Here are six factors that affect the average salary of a medical coder, based on data from AAPC’s 2015 Salary Survey:
1. Years of experience. Medical coder salaries increased in a somewhat linear fashion based on years of experience, with certified coders earning more than non-certified coders at every stage of their career. The least experience certified coders — those with one year of experience — earned an average of $34,551, while certified coders with more than 25 years of experience earned an average of $53,669. Coder salaries could jump between $500 and $3,500 with an additional year of experience.
2. Primary credential. AAPC examined average coding salaries for 16 different coding credentials and found that salaries differed significantly based on credential. Statistics on salaries for employees with the job title “coder,” divided by credential, are listed below:
3. Last education achieved. Coder salaries also differed based on last education achieved, with higher degrees generally commanding higher salaries. Interestingly, the survey found that coders with some high school education and a coding certification could earn $39,167, which is more than non-certified coders with some high school, high school, technical school, some college or an associate’s degree. The highest-paid coders, on average, were certified coders who had earned a doctorate degree. Non-certified coders with a doctorate degree commanded higher average salaries, at $62,500 annually, than certified coders with less than a Master’s degree, at $51,389. The difference in pay for coders who had completed high school, technical school, some college or an associate’s degree was marginal, with “high school” commanding the most money for non-certified coders and “associate’s degree” commanding the most for certified professionals.
4. Job definition. Not every coding position is the same, and different positions earn significantly different salaries, according to the AAPC survey. The highest-paid job definition listed was “consulting,” where certified coders earned an average of $78,026 and non-certified earned an average of $58,636. The lowest-paid position for coders was “office staff,” with an average of $39,103 for certified coders and $32,944 for non-certified coders. The next-highest paid job descriptions for certified coders were product development, clinical, educator, manager and auditor; for non-certified coders, the list next-highest paid descriptions were product development, manager, auditor, clinical and educator.
5. Type of workplace. As in previous years’ surveys, payors, hospitals and large facilities or practices pay certified coders more, according to the survey. The most profitable place to work was a payor organization, which paid $54,100 on average for certified coders and $48,750 on average for non-certified coders. Other high-paying workplaces for certified coders included hospital (inpatient), hospital (outpatient) and large workplaces. The lowest-paying workplaces for certified coders were home health facilities and long-term care facilities. Home health facilities also sat at the bottom of the list for non-certified coders, paying $24,167 on average compared to the next highest payer, non-ASC outpatient facilities, at $33,306.
6. Geographic location. The AAPC coder salary survey broke the average salary down using the United States government’s Census Bureau breakdown of four major regions within nine sub-regions. According to the report, the Pacific sub-region — made up of Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon and California — boasts the highest average salary, while the East South Central sub-region — made up of Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama — reports the lowest average salary. The states of California ($55,164), Maryland ($54,133), New Jersey ($53,725) and Massachusetts ($51,159) had the highest salaries. The lowest average salaries were reported in Arkansas ($36,856), Kentucky ($37,430), Mississippi ($37,576) and Wyoming ($37, 870).