The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) just released a 2014 salary survey with good news for medical coding professionals. Significant salary gains were demonstrated according to the 14,000-plus professional coders – all members of the AAPC – who responded to the survey. The reported salary increases were consistent across all statistical groups of respondents. The vast majority of increased salaries also represented four-year highs in their statistical groups, a trend that signifies a bright future ahead for medical coders across the United States.
Low Unemployment Rate
One of the most significant findings was that between the credentials of professional certification, a college degree, and no college degree, the credential that predicted the lowest unemployment rate was professional certification. In 2014 the unemployment rate for coders with a professional credential was at a four-year low of less than 2 percent. Coders with no college degree were next, with an unemployment rate hovering around 2.5 percent – also a four-year low. Interestingly, medical coding professionals with a college degree but with no professional credential ranked last among these groups, with an unemployment rate of just over 5 percent – still an enviable rate compared with other professions in today’s economy.
Education is Beneficial
This is not to say more education is not beneficial – the survey found that a coding professional’s average salary is directly proportional to his or her education. Average salaries were at a four-year high among four categories of coding professionals: those with no college education, those with an associate’s degree or some college education, those with a bachelor’s degree, and those with a master’s degree or higher.
In 2014 professionals with a master’s degree or higher earned an average salary of nearly $90,000 – more than double the amount of coding professionals with no college education. Professionals with a bachelor’s degree earned an average salary of around $55,000, while those with some college or an associate’s degree earned an average salary above $45,000.
Among the survey respondents, more than half fell in the category of having some college education or an associate’s degree. Less than 10 percent had a master’s degree or higher. Slightly less than 20 percent had a bachelor’s degree, and slightly less than one-quarter of all respondents had no college education.
Work Experience is a Valuable Asset
Across the board – without taking education into account – coding professionals with more job experience earn more, as would be expected. The average first-year salary for coding professionals was around $35,000, with that number roughly doubling for coders with at least 31 years of experience. Average salary was shown to increase the sharpest starting with coders with at least 2 years of experience and continuing to rise steadily up to coders with 25 years of experience, who earned an average annual salary of approximately $62,000.
Salaries Vary Somewhat According to Type of Employer
Average salaries for medical coders were relatively high in hospitals, where these professionals earned approximately $56,000 on average. Coders employed with hospital outpatient facilities earned an average annual salary of about $48,000. Coding professionals working with health systems employers earned an average salary of slightly less than $55,000. As for those professionals working for group practices, large group practice coders earned an average of nearly $50,000, while solo and small group practice coders earned an average of more than $45,000.