Medical Coding Specialist

a row of files of medical records
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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.

Want to learn more about how National Certifications might help you in today’s job market?

What SCI Students Are Saying

“I made a complete career change when I started my training at Southern Careers Institute. I needed a stable career to continue providing for my growing family. SCI provided me with the medical terminology and know how that I needed to understand and acquire a career in the medical field. SCI taught me that it doesn’t matter where you are in life right now; you always have room to advance and learn.”


Denise S.
Medical Assistant

“I am extremely grateful for the assistance I received from SCI’s Career Services team. I enjoy where I work and what I do. SCI has helped me succeed in life by getting me the necessary education and by making me a stronger and more confident person.”


Raquel S.

“Once I graduated from SCI, I had a sense of accomplishment that helped me through the job search process. SCI provided me with the opportunity to brush up on my skills, extend my accounting knowledge, and they boosted my self-confidence. I went to work two days after my last day of school.”


Annette D.
Business Accounting

“When my youngest child graduated from high school, I told my husband that it was my time. I went back to school to change careers after spending 37 years in the business field. At SCI, the instructors are professional, and they care about what they are teaching you, as well as expect you to give 100% in return. I had problems understanding how to draw in syringes and give injections. I requested extra help from a knowledgeable instructor, and I was able to receive one-on-one training. Today, I draw injections for approximately 100 patients each week. I am very confident in what I’ve learned. SCI has given me the chance to do what I always wanted to do. Thank you for my education. I am doing wonderful.”


Bonnie M
Medical Assistant

“I am now a certified Lab Tech. SCI helped me get an externship, and I came out with a job. After my little sister had cancer, I knew I wanted a career in the medical field that allowed me to help others. I am happy about what I do.”


Sidney B
Medical Assistant

“The best place ever!! Ms.Tonia rocks she is the best teacher… I love going to school my time there is amazing.”


Andrea Garcia

“Southern Careers went beyond my expectations. Very impressed. The assistance I got from Career Services is truly amazing. They really went out of their way to get me placed. They really care and I am grateful to all of them.”


Olga C.

“Southern Careers Institute totally surpassed my expectations. Once I finished school, the Career Services team helped me find a job. I would tell anyone thinking about starting career training that you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain. I wish I would have started my training sooner.”


Valerie D.

“I am very happy with where I am and where I’m going. Through high school, I struggled with math. When I came to SCI, I enrolled in the Business Accounting Specialist program to see if I could do it. SCI provided me with the accounting skills I needed to help me find a career. Now, I have an amazing career and room to grow in the company.”


Crystal H.
Business Accounting

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