I think it depends on where you are looking. The AAPC Salary Survey can point you in the direction of the better bucks, however here in New England, the salaries really depend upon whether you are in a rural setting or nearer the bigger cities. I am a CPC and coding supervisor, and my staff earns anywhere from $15-25 per hour, depending on experience. However, we are doing more than placing ICD-9 codes on the HCFA. My staff audits, educates the physicians, and writes compliance plans. In Boston (an hour away), we can earn much more than that. but the commute is frightful. Also factoring in benefits....health/dental/life/disability insurance, time off, etc., can make the package more palatable. Most coding positions do not require a degree.....this often devalues the position, and although I agree that a degree isn't imperative, it's hard to explain to Human Resources why a high-school grad (albeit a CPC) deserves $25.00 per hour. I disagree with this train of thought, but I can't control how administration builds its pay structure. Truthfully, the bigger money is with consulting and compliance, which requires many years of experience as well as business skills. I think that the biggest culprits in all of this are the "career schools" that promise big salaries and rewarding careers. I see resumes every day from "coders" who don't understand the revenue cycle, took a handful of "coding" classes, don't know the rectum from the cubitus, and now expect to audit surgery notes at $25.00 an hour.
I would take a good look at why you are doing coding. If you thought this was a get-rich track, I have bad news! This is hard work, and not always worth the salary. But if you really like what you are doing, it is well worth gaining the experience, because the more you know, the more valuable you are and the more money you'll make. Good luck. Pam Brooks, CPC