In the healthcare industry, medical coders are people who play a vital role in healthcare administration. They work with doctors and nurses to use diagnosis and treatment information about patients to apply specific codes used in billing and may also follow up on things like insurance payments and play a wider role in the billing side of healthcare, depending on the position.

Medical coding is an interesting job that is well suited to people with good technical and analytical skills, who enjoy detail-oriented work. It is also an appealing career choice for those who want to work in the healthcare industry in a well-respected and potentially well-paid role, without having to get a college degree. While some people do get a college degree or even a masters before pursuing this career, to become more competitive, it isn’t a requirement. Here, we look at how you become qualified to be a medical coder.

Basic Prerequisites to Get Started

To get started with the training to become a medical coder, you’ll need a high school diploma (or GED) and may also have to pass a check to make sure you don’t have a criminal record. Other than these basic prerequisites, you should also consider whether you have the right type of mindset for this type of work. If you are someone who likes to focus on detail, has an analytical brain, and is well organized, this is the type of person that tends to both enjoy and excel at this kind of work.

Getting the Right Training

While you don’t need a degree, you do need a lot of very specific knowledge to work as a medical coder, so you will need to complete training designed for this role. Coders can use a lot of tools to help them like this calculator for Medicare risk adjustment at They also need a lot of knowledge of medical codes, insurance, diagnoses, and treatments to be able to do their work. 

You can enroll on a course to get you ready for this type of career, which will usually take several months to complete and will consist of modules designed to give you the knowledge you need, including sections on everything from coding itself through to revenue cycles, healthcare ethics, medical terminology, and anatomy. Choose a course offered by a provider that is accredited by a body like the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education (ABHES).


You can then take the exams for professional certifications that will show you are ready to work in this role. These can include the Certified Professional Coder, Certified Coding Associate, and Certified Coding Specialist levels, and are offered by the American Academy of Professional Coders.

Later in your career, it is also possible to move into areas of specialty, like surgery, anesthesia, or ambulatory care to take your career further, though this is the basic route to being able to take on your first job as a medical coder.