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What is the Salary Potential for Medical Coders?

In October, the AAPC released its 2011 Salary Survey (pdf), and the results indicated that salaries are on the rise for coders, especially those with more post-secondary education and professional development certifications.

Bevan Erickson, vice president of marketing for AAPC, explains more about the survey and what it means for coders in today's healthcare settings.

Coder salary factors
The coding profession means more than just "coding." For example, the more than 12,000 respondents of AAPC's survey reported holding various titles, such as coders, biller/collector, charge entry, billing manager, auditor, claims adjudicator and more.

With that in mind, the average salary in 2011 for a Certified Professional Coder was roughly $46,800, up $1,400 from last year's average. Also, for the first time since AAPC has conducted its survey, more than half of all coders who responded indicated their annual salary was greater than $40,000.

Salary Range

Percentage of Respondents

$30,000 or less

13%

$30,001 to $40,000

34%

$40,001 to $50,000

25%

$50,001 to $60,000

13%

$60,001 to $70,000

7%

More than $70,000

8%


Mr. Erickson says the higher wages are positively correlated to greater education, credentialing and more years of experience. "Individuals with advanced certifications earned more on average," Mr. Erickson says. "For example, those holding both a CPC and CPC-Hospital earned over $54,700 annually, up nearly $4,000 since 2010. Respondents with a CPC-Instructor averaged over $76,000 per year, an increase of $6,000 from last year."

Additionally, more than half of respondents who have 20 years of coding experience or more earned at least $50,000 per year. Coders with the highest overall income on average (101 respondents) were "self-employed" and also had the most experience and education.

Lower-earning coders, such as those making less than $30,000 per year, were more likely to not have a certification or were at the apprentice level. Respondents with a bachelor's degree ($51,825) also made more than those with only a high school diploma ($41,802). "An additional factor [for lower earners] may be the number of hours worked per year," Mr. Erickson says. "However, only 5 percent of respondents claimed to work fewer than 30 hours per week."

Other wage factors
Mr. Erickson says there are several other factors that go into a coder's salary. "Respondents working in an inpatient setting earned approximately $4,000 more annually than those in the outpatient setting," Mr. Erickson says. "Salaries overall also tended to be highest in urban areas.

Geography also played a role in a coder's salary, as those living in Pacific states with higher costs of living earned $53,334 per year, the highest of any geographical region. Those living in East South Central states (Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi) recorded the lowest salaries at $39,830.

Region

Average Salary

Pacific

$53,334

Mountain

$44,330

West North Central

$41,848

East North Central

$42,434

West South Central

$43,919

East South Central

$39,830

South Atlantic

$43,906

Mid Atlantic

$47,508

New England

$47,852


The future

Over the past several years, Mr. Erickson says the results of the AAPC salary surveys have shown a 3 to 5 percent annual wage increase for coders. The healthcare industry, overall, is offering many career opportunities.

Mr. Erickson says it would be speculative to say coder salaries will increase as ICD-10 and other revenue cycle projects begin to surface, but the past surveys indicate coder salaries at the very least will remain steady in the future. "Overall, the adoption of ICD-10, as well as other initiatives such as an increased use of electronic medical records and a greater emphasis on compliance, would suggest additional career opportunities for those with coders' unique training and skills set," he says.

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Salary Range

Percentage of Respondents

$30,000 or less

13%

$30,001 to $40,000

34%

$40,001 to $50,000

25%

$50,001 to $60,000

13%

$60,001 to $70,000

7%

More than $70,000

8%

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