Men in Medical Coding
Gain perspective as several men reflect on working in a female-dominated field.
Medical coding is a rewarding field, as evidenced by its ranking third on the U.S. News and World Report’s 2020 list of Best Jobs Without a College Degree. Besides providing a competitive salary that towers well over the investment for becoming a coding specialist, the profession ranks high for employment and career advancement opportunities, as well as for work-life balance and the potential to work from home.
Historically, jobs in medical coding, billing, practice management, auditing, and other related roles primarily attract a female workforce. In fact, according to AAPC’s membership demographics for 2020, only 17 percent of members are men. Although men in coding continues to represent the minority, these numbers are likely to climb, as evidenced by the increase of male presence in the office, at chapter meetings, and attending and speaking at conferences.
What’s the Attraction?
Men are entering the coding and billing world much the same way as women: through various routes and often by happenstance.
John Piaskowski, CPC, CPMA, CRC, CIRCC, CCC, CCVTC, CGSC, CGIC, CUC, COSC, has a background in economics and finds medicine to be particularly interesting. Given that coding is a combination of numbers and healthcare, it was a logical path for him to pursue.
Andy Hendrix, CPC, was simply looking for a change. He was working as a maintenance technician for the clinic he continues to work for and noted that his friends in the billing department seemed to enjoy their jobs. Intrigued, he pursued medical coding and, after passing the Certified Professional Coder (CPC®) exam, was soon hired in the coding department.
Men have found a place in other areas of revenue management, as well. Rene Rivas-Berdecia, CPC, is a surgical collector working in the corporate offices of ENT and Allergy Associates in Westchester, N.Y. He follows up with insurance carriers to obtain outstanding surgical claims reimbursement, which entails submitting many appeals. Darren Goodwin, CPC, CPMA, works as a physician services auditor/educator at Southern Maine Health Care. And Joshua McElrath, CPC, CDEO, CRC, CCS, CDIP, is a system manager who oversees a team of clinical documentation improvement educators at Mission Health, Asheville, N.C. These men are just a few of the approximate 32,000 male AAPC members.
Is There Gender Bias in Coding Jobs?
While more men are entering the field of coding and billing, being male doesn’t appear to have any particular advantages or disadvantages when it comes to finding work.
“It was hinted at by one of my teachers that it was going to be difficult finding work when I was taking a certificate program in the beginning of my career, but I haven’t experienced any trouble,” Piaskowski relates.
While Darren found that it was a struggle to find an entry-level coding position for someone with no experience, he doesn’t think his troubles had anything to do with his gender.
What About Attrition?
You may wonder if keeping a job in the healthcare business varies by gender. According to a study on men working in primarily female occupations, the risk of attrition is unusually high, with 80 percent of men leaving those industries in favor of more male or gender-neutral fields. But that’s not necessarily representative of men in coding, who report working anywhere from one to 21 years in the field.
This may have something to do with the fact that working in the business of healthcare does require attributes stereotypically demonstrated by male employees: ambitiousness, competitiveness, and economic leadership. However, these attributes are often shared by women in the healthcare business, as well — and many men find that inspiring.
McElrath relates, “The women in this industry are incredibly well-versed and educated. I knew early on if I expected to have a shot, I needed to get up to their level. Those same women that I was intimidated by are now colleagues and friends.”
Goodwin agrees, “It’s no different than working in a male-dominated industry — everyone is equally capable.”
Hendrix has always worked alongside women. Instead of working with an all-women maintenance team, he now works with women in billing.
Piaskowski sees no difference in working with mostly women. “Working in such a specialized technical role offers no discord amongst my coworkers,” he explains. “Gender is an irrelevant factor in this role or any job. There is a higher ratio of female to male coders, but anyone diligent enough to learn the finer skills of coding can succeed.”
Recommended Path to Success
While men find themselves under-represented in the coding field, opportunities are available throughout the United States, regardless of gender. Considering the average annual U.S. coder salary of $54,890, and with high-level healthcare business professionals reporting salaries topping six figures, this is a career in which anyone can make a good living. But does that mean men in coding recommend this field to other men?
Rivas-Berdecia has and will continue to do so. Some of Rivas-Berdecia’s friends have asked about his CPC® certification and he says they are always amazed and pleased with his success. One of his male friends is even making arrangements to start a CPC® course in hopes of becoming a coder.
McElrath’s experience is slightly different. “Unfortunately, the men I associate with or am around would likely have a ‘that’s women’s work’ mentality. I cannot think of anyone that I know who could handle it,” he says. “What they don’t realize is that it takes a confident man to be a medical coder.”
Goodwin feels that, even in a female-dominated industry, there should be no gender exclusivity in the coding field. Personal preference and vision, not gender, he says, have much to do with success.
Male Perspective on Female Leadership
All success aside, let’s ask a tough question: What is it like as a man to work for a woman? According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, nearly 50 percent of Americans have no preference with regard to working for a man or woman. Whereas only 18 percent of men prefer to work for a woman.
Goodwin has previously worked in the male-dominated field of landscaping and has in the past and currently works for a woman. In his view, he says, “I find women tend to be less explosive, better listeners, and they are better at dealing with conflict, corrective action, and make exceptional leaders.”
McElrath has a similar perspective. “Since I had a female business partner for over 10 years, who happens to be my wife, I understand the female perspective in this industry pretty well,” he says.
It doesn’t appear men feel excluded in woman-occupied and -led offices, either. In fact, men in coding list a number of benefits to working in a primarily female environment.
Rivas-Berdecia finds women in his workplace to be extremely genuine and caring, and he appreciates how good they are at keeping track of all kinds of celebrations such as birthdays, baby showers, and holidays. “It is always fun, and there’s always plenty of food and chocolate!” he says. “This is all aside from being dedicated women at their jobs.”
Goodwin has certainly found the silver lining. “The men’s bathroom is usually never busy!” he jokes.
Of course, it isn’t all rainbows and cotton candy. Mention of “workplace drama” was fairly consistent across this group of men. “Still,” says Hendrix, “I’ve experienced workplace drama in fields that are primarily male too.”
McElrath finds that, overall, working in a traditionally female industry has been challenging but not so much because of the women. “You cannot be a man in this industry and have an ego,” he says. “For whatever reason, outside of physicians, healthcare roles have been feminized. Just like nursing, I imagine coding will see an uptick in men stepping into this world.”
I imagine so, too!
“Secrets of Successful Coders.” Healthcare Business Monthly.
Torre, Margarita. “The flip side of segregation; men in typically female jobs.” The London School of Economics and Political Science. 2019. https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/businessreview/2019/01/29/the-flip-side-of-segregation-men-in-typically-female-jobs
Williams, Joan C. “Who Wants to Work for a Woman?” Harvard Business Review. 2013. https://hbr.org/2013/11/who-wants-to-work-for-a-woman
U.S. News. “Best Job Rankings: Best Jobs Without a College Degree. Medical Records Technician.” 2020. https://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/medical-records-technician
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