How to Become a Medical Coder

How to Become a Medical Coder

The position of the coder is becoming more valued because physicians and hospitals depend on the accuracy of coding to receive proper reimbursement.

Previously, coders learned their trade while working on the job. Now there is a certification procedure for a certified professional coder (CPC).

This designation lets potential employers know that you have a certain level of coding skill and competency.

1. Earn an Associate's Degree in Medical Coding (2 Years)

Aspiring medical coders should first search for a program accredited by either the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) or the American Academy of Medical Coders (AAPC).

Programs are typically by local community colleges, technical schools, and universities, and can be completed in multiple formats, including in-person, online, or a combination curriculum.

Both certificate and degree-seeking programs are offered, but those who complete at least an associate's degree will enjoy more career opportunities than those holding only a certificate.

The preparation timeline below provides an example medical coding associate's curriculum:

Year Courses
1st
  • Healthcare Delivery Systems
  • Medical Terminology
  • Basic Diagnosis Coding Systems
  • Basic Procedure Coding Systems
  • Introduction to Health Information Management
  • Introduction to Pathophysiology
  • English I
  • College Algebra
  • Life Science Electives
2nd
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Medical Assisting
  • Reimbursement Methodologies
  • Healthcare Software Applications
  • Introduction to Pathophysiology
  • Introduction to Pharmacotherapy
  • Public Speaking Electives

2. Become a Certified Professional Coder (CPC)

The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) administers the exam for the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) credential. CPCs are recognized for their expertise in reviewing and designating precise medical codes for services, diagnoses, and procedures carried out by physicians.

The credential tells employers that the coder has mastered their craft and possesses the skills and knowledge necessary for more advanced levels of employment.

The CPC exam costs $325 and consists of 150 multiple-choice questions throughout a 5-hour and 40-minute window covering the following topics:

  • 10,000 Series CPT - 60,000 Series CPT
  • Evaluation and Management
  • Anesthesia
  • Radiology
  • Laboratory / Pathology
  • Medicine
  • Medical Terminology
  • Anatomy
  • ICD-9-CM Volumes 1 & 2
  • HCPCS Level II
  • Coding Guidelines
  • Compliance & Regulatory

Learn More about the CPC Exam