medical coding specialist

Medical Coding Specialist vs. Medical Office Specialist

Though many feel dismayed by the modern job market, there are plenty of opportunities if you know where to look. Two promising career fields are medical coding and medical office assistance. Before you pursue either job, however, make sure you have a clear sense of:



Medical office specialists are essentially administrative assistants who work for hospitals and other health facilities. Their duties include keeping records, entering information in computer databases, communicating with patients and practitioners, and organizing all important documents. This sets them apart from medical coding specialists, who have a much more specific career focus. Coding specialists are in charge of assigning codes to classify different kinds of diseases and treatments. They make sure all patient records are labeled with the proper codes, make regular updates to account for treatments and changes in health status, and consolidate information to be used for research. A medical coding specialist must have deep knowledge of medical laws and procedures, and must record information in a format that other clinics can read and interpret.



Although those who have been to college are more likely to get jobs as medical office specialists, few clinics set official training requirements for the job. What is important is that you are able to write well, use a computer, do basic math, and interact with patients. How you learned these skills is less important. Clinic-specific knowledge will be covered during on-the-job training, which usually lasts several months. Nonetheless, many medical office assistants choose to attend college or vocational school in order to improve their chances of getting hired.

By contrast, formal education is crucial if you plan to work as a medical coding specialist. Medical coding is a highly technical job, meaning employers will only hire you if you have been through a diploma program that covers medical terminology, human anatomy, medical law, and bodily diseases. Once you receive your diploma, you must then be licensed as a Certified Tumor Registrar and/or as a Registered Health Information Technician. These certifications, which must be renewed regularly, will prove that you are up to date on all relevant health information.


Job Prospects

The job market for medical office specialists is one of the most dynamic in the country, projected to grow by 36% over the next decade. This growth is being driven by increased demand for health services thanks to the Affordable Care Act and the country’s aging population. Though not quite as dynamic, the medical coding specialist job market is also enjoying strong growth, and is expected to expand by 22% over the next ten years. Coding specialists benefit from recent changes in healthcare law and from the need for healthcare facilities to upload their information to computers.

Besides strong job growth, both fields benefit from competitive salaries. The median annual wage for a medical office specialist was $31,350 in 2012, while the median medical coding specialist made $34,750. Coding specialists and office secretaries who set themselves apart from the rest have the potential to earn much more than this: the top 10% of medical coding specialists made $56,200 or more in 2012.

Medical office specialists and medical coding specialists both enjoy promising careers, but that doesn’t mean either job is right for you. Before you decide on a job, make sure to have a strong sense of your skill set and the type of environment you’d like to work in. For more information, contact the Southern Careers Institute today.

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