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2015 Salary Survey: Credentials Tip the Scale

2015 Salary Survey: Credentials Tip the Scale

Member data shows it pays to keep adding letters after your name.

The results are in! The AAPC 2015 Salary Survey gives us a good idea of what is going on in the healthcare business job market right now. Data shows our credentialed members are staying ahead of average inflation and unemployment rates in the United States. Respondents also indicate they are focusing on their education to get ahead, rather than job hopping.
The survey was sent out this past fall in an email blast to members to be filled out online through Survey Monkey®. This year’s results are based on responses from just under 18,000 members — several thousand more than last year. Thanks to all who took the time to fill out our questionnaire.
Note: While reviewing the data, take into account that the average work experience our respondents have in the business of healthcare is 11.5 years.
Education Matters
Overall, there was a slight increase in unemployment from 2014; however, members holding a degree saw an unemployment rate decrease of 0.5 percent, while those without a degree saw a rate increase of 0.7 percent compared to last year.
Although more members who hold degrees are working, it appears as though their higher education didn’t earn them more money in 2015 (see Graph A). In looking back at 2014 data, however, we know that many members who were seeking higher education have recently graduated and entered the job market. This helps to explain the lower salaries.
Multiple Credentials Carry Weight
Salary data reveals that the more AAPC credentials you carry, the higher your salary. The average salary in 2015 of members with:

  • 1 credential (any credential) was $46,899
  • 2+ credentials (any credentials) was $58,399
  • 3+ credentials (any credentials) was $65,643

In other words, investing the time and education in getting more certifications can pay off in spades. Only a little more than 12 percent of our certified members hold multiple credentials currently.
Certain Credentials Carry More Weight
As shown in Graph B, the three AAPC credentials that merited the greatest salary increases in 2015 were:

  • Certified Physician Practice Manager (CPPM®) – 6.7 percent. CPPMs® went from earning an average salary of $60,607 in 2014 to $64,666 in 2015.
  • Certified Professional Coder (CPC®) – 2.8 percent. CPCs® went from earning an average salary of $50,030 in 2014 to $51,454 in 2015.
  • Certified Outpatient Coding (COC™) – 2 percent. COCs™ went from earning an average salary of $57,680 in 2014 to $58,822 in 2015. It should be noted that this credential was formerly CPC-H®.

Members holding any AAPC credential averaged a 2.6 percent increase in pay from last year. Credentials that show a decrease in salary are likely due to an influx of new blood entering the job market.
Workplace and Job Responsibility Play a Part
In the most common workplaces selected, the average salary difference was barely more than $6,500.

  • Medium Group Practice (11-49 physicians): $44,870
  • Solo Practice/Small Group Practice (two to 10 physicians): $45,722
  • Hospital Outpatient: $47,773
  • Large Group Practice (50+ physicians): $48,033
  • Hospital Inpatient: $50,925
  • Health System: $51,389

In terms of job responsibilities, salaries increased faster than the nation’s inflation rate (0.2 percent), as shown in Graph C. Based on what you told us, practice/office managers received the largest average salary increase, making $3,482 more than last year. Coding and billing managers’ salaries were at a close second, with an average salary increase of $3,011 more than 2014.
Overtime on the Decline
Based on the numbers shown in Graph D, we think members are trying harder to find a work/life balance. Most members are full-time workers, with 72 percent working 40-45 hours per week, which is a 2.1 percent decrease from last year. There are always diehards, though. In 2015, 15 percent (up 1.4 percent from 2014) worked more than 45 hours per week. ICD-10 preparation may have had something to do with the increase in hours.
Salaries Affected by Location
Members living in the East North Central part of the United States (Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio) saw a 2.2 percent increase in salaries from last year. If you add it to the 6.1 percent increase those states received in 2014, that’s more than an 8 percent increase in two years, from $44,816 in 2013 to $48,584 in 2015.
The demographic who makes the most income is the Pacific region (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington), with an average salary of $57,021. This may be due to a higher cost of living. To check out how your salary ranks compared to the average annual salary of members in your region, see Graph E.
All in all, members are reportedly doing well and holding their own during this period of healthcare reform. The key to staying ahead of the curve is definitely education. Credentials tip the scale.

Penelope Alanis is program coordinator at AAPC.
Michelle A. Dick is executive editor at AAPC.

Michelle Dick
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Michelle A. Dick, BS, provides writing and editorial expertise to clients as a freelance content specialist. She is the owner of My Garden Gal, a garden maintenance and landscaping business. Prior to becoming a free agent, Dick was an executive editor for AAPC.

42 Responses to “2015 Salary Survey: Credentials Tip the Scale”

  1. wanda says:

    knowing the difference between the codes was very informative but reading about the wage increases and the average income can be earned having a certificate can be helpful

  2. Mark Babs says:

    Great post, thank you! I was wondering what the average salary for certified coders was in 2014 and 2015?
    Thank you,

  3. sumithra says:

    I am cpc certified.I am looking for home based jobs in medical coding.

  4. cherie steinbaugh says:

    In Washington State, what company is a flexible, great coding medical facility to work for? I currently work for a hospital in the Puget Sound Area in different a position, however, I have been seeking a different opportunity to further my education and advance my current skills. Coding was one area that I was seeking training and advancement. Please advise.
    Eventually I would like to work from home.

  5. Marlena DePetris-Lusher says:

    I have been looking for assistance with your fees. I have worked with billing and coding for many years. I was set to personally pay fees for all classes needed to become certified but my husband suffered a traumatic brain injury. Plus the other physical limitations. Turing this time I have been his only care provider. I am at a good point in my life to dust off the coding and billing books and put my all into a new work direction. My stumbling block has been finding non extant funding for caregiver but as a TBI patient, the patient qualifies for multiple programs.
    If you could help with any financial information would be a blessing. Thank you.

  6. Deborah Jenkins says:

    During my reading of this blog has given me more of a potential to continue to further invest in my new career as a medical billing and coder. I found this blog to be a bigger in-site to more of my views for becoming a billing and coder. My views on billing and coding are to allow me to be able to help in the medical field, advance my career, as well as my finances.

  7. lenore marmone says:

    i am looking into certified programs in California for medical coding. I am an RN 49yrs experience. Retiring next year. Want to work from home as much or as little as I need to supplement my social security,. I saw your data on salaries. Would like to speak with someone as I have more questions 858-342-2293

  8. sri says:

    what is the minimum expected salary for fresh cpc coder in india?

  9. Judith Konstans says:

    Did you do any salary surveys for auditing positions. Specifically North Carolina

  10. Jay Patterson says:

    I am doing research into medical billing and coding fields and was hoping to ask a question or two regarding medical billing and coding salaries. As stated in the article, location and certification are big factors in salary determination. Now, since many people get into this business in an attempt to work from home, is the salary for medical billers and coders who work from home the same as those that work in offices/facilities? I would suspect that the allure of working home may make it so that employers pay these people less.

  11. Sasi says:

    @ Sri, minimum expected salary in India for CPC Fresher will be around 20k.

  12. Tenzin says:

    Hello I’m looking into taking and preparing myself to take cpc exam, I’m looking to see if there any tutor classes or a in class session I could attend to prepare and study and get my self ready for the exam near future? Can anyone please direct me to the right way please. I’m a Minnesota resident base.
    Thank you

  13. Md Ijhar Ashraf says:

    I have 5 years experience in ED, E&M and OUT patient Medical coding . I am looking job change for UAE.
    I have one year experience in UAE also.

  14. norquita Govan says:

    I am a health information mgmt graduate with an associate degree I took my RHIT test and didn’t pass but I would love to take the coding test since that part of the test was my strength how can I get materials or can I use my materials from my previous classes which is not that old only a year old I need some information about taking the test please

  15. Melinda Green says:

    I am looking to get started In the field of medical coding and billing I am finding it very difficult. I have a CPC certification and I am certified in ICD-10. I have kept my certification since 2013 when I graduated from my program with my degree but I have had no luck getting a job. I am discouraged because I see others getting jobs I don’t understand why I can not get work in my chosen field.

  16. Martha says:

    Just took the CPC exam a few days ago. Looking FORWARD TO A GREAT CAREER as a professional coder.l

  17. John Jawalgi says:

    Hi Tenzin,
    Please let me know what Training you would need. We are located near Minnesota we will help you.

  18. BARBARA CLARK says:

    I am an RN and would love to do a coding job at home if any way possible

  19. angie says:

    Which certification – do you feel – will best ready me for the job market?
    These are the available certifications on the AAPC website – CPC, COC, CIC, CPC or the CRC?
    • The counselor also suggested that I take a course on Anatomy and Medical Terminology. What are your thoughts?
    • What is the average starting pay for a newly certified coder?
    • What is the normal time to be employed as a coder before most facilities would permit me to work from home?
    I am clueless (as you can tell) I want to invest my time and money in the best way possible.
    Thank you so much for any input!

  20. Deepshikha says:

    Need some work for coding.I have COC certification from Aapc.

  21. Chandan Kumar says:

    Which certification – do you feel – will best ready me for the job market?
    These are the available certifications on the AAPC website – CPC, COC, CIC, CPC or the CRC?
    • The counselor also suggested that I take a course on Anatomy and Medical Terminology. What are your thoughts?
    • What is the average starting pay for a newly certified coder?
    • What is the normal time to be employed as a coder before most facilities would permit me to work from home?
    I am clueless (as you can tell) I want to invest my time and money in the best way possible.
    Thank you so much for any input!

  22. Regi says:

    I have certified cpc since 2011 and found out that it was so hard to get a job till now ..any ideas or solutions to get on somewhere in Houston .

  23. Tremica says:

    I would like to become a certified medical biller & coder and work from home. I’m totally lost where I need to begin. I have a very strong health insurance background, which already has me knowledgeable of ICD-9 CODES, HCFA forms and HIPPA LAWS, etc. I have a BS in Business. Will you please give me some direction in all areas monetary wise also? Thank you so much!

  24. Beryl Johnson says:

    For those of you who have expressed an interest in Coding and working from home, PLEASE do your research. Becoming a CPC requires dedication and many many hours of study. There are numerous resources available to earn your CPC – through AAPC as online classes, or self study. There are many independent Companies that are owned by AAPC Certified Trainers that offer online training as well through their own company, or check to see if there are classes offered locally if you prefer the classroom experience. I took my training through a local independent company owned by an AAPC Certified Trainer. It was a 16 week couse, and the fees paid included all coding books, the training, and the exam fee. At the end of the 16 week course, I took my CPC exam and passed on the first try. I had only been in Healthcare for 1 year. That was 6 years ago that I got the CPC. My advise to you would be this:
    Invest in yourself – there is no “free” way to become a CPC
    Invest in the time to study
    Research and make sure the investment is right for you – becoming a CPC is difficult. Also, just because someone becomes a CPC does not ultimately get them a job in coding. It takes time and experience to develop the skills that employers want when hiring coders.
    You might have to start your career in a path that will eventually bring you to your ultimate goal of coding job. For example, at the age of 50 and due to the economy and job losses during the recession, I found myself in the position of starting an entirely new career. I knew nothing about Healthcare. I got an entry level job with a small payer processing medical claims. I knew that I wanted to expand my career and move forward. I took every opportunity to research and learn which led me to investing in getting my CPC. In 6 years, I have gone from an entry level claims processor, to a Clinical Fraud Investigator with one of the largest payers. I paid for workshops and webinars out of pocket to solidify my skills. I am now seeking my Certified Professional Medical Auditor designation.
    An article in the July 2016 edition of the Healthcare Business Monthly magazine put out by the AAPC – Secrets of Successful Coders is an EXCELLENT article to get you inspired should you decide this is the career for you.
    As for working from home – if that is the only reason you want to be a coder – don’t. You have to have a passion for what you do, and there are pro’s and con’s when working out of the home vs. office. Also understand, you may not have that opportunity to work from home initially until you have proven your skills, accuracy and dedication. You have to be extremely motivated and organized to work from home, and avoid all distractions. In addition, if you are a social person, working from home may not be for you – it can be very isolating at times. I have done both. I currently work from home with a virtual team. The key is communication and collaboration, and ensuring that you also plan social activities outside of the home so you don’t become bogged down.
    I hope this information is helpful to those of you interested in beginning a career as a coder. For those of you who have not been able to find work, you may need to look at another type of position in healthcare that will lead you to your goal. We cannot always start out where we want to – sometimes we have to take a step back to take a leap forward.

  25. Kay Adams says:

    I am currently a teacher and have my master’s degree in curriculum, also a single mom. I am scheduled to take my CPC exam in September and hopefully I pass but also scheduled for December. Medical terminology made it difficult since I was last in any medical term classes 20 years ago fresh out of high school so the AAPC online course was a struggle not being online cause I got my master’s online, but it was out of my comfort zone of education. What type of jobs in coding might have part time, since I don’t want to quit my teaching job and give up my paid summers until I can be sure it wouldn’t be a backward job move.

  26. Lisa DINitto says:

    Mr. Johnson,
    Well Said! You have given some great advice. It does not happen overnight, it is a journey.

  27. Veronica White says:

    I take my CPC exam Aug 12, 2016 I’am very nervous, I have the study guide which is very helpful, I hope to pass the first time I feel confident at this point, I love the monthly magazine it’s so inspirational and has encouraged me to continue to extend my education. Thank you Ms. Johnson your post really inspired me.

  28. Joanna says:

    Hello readers, I am a 45 yo female, also tired of the roller coaster in the economy and have decided to become an HIMBC. A Health Information Medical Billing and Coder specialist. I am enrolled at Blue Cliff since January 2016 with some of the best teachers, that have so far help me learn about this new career. I have a calling and it wasn’t to be a banker or a substitute bus driver. I was always fond of biology and human anatomy. Now, I am on my way to become the best in my coding career. I always up for a challenge and this is the best one yet! Good Luck and HAPPY CODING!!

  29. Margrett says:

    Hi Michelle,
    This article was very informative and interesting; I am currently training to become a Health Information Management personnel and was never aware of the scope of the profession. Your postings have also given me a reality check as it relate to the feasibility of jobs. I am now better able to focus and determine my area of speciality.

  30. sara says:

    I am wondering what the future outlook is going to be like for coders. I have my CPC and am looking into getting other specialty certifications because I love what I do. But I also know the realty of business and many businesses outsource work because it is cheaper. I haven’t been in the healthcare world long enough to see how it once was compared to how it is now therefore I am not sure what to expect going forward. I would love the think we are always going to be in demand but I am just not confident

  31. Sakeena says:

    Hi Team,
    Can you please let me know the option that I have for Volunteering as an medical coder with an CPC -A certification in Connecticut with an H4 visa. And what would be the opportunities further and how to get an work visa for the same.

  32. Mardi says:

    I have just started the online courses through AAPC for the first 4 months (80 hrs) to learn the medical terminology and then the next 4 months to finally learn about Medical coding. You study at your own pace, but of course, you do not want to take your sweet little time, unless you work already and are taking online classes. Total would be 8 months and after that completion, I would be ready to study for the CPC exam (Gold Standard, highly recommended). Great thing about enrolling through AAPC is that they would remove the apprentice experience and make it count as a year experience and etc… I was tired of looking online and seeing what schools have credentials and etc, but going straight to AAPC removes any doubt. Looking forward to this great journey and nothing happens overnight people. Finding a job is difficult regardless what occupation you are in. It is very competitive. Learn to interview well, study hard, and never give up. By the way, I do not work for AAPC lol.

  33. KP says:

    In india for the medical coder especially in gujarat, salary is big concern for employees. $1870 per anume which is very less for this work.

  34. Gayatri says:

    Iam an AAPC member with COC certified.I want to migrate from india to USA how to attend interview an dvisa process.Iam having 3.5yrs of expirence.Help me to get job in USA.

  35. Gayatri says:

    My gol and dream is i want to work in USA

  36. Monica Deenadayalan says:

    Hi ,
    AM working in India, am having one and half year experience in HCC and 9 months experience in ED coding. Am planning to migrate UAE or US. How to attend interview ? Is it possible to get job in USA, Kindly let me know. My mail id is monihmn@gmail.com.

  37. sachin visavadiya says:

    i am from india(gujrat) want to be a medical coder…is there any body from gujrat pls guide me …

  38. sachin visavadiya says:

    my email id is sachin.visavadiya4990@gmail.com n contact no 9687870571

  39. Linda says:

    I’m a 57 year old female that has been a RN for over 30yrs and want a change in my career. A good friend of mine suggested becoming an CPC. The idea sounds wonderful, and allows me to to use my nursing skills as well. I live in Mid-Missouri in a small town, so the home program sounds like it may be a good fit. My question is (1) how do I start (2)what type coding would be best. I’ve read many wonderful comments made re: this field. Thank you for opportunity to ask these questions.

  40. concerned coder says:

    HIPAA only exists in the USA. When billing and coding gets sent overseas for processing then health information is not secure. What is the liability for hospitals? Is every transaction a violation of HIPAA ? It’s too late once the horse has left the barn…

  41. Friendly Advisor says:

    It really depends what you are looking for. Why are you changing careers? Coding is rewarding, but is very different from nursing and you can expect a significant decrease in salary. Also, while there are some nurses and/or doctors in the profession, these are few and far between. The only advantage a nurse has is some of the medical terminology and anatomy. You definitely do not have an advantage in a lot of areas, like lack of action, lack of interaction (coding is relatively solitary), and temperament issues…Most coders like being alone. Just like most police officers think they would be great as a private investigator, most are not, so don’t assume that you’ll be using any of your nursing skills. Look very closely at the program that you would want to start, because like Ms. Johnson says above, it will take you a considerable investment in time and money to be successful. Realize that most employers want both a certified coder and also someone with experience. (in coding) More job offers will be for inpatient coders, but you will find some others out there. Most inpatient coders rely more heavily on ICD-10 diagnosis codes and PCS, while most physician based billing rely on CPT codes primarily for outpatient procedures. There are so many different opportunities, if you are just starting out, I would probably seek out an advisor from AAPC to discuss your various options. Hope that helps and if you decide to jump in, welcome to the career.

  42. Vishnupriya says:

    Can you please let me know the option that I have 5 years experience in medical coding with an CPC certification. I am living in Michigan with an H4 visa. And what would be the opportunities further and how to get an work visa for medical coding or remote medical coding or home based medical coding. Please help me and guide me to how to get medical coding opportunities in USA