpow says:

    I am thinking about going to school for medical billing and coding. I am currently an administrative assistant in a prestigious hospital/university. I make around $40,000 and I am hoping to start out with around the same figure when I finish my course and land a job. I live in the urban area of Illinois. Am I not being realistic about the salary in which I hope to start my career in billing/coding? From the comments I have just read, it might be a mistake for me to go forth on this path.

  8. DB says:

    I live rural Oklahoma, I am a Billing Director for a Tribal Clinic and supervise 3 employees…A/R, Coding/Data Entry, & Pt Benefits Coordinator, I don’t make anywhere close to the above wages…I have been to Medical Assistance classes (which is where I found coding) as well as coding classes…I have worked as an Ambulance Coder for 15 years.

  9. ANGIE says:

    I want to know where the jobs are in AZ that pay the 40k plus a year, I have been in a coding position now for 10 years and certified for 7 years and I am about 10k under what the average pay is in AZ. Are the coders in AZ lying about their wages??? and to Rajah AZ if you are making that much with out certification, will your company pay you additional $$ to become certified?

  10. happyteeth says:

    I live in South Carolina and I make almost $46,000/year. I have a bachelor’s degree and CCA (AHIMA) certification. I have about 3 years of coding experience and I plan on upgrading my credential in the very near future. I think pay is really based on WHERE you work (I’m in a hospital) and WHO you work for. I am very fortunate to come in higher than my state’s average of $39,900/yr. I really think my bachelor’s makes the difference, especially since I graduated with honors.

  11. Nonadianne says:

    I work in Central Alabama and have been a CPC for 7 years. I have been coding for the same company for the last 12 years. I am the lowest paid individual and the only CPC in the whole corporation. I make less than 20,000 a year. Sure would like to know how to tell the company that I need a raise. People who do nothing all day make more than I do and I am certified and even pay for all my books and CEU classes/seminars and my membership in the AAPC. I figured out that I am being ripped off by the company. Someone tell me how to explain this one to the company.

  12. trbsmom says:

    Nonadianne, I would go to your boss and let them know that you are a vital part of that company and you because of your skills you bring in a lot of revenue and you would like to be compensated fairly for it. See what they say, and start looking for a more lucrative position. You are highly underpaid.

  13. trbsmom says:

    Also show them these statistics.

  14. Afzal Anwar says:

    I work in a radiology interpretation company and have been coding the radiology portion – learning thru experience and by reading books. I have looked into various options to get myself certified as Coder. Signed up an online course thru CBT Direct and they guarantee that I would pass the certification exam otherwise I get my money back. But looking at the salary survey I find that I am better off without certification. I make about 35K without certification and with certification I would not be making any more. No need to go to schools and spend 10K or more – these schools are just rip-offs. If you are interested go to an adult school and they teach equally better and save you a fortune in the fees.

  15. Christie Ward says:

    I live in south Alabama and have recently graduated with a medical billing & coding diploma. Previous to this I was in the Insurance industry (licensed CSR), with 16 yrs. of experience, including office experience. After a review of the salary in the medical billing & coding field, I decieded to go to school for this, but was hesitant because of the cost of the college. I definitly did not want to spend a considerable amount of money on shcool & not come out of it making what I had in mind based upon my research, which was $30,000 as a starting salary. After consulting with several of my instructors & with the career services department at my school, I decided to continue on with my schooling. Even though they could not gaurantee me anything, they eased my anxiety about wheather or not I could accomplish this starting salary. I was an exceptional student and maintained a 4.0 througout school. I would like to know if you think I can accomplish a starting salary of $30,000 a yr? Some of these other comments I read alarmed me! I do not want to get discouraged before I ever start to look for a job but I certainly would like your opinion. I feel like it depends on several things like where you work, who you work for, where you live, & what kind of experience you have coming in. I am also considering moving from south Alabama to the Charlotte, NC area. What is your opinion on that as far as salary goes in this field?

  16. Karenk says:

    For all of us who cannot get in due to no experience. How will this new ICD-10 work for us when we don’t know how to do it now with the ICD-9 because no one will give us a chance? Do we have to take yet another class and hope that we are not wasting more of our money on a dream that may never happen? Will we lose our CPC-a? How do we know what to keep up on, what do we need to do. I was told as long as I keep my dues up for AAPC, I could keep my certification in hopes of some day being a coder. Please advice

  17. Monique says:

    I have been working in medical billing for the past 7 years in CT. I don’t know any certified medical coders. I currently make 46k a year without being certified. I recently moved to Charlotte NC it seem like most offices/hospitals would like you to be a certified and base pay is around 15 to 18 an hour with a few years experience. Best of luck to everyone looking for a job or on the fence about being certified like myself.

  18. hermoine says:

    This is so discouraging, I am a certified coder, have been in the field for over 20 years and my ‘salary’ does not even come close to what your figures show. I have been with the same employer for 15 years. I know you will probably say look for another position. But in this economy I feel lucky to have a job. And, by the way I’m working two jobs to make ends meet.
    How did you gather your information and how did you arrive at these numbers?

  19. happy says:

    I am currently working as a biller/ coder with out certification. I have been in this postion with my current employer for about 8 months. I make $35,000 per year. I am currently finishing up my schooling for my certification. My employer has promised me a higher and more competetive salary with completion. I agree with most that I am just happy to have a job, but at the same time I feel that being certified is an assest to their company and practice. I will be using this information to make sure that what is offered it comparable.

  20. Moorthy says:

    Hello sir/madam.

    I finished my medical record technician courses in india ,and i have three month expreance in hospital setup and around one year expreance in medical coder in health care industry.I would like to have member on AAPC.Could you tell the detail ,how to become a member ship and how to get certificate in coding.

    Phone -9952287170

  21. Karen Slade says:

    I became certificed in March of 2011 after 20 years in the industry at various provider types. I began work at a PT clinic as the only person responsible for coding, entering, billing, posting of claims for three therapist and one speech pathologist. I live in southeast NC. I was started at 18.00 per hour for the first three months, when the revenue increased by 200% in that short period, I was raised to $20.00 per hour, paid insurance and profit sharing. Once you prove what you can do than DEMAND your proper salary…….However if you need experience I would take a 13.00 per hour job…..work hard, excel and move on wont be long before you make a name for yourself in the industry especially if you are in a small rural area.

  22. Latasha Tolbert says:

    I am in school now for medical billing and coding in Marietta, GA. If their is anyone in the area that know of any medical biller or coder jobs please e-mail me. Im trying to get a head start with finding a job in the field. I would even volunteer at an office or hospital to get my foot in the door.