Medical coders are well paid considering there is no requirement for working coders to have graduated from a four year university. In short a high school student could graduate at 18 and enter a physician’s office and work in medical coding with no credentials at all.
This is not the best way to get into the profession and it certainly doesn’t result in the best pay but it is possible and it’s the way that some low level employees take. In fact you can go this route regardless of age just be prepared to take a cut in pay over your certified and educated peers.
The lowest level medical coders at full time status tend to make roughly $30-$35K per year. They tend to be working with other certified individuals and they make much less than everyone else. In California entry levels medical coders will make a bit more than those working in most every other state in the nation but still a small sum when compared to certified coders or those coders with degrees in medical coding and/or billing.
The gold standard for medical coders is the CPC credential given out by the AAPC. Coders that hold a CPC can demonstrate that they passed a major exam covering their field and have also worked under the supervision of other professionals in the field for at least two years.
The same person that chose to go straight into coding with no background might be only making $30k a year if they found a job but holding a CPC-A credential they bring to employers skills and knowledge in the medical coding field. The “A” refers to the coders Apprenticeship status. It means the two years of experience have yet to be met. This can limit the pay of a medical coder but not nearly as much as not having a credential at all.
A CPC working in California can expect to make in the upper thirties to lower forties. With a bit of luck a CPC-A in California will find an full-time job that can pay all the way up to $45,000 or so. This is more than in other states and on the high end for a CPC-A but it is possible in some local areas.
As credentials and experience increase California medical coders can expect increasing pay. Fully certified medical coders in CA average a full time salary of around $52,000 per year while more experienced coders and some in certain cities can get much more than that.
Specialty coders will make even more money than regular CPCs. Those that work in hospitals primarily in an inpatient setting who hold a CPC-H credential can average in the high 50,000s and can push $60,000+ in some smaller geographic areas which tend to be near large population centers like Los Angles, Irvine, San Francisco, and San Diego.
For those people looking to get into medical coding at the physician level rather than the hospital level, you can also see an increase in your expected pay if you steer towards the larger physician groups rather than the sole practitioner’s offices. Outpatient coders on average make around $47-$50k per year but larger doctor groups (especially those in large cities) can pay even more than that.
Generally speaking medical coders make a lot more in California than in most states but the cost of living is a large part of that. If you want to make as much as possible I medical coding it pays to get your credentials and build up some experience and then aim your career towards large medical groups that focus on an inpatient setting. If you live in an expensive neighborhood and you have the experience and references to back up your resume you might find yourself entertaining offers in excess of $60,000 in only a few years time.
For more on this topic you can see a previous post written by me on medical coder salaries or this post outlining schools with quality medical coding curriculum suitable for either full degrees or low level introductory courses.