RN Coder Career Overview

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RN coders/clinical documentation specialists are RNs who work with medical data. Learn more about nurse coding jobs, including RN coder salary expectations.
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Female medical coder typing on a computer in a doctor's office. She is sitting at a desk and referencing patient medical files. Credit: Hinterhaus Productions / DigitalVision / Getty Images
how long to become
job outlook
(For all medical records positions)
average earning potential
SOURCE: ZipRecruiter

If you want to use your nursing degree and experience outside the clinical setting or want to work from home, working as a nurse coder (also known as RN auditor or documentation improvement specialist) may be the perfect fit.

As an RN coder, you will apply your nursing knowledge to ensure that medical records are properly coded with accurate data. In senior nurse coding roles, you'll also analyze and report on medical data.

RN Coder Career in Brief

ADN or BSN required
certification optional

While many RN coders perform coding tasks themselves, others at senior levels typically review medical records to ensure that patient records are accurate. They work on a daily basis with healthcare administrators and often interact with clinicians. RN coders rarely interact with patients. Nurse coders are vital to healthcare because they help make sure that billing and reimbursement run smoothly, support patient safety, and often, help prevent fraud and waste.

Black female RN coder sitting at a hospital desk. She is referencing paper files to update patient information.

Credit: SDI Productions / E+ / Getty Images

Certification Options

The AAPC (formerly known as the American Academy of Professional Coders) offers multiple certification options, including certified professional coder (CPC) and certified inpatient coder (CIC) certification. AHIMA also offers certification.

Where Do RN Coders Work?

RN coders usually work in business offices for healthcare providers, healthcare consultancies, insurance companies, and government payers like Medicare and Medicaid. Some even own their own business and are able to set their own hours. You must be comfortable with data systems, looking data up, and running data queries.


In hospitals, nurse coders play a vital role in patient safety by ensuring that medical records are accurate. They also ensure that insurance billing and payment run smoothly and quickly.

Insurance Companies

RN coders in insurance companies review records for inaccurate, incomplete, or fraudulent data. This helps prevent fraud and waste.

Remote Employment

Many RN coder jobs can be performed from home. Some nurse coders own their own businesses, others are employed by healthcare or insurance companies, and others freelance for a variety of clients.

Featured Online Associate Programs

Why Become an RN Coder?

Nurse coder jobs call for a mix of medical knowledge, understanding of the healthcare system, technical skills, and analytical ability. If you possess these skill sets, this career might be a great fit for you. Additionally, some RN coder jobs can be done from home, unlike most other nursing jobs.

Advantages to Becoming an RN Coder

  • More predictable hours and work-life balance compared to bedside roles
  • Ability to work from home as well as on-site
  • Contribute to healthcare quality and patient safety

Disadvantages to Becoming an RN Coder

  • Relatively little interaction with patients
  • Work can be repetitive
  • It can be difficult to keep up with coding changes

How to Become an RN Coder

There are many certifications you can earn to become a nurse coder, once you have your RN license. Some certifications require or recommend coding experience, while others do not.

Earn an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN).
An ADN takes two years while a BSN takes four years. Some employers prefer a BSN for higher-level or administrative RN coder jobs.
Pass NCLEX Exam to Receive RN License.
This multiple-choice exam is required to become a nurse. The exam covers nursing skills, communication, the healthcare system, and legal/ethical issues.
Gain Experience as an RN.
While some nurse coding jobs do not require experience, many employers prefer at least two or three years experience as an RN. Most specialty certification programs, like cardiology coding, strongly recommend at least two years experience.
Become a Certified Coder or Auditor.
While it’s not a legal requirement, many employers prefer certification. There are a variety of certifications, including certified professional coder (CPC), certified inpatient coder (CIC), certified coding specialist (CCS), certified professional medical auditor (CPMA), and certified outpatient coder (COC).

How Much Do RN Coders Make?

According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual RN coder salary is $74,128. Salaries vary by certification, but keep in mind that these are for all coders. RN coder salaries are higher than the typical clinical documentation specialist salary. Your nurse coder salary will depend on experience, location, and certifications.

Like all nursing jobs, your salary will depend on the cost of living in your area and demand for nurse coders. Salaries are highest in the Pacific Northwest and New England. However, remote nurse coding jobs allow you to live anywhere, though some employers may require occasional travel to worksites.

Frequently Asked Questions About RN Coders

How long does it take to become an RN coder?

It takes at least two years to become an RN, and four years if you choose to earn a BSN rather than an ADN. You will also need additional training on medical coding to become a nurse coder. Some coding certifications, particularly specialty coding certifications, strongly recommend at least two years of experience in nursing.

Are RN coders in demand?

RN coder jobs, like other medical data and informatics jobs, are growing faster than the average for all professions. Hospitals and other healthcare providers, insurance companies, government agencies, and law firms specializing in medical issues all hire nurse coders. This demand, plus the widespread demand for nurses in general, keeps RN coder salaries high.

How can nurses gain experience in coding?

Nurses may code or review coding as part of their regular clinical nursing responsibilities or in nurse administration jobs. Many organizations, including associations and commercial training providers, offer online and in-person training in medical coding, including applying codes and analyzing results.

How does nursing experience benefit RN coders?

As a nurse coder, you will benefit from understanding the process and terminology of medical diagnoses and treatment, knowing how electronic medical records (EMRs) work, and being familiar with medical workflow in general. This helps you identify issues and make realistic suggestions for improvements.

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Portrait of Brandy Gleason, MSN, MHA, BC-NC

Brandy Gleason, MSN, MHA, BC-NC

Brandy Gleason is a nursing professional with nearly 20 years of varied nursing experience. Gleason currently teaches as an assistant professor of nursing within a prelicensure nursing program and coaches graduate students. Her passion and area of research centers around coaching nurses and nursing students to build resilience and avoid burnout.

Gleason is a paid member of our Healthcare Review Partner Network. Learn more about our review partners.

NurseJournal.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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