How to become a medical coder

March 23, 2022 / By Robert Franco, CCS

For many coders trying to get into the health information management (HIM) industry, landing that first position can be difficult. Here are some tips to help you achieve your goal and land a rewarding career.

  1. Career path. First and foremost, I advise you to pursue a field you enjoy and are passionate about. It’s okay if this changes. You may start out in coding and end up on the billing side. For the purpose of this blog though, let’s go with coding.
  1. School is very important. In today’s market you need to have the right schooling and/or accreditation to even be considered for most jobs. If unsure what education is needed, ask coders you know. Also look at open positions and review the education/certification requirements.
  1. Choose an accredited program. Make sure you go through a school or program that is accredited through the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) or the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). These two organizations offer coding certifications (in addition to other HIM related certifications).
  1. Get your certification. It’s highly competitive out there, so set yourself apart from other candidates by having a coding certification before you start applying for jobs.
  1. Network. Many companies have a lot of coding candidates, so network the best you can. Join local coding groups, go to chapter meetings and conferences and even volunteer at events. The very same people you meet through these networks could be on your interview panel.
  1. Treat the conferences and meetings as informal interviews. Be prepared to introduce yourself and get to know others. We used to call it the elevator speech. Be able to talk about yourself for 30 seconds, or the time it takes to ride an elevator.
  1. Apply for open positions and/or apprenticeship opportunities. When you interview, be prepared to go over your education and any relevant work experience.
  1. Don’t give up. It’s not an easy process but it is worth the effort. Once you get your foot in the door it creates many possibilities.

Best of luck in your endeavor to become a medical coder!

Robert Franco, CCS is a coding analyst at 3M Health Information Systems.