“I need the experience to land a job but I need a job to get that experience” is something often heard from those looking for work in a new field. This dilemma is particularly true when it comes to finding that first job as a medical coder. Job postings often include two requirements: two to three years of experience and a current certification. But even if you don’t have the experience or are not yet certified, there are several things you can do to greatly improve your chances of being hired.
1. Understand what coding managers are looking for. Above all, employers are looking for a high level of proficiency. What that means is the ability to work as quickly and accurately as possible. As you move through other ways of getting ready to join the workforce, keep in mind that proficiency is your foremost goal. Time is money and an accurate coder can save huge amounts of time (not to mention headaches) for their employer.
2. If you are not certified, show that you are seeking certification. If you have convincing proof that you are preparing for a particular certification exam (study materials, knowledge of what is on the exam, location, and dates of exams) it will carry extra weight during any interview process.
3. Get some real-world experience online. Several websites contain sample reports you can take a run at. Another alternative, and one that is gaining popularity, is Practice, which provides hundreds of actual cases (with all personal information removed) that you can work through to increase your proficiency while you gain experience coding real-world cases. The practice provides proof of your coding abilities in the form of a report you can show potential employers.
4. Find a way to serve an apprenticeship or internship. AAPC has a program they call Project Stern. They state: “Project Stern was designed to match newly certified coders with facilities willing to give them field experience.” The key to this program is you must be certified in a certain area of coding and an AAPC member.
If you are not certified, consider contacting a healthcare employer in your town and introduce the idea of serving them as a coding intern. With a little bit of effort, and if you can demonstrate confidence in yourself and enthusiasm for becoming a coder, you might be able to convince them to take you on as an intern.
5. Be specific about your education. The key here is to focus on the kind of study that gives you the best chance of getting hired. Pinpoint what you need. Don’t take “too wide a sweep” in your education by spending time on a study that has no real effect on improving your chances of getting hired.
6. Consider specializing in one area of coding. This could be the best decision you make. It will allow you to focus all your energy in one area and pinpoint your job search. When it comes to finding work, knowing a lot about one area of coding, rather than knowing a little about coding in general, maybe the key to finding work. And specializing makes the whole process much less overwhelming.
Although it seems a bit daunting at first, there are several things you can do to improve your chances of landing that first medical coding job.