how to learn medical coding and billing

How to Learn Medical Coding and Level-Up Your Career

The healthcare field is booming, and with it comes a surging demand for skilled medical coders. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 8% job growth for medical coders over the next decade, much faster than the average for all occupations.

While the median annual salary for medical coders hovers around $55,000, there is a lot of upward mobility and earning potential based on experience, location, and certifications, which means exciting opportunities for individuals seeking a stable and rewarding career in healthcare.

Let’s look deeper at this profession and how to make it a reality. We’ll explore how to learn medical coding, advance your career in healthcare, and more below.

Understanding medical coding

A distinctly modern career, medical coding translates medical services healthcare professionals provide into universal alphanumeric codes. These codes ensure accurate billing for insurance claims while maintaining meticulous patient records. Medical coders play an essential role in the healthcare system. They help guarantee financial stability for healthcare providers and accurate documentation for patient care.

There are a few distinct technologies and resources that medical coders rely on to do their job impeccably.

ICD (International Classification of Diseases)

The ICD classifies diagnoses and health conditions and is a globally used system to track health statistics and clinical documentation. Medical coders use this resource regularly to complete projects and research.

CPT (Current Procedural Terminology)

CPT codes document the medical procedures and services performed by healthcare providers and ensure uniformity in the reporting of medical services. Since coders may not have medical training, this resource is invaluable to bridge the gap in knowledge so that coders can do their jobs properly.

HCPCS (Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System)

HCPCS includes codes for a wide range of healthcare services, supplies, and equipment not covered by CPT. It is essential for billing Medicare and Medicaid patients and for medical coders.

Prerequisites and skills needed in medical coding

Entering the field of medical coding requires a combination of formal education and a specific skill set. Here’s what you need to get started:

Educational requirements

While formal education requirements vary by employer, a high school diploma is necessary. Understanding basic anatomy and medical terminology is highly beneficial.

Essential skills

Attention to detail and analytical skills are paramount for accurate coding. Medical coders must meticulously analyze patient records and ensure the correct codes are used to avoid billing errors and ensure compliance with regulations.

Proficiency with coding software

Familiarity with coding software and electronic health records (EHR) systems is essential. Coders use these tools daily to input and manage codes efficiently.

Communication and interpersonal skills

Excellent communication and interpersonal skills are also crucial for interacting with healthcare providers and insurance companies to clarify diagnoses or procedures.

Soft skills

Soft skills like teamwork, problem-solving, and time management are equally important for navigating the fast-paced world of medical coding.



Learn more about how you can earn your Medical Billing and Coding certificate on a timeline that works for you!



Formal education and training for medical coders

So, how do you learn medical coding? For starters, you’ll need to complete a formal education program. Various pathways are available, each offering different levels of training and certification.

Certification programs

Organizations like the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) offer certification programs. These programs provide comprehensive training and certification exams such as Certified Professional Coder (CPC) and Certified Coding Specialist (CCS).

Degree programs

Pursuing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in Health Information Management (HIM) or related fields provides a strong foundation in medical coding and opens up career opportunities.

These programs cover a broad range of topics, including:

  • Coding
  • Healthcare law
  • Health information systems

Online courses and platforms

Reputable online courses and platforms, such as those offered by Goodwin, provide flexible learning options for those who need to balance their studies with other commitments.

Gaining practical experience in medical coding

Practical experience is another invaluable element of medical coding training. It helps reinforce theoretical knowledge and improve coding accuracy.

Ways to gain hands-on experience include:

  • Volunteering. Volunteering at hospitals or clinics allows you to gain familiarity with medical records and coding practices. It’s an excellent way to apply your knowledge in real-world settings and build your resume.
  • Entry-level positions. Once you have your education, it’s time to look for medical coding jobs. Starting with entry-level coding positions, such as medical billing assistants or coding interns, helps you build your experience and qualifications. These roles provide practical exposure and pave the way for more advanced positions.

Certification and continuing education in medical coding

Once you have gained the necessary medical coding training, pursuing certification demonstrates your expertise to potential employers. Additionally, continuing education is crucial to keep your skills up-to-date.

Becoming certified

Once you have gained the necessary knowledge and skills, pursuing certification demonstrates expertise and qualifications to potential employers. Popular certifications include the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) offered by AAPC and the Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) offered by AHIMA.

Continuing education

The medical coding landscape is constantly evolving. Committing to continuing education ensures you stay up-to-date with coding changes and regulations. Regularly attending workshops, webinars, and courses will help you maintain your certifications and enhance your skills.

Level-up your medical coding career

Medical coding jobs offer numerous opportunities for career advancement. By gaining additional qualifications and experience, you can move into specialized or leadership roles.

  • Specializing. Specializing in a specific medical coding area, like cardiology or oncology, can boost your career prospects. Specialization requires additional training and certification but can offer greater job satisfaction and opportunities for advancement.
  • Leadership. With experience and additional qualifications, you can explore leadership roles as a coding supervisor or auditor. These positions involve overseeing coding teams, ensuring compliance, and improving coding processes.

Join the community

Networking with fellow medical coders through professional organizations like AAPC and AHIMA opens doors to valuable career resources and mentorship opportunities. Joining these organizations provides access to industry updates, job boards, and professional development resources.


Ready to learn medical coding? Enroll in a course, join a postsecondary certificate program, or subscribe to our newsletter for more tips and updates. Take the first step towards a rewarding career in medical coding today!