Medical Billing and Coding Specialist 2021 Salary Guide
How much do medical billing and coding specialists make? Discover how education level, certifications, workplace, and specializations can influence earnings.
Medical billing and coding specialists use coding systems to manage patient information for billing, insurance reimbursements, healthcare data, and electronic health records. A candidate for these roles typically must possess a postsecondary medical billing and coding certificate for employment.
This guide focuses on medical billing and coding salary information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and other sources. Readers can explore wages by types of positions, location, and salary growth projections.
Fast Facts About Medical Billing and Coding Specialists
Average Salary for Medical Billing and Coding Specialists
While candidates can pursue medical billing and coding jobs with postsecondary certificates or high school diplomas, those interested in becoming a medical billing and coding specialist can earn higher salaries with degrees. The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) reports that the salary gap between associate degree and master's degree-holders narrowed from approximately $30,000 in 2008 to $10,000 in 2020.
The graphic below lists current hourly wages for each degree level and for no college education.
Master's Degree (and Above)
COVID-19 Effects on Medical Billing and Coding Specialist Salary and Employment
According to Etactics, the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a 16.5% decline in the healthcare industry in 2020, despite an increase in hospitalized patients. However, medical billing and coding specialist positions declined by only 6% — and only 2% among those with certification.
While medical billing and coding salaries decreased by nearly 3%, on average, billers and coders in 16 states received pay increases on average.
Medical billers and coders have still faced challenges during the pandemic. These issues include transitioning to remote workplaces, adjusting to new coding for COVID-19 and telehealth services, and dealing with an increase in insurance claim denials.
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Medical Billing and Coding Salaries by Position
As the following illustrates, medical coding and billing specialization areas influence salaries. Compensation for these common positions starts on the lower end for billing clerks, with significant pay increases at the management level.
What Kind of Salary Growth Can Medical Billing and Coding Specialists Expect?
AAPC tracks variations in medical billing and coding pay based on certification, practice settings, and clinical focus areas. Experience and education level also play a crucial role in compensation.
The following information shows the impact of certifications on medical billing and coding salaries.
Highest-Paying and Lowest-Paying States for Medical Billing and Coding Specialists in 2020
The BLS lists the states with the highest annual medical billing and coding salaries, as summarized in the table below. Salaries for the lowest-paying states follow. The size of the community and its economic health can influence compensation rates, as in the District of Columbia, which ranks the highest.
Geographic location and cost of living also affect pay rates. For example, Mississippi and Arkansas average lower medical billing and coding salaries and also rank among the 10 most affordable states.
|District of Columbia||$60,530|
Highest-Paying Metropolitan Areas for Medical Billing and Coding Specialists
Medical billing and coding specialists' cities also affect their earnings, but BLS data indicates that areas other than the largest urban areas provide the highest incomes.
As the table below demonstrates, billers and coders in mid-sized metropolitan areas earn the most on average. For example, Kokomo, a central Indiana city with a 2020 population of almost 60,000, tops the list.
|Kennewick — Richland, WA||$67,560|
|Vallejo — Fairfield, CA||$65,080|
Highest-Paying Workplaces for Medical Billing and Coding Specialists
Medical billing and coding salaries also vary among workplace settings. AAPC statistics in the following table indicate that larger employers, such as health systems, may offer higher wages. Hospitals and large physicians' practices also pay higher salaries.
|Workplace Setting||Average Salary|
|Large group practice (50+ physicians)||$53,620|
|Hospital inpatient and outpatient||$52,970|
How Do Medical Billing and Coding Specialist Salaries Compare to Similar Occupations?
With the exception of medical and health services managers, medical billers and coders typically outearn those in similar occupations, as illustrated by the BLS figures below. Billing and coding professionals with certifications, specializations, and higher education levels can earn even more.
4 Ways to Increase Pay as a Medical Billing and Coding Specialist
According to May 2020 BLS wage data, the top 10% of medical billing and coding specialists make an annual wage of $73,730, while the lowest-paid 10% earn an annual wage of $28,800. Several factors drive these differences, including certification, education level, and length and type of experience.
This section highlights how medical billers and coders can increase their salaries. Readers can also explore suggestions from AAPC on how to get started.
1. Consider Pursuing Certifications
Certification signifies a higher level of knowledge and skill. According to AAPC, noncertified billers and coders perform the same work as their certified coworkers but often earn up to 39% less. Initial certification requires candidates to pass the Certified Professional Biller or Certified Professional Coder Exams.
2. Increase Education Level
Earning a degree can also increase medical billing and coding salaries. AAPC found the difference between wages for individuals with no college credentials and professionals with master's degrees (or higher) amounts to around $10,000 more per year. An associate or bachelor's degree can be completed in 1-4 years.
3. Gain Experience in Administrative Roles
A 2020 AAPC survey points to the advantages of career longevity and experience in advanced roles, such as management and supervision. The organization offers a Certified Physician Practice Manager credential, which can lead to higher-paying administrative positions. The BLS reports that medical and health services managers can make median annual salaries of $104,280.
4. Switch Workplace Setting
AAPC reports that large health systems pay their medical billing and coding specialists nearly 20% higher salaries than small group or solo physician practices. However, most health systems have 3-10 hospitals and other facilities. Medical billing and coding job seekers can explore AAPC's employment listings for salaries, including for major health systems.
Frequently Asked Questions: Medical Billing and Coding Specialist Salaries
How much does a medical biller and coder make per hour?
While hourly wages vary by credentials, education, experience, and location, the BLS lists the average hourly wage as $23.21. The lowest 10% make $13.85, and the highest 10% bring in $35.28. These figures all reflect data as of May 2020.
What is the highest pay for medical billing and coding?
In terms of workplaces, large health systems pay the most for medical billers and coders with an average salary of $56,250. Certified professional compliance officers earn a median wage of $77,190, indicating that certification can significantly increase pay. Billers and coders in the Pacific region (Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California) make an average of $60,660 per year.
What specialty in medical coding pays the most?
Billers and coders with Certified Documentation Expert Outpatient credentials earn an average of $69,030 a year, followed by Certified Coding Specialists who make $61,380. According to AAPC, individuals with Certified Ambulatory Surgery Center Coder credentials remain in demand and receive strong pay.
Do medical billers work from home?
The AAPC survey found that 33.8% of respondents worked remotely in 2020, with most employed by organizations in other states. While the pandemic may have contributed to this percentage, employers have created a consistent work-from-home trend for the past several years.
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