Medical records and health information technicians, under which medical coders fall, typically obtain two years of training at a vocational or community college, which awards a certificate, diploma or associate degree to enter the profession. Training programs cover medical terminology, knowledge of corresponding codes and software packages used for billing purposes. Technicians also study procedures used by major insurance companies and Medicare.
Medical coders or health information technicians organize and manage health information data. They spend a major portion of their job translating a doctor's handwritten notes into correct diagnosis and treatment codes. They must ensure the quality, accuracy and security of the medical information they input into registries and databases in both paper and electronic formats. The information becomes part of the patients' medical histories and forms the basis for insurance reimbursements. A majority of health information technicians work for hospitals or doctors' offices.
Most states seldom require licenses and impose little to no regulatory control over medical coders. However, many employers require completion of formal training or voluntary professional certification from organizations such as the American Association of Professional Coders, the National Healthcareer Association or the American Health Information Management Association for employment.
The median annual salary for health information technicians was $34,160 in 2012 or $16.42 per hour, with employment expected to grow at 22 percent through 2022 as the population ages and demand for health services increases, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.