I might finally come to be worth something to society! Maybe...?
December 8, 2013 2:54 PM   Subscribe

Hi Mefites. I'll be starting an online medical coding and billing course in January ( given by the AAPC), after graduating from a relatively well respected state school with a psychology BA in May and finding out far too late in the game that it would leave me with nil in terms of job prospects. After building up quite a bit of credit card debt and deciding that man cannot live on Hulu and Facebook alone, as I've been doing for six months, I decided to look into opportunities that required relatively little training to get started with, and happened upon medical billing, something that seems to fit me quite well. I'm tempering my enthusiasm however, because no amount of Googling seems to give me a clear sense of my path once the course is over. Help?

A little bit on me:
-23 years old and physically disabled (cerebral palsy) but with full use of my hands, etc.
- Always wanted to be in the medical field. Originally tried to hack premed, but decided it wasn't right for me at the time, though I'm leaving it on the table as a main option at some point in the future
-College took longer than it should have for me and ended on somewhat of a sour and regrettable note after a long battle with depression. Had a 3.7 GPA my first semester, a 2.6 my last.
- Currently living with my parents. The only disposable income I have is a $500 monthly SSI payment. This, set against about $8,000 in credit card deb, is a scary thought.
- I'd like to consider myself reasonably intelligent and a fairly competent writer, but I've never officially worked a day in my life or done any projects worth putting on a resume. ( MeMail me if you think seeing my current resume would help you help me).

My questions then:
What are the first, second and third steps one would take after completing a course like this and what is the market like in general? ( IE where do I start on the 3 years of experience that seems to be a minimum for coding jobs? , where do I get contacts?, what do I need besides experience?)

What is a job/career as a medical biller/coder like on a daily basis?

What can I expect to make working in NY?

If this doesn't work out, what might be another line of work I should look into? ( I should mention that ideally I would love to be more involved with patients and medical technology. I'm using this as a starting point and to be able to put some money away for now, though I'm not opposed to staying with it if I end up loving it).

I know it's a lot, but anything that helps me build a roadmap would be amazing.
posted by marsbar77 to Work & Money (4 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Just though you might want to take a look at the working-at-home-moms forums re: coding. Good luck!
posted by travelwithcats at 3:14 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would start by applying for entry-level positions in medical billing offices. No need to wait until you finish the class, as you don't need a coding certification for an entry-level job like an insurance follow-up representative or patient financial services clerk, and, as you're already realizing, a coding cert will open up a lot more doors once it's combined with a few years' experience in a medical billing setting. I would look for jobs in health systems, hospitals, and large, multi-practice, multi-specialty physician practice groups as opposed to small physician practices, as offering better pay and more opportunities for advancement.

At the entry level, medical billing positions tend to be lower-middle-class, semiskilled clerical roles, with commensurate pay and working conditions, becoming more middle middle class as you get into professional coding roles requiring certifications and experience. In general, you can expect to be managed in a way that is a little impersonal and very focused on you hitting your productivity and accuracy numbers, the work to be fairly repetitive, and to be part of a large, impersonal, and not terribly efficient bureaucracy. For now at least, the job market is definitely a lot better than many other clerical careers.

Lots of people become interested in this as a career they can do working from home. Those jobs exist, although mostly not at the entry level, and you need to be careful as there are also a lot of work-from-home scams that purport to be medical billing career opportunities. I would be very wary of any job opportunity that sounds too good to be true, and run like hell from any jobs that require you to spend money upfront on equipment or training as a condition of starting.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 9:18 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wasn't necessarily suggesting to work from home, although if most job listings ask for experience it might be useful to work a bit from home just to learn the ropes.
My thinking was, that those forums tend to be visited by people who have some experience in this field (be it from home or in office, many stay-at-home moms used to work outside the home before they had kids).
Perhaps you saw it yourself: in the "Need-strategies-for-job-search-as-a-single-mother" askme, another site was posted that might be helpful: Rat Race Rebellion, medical transcription and coding.
posted by travelwithcats at 12:08 PM on December 9, 2013

You might want to consider taking a short course at a community college to become a phlebotomist/lab assistant. I believe it's a certification, not a whole degree, and you would have the opportunity to work with patients more. I'm not sure how other hospitals are, but the one I worked at was always hiring lab assistants - although I would definitely look into a certification program that had a clinical rotation so that you could get some skills and get a foot in the door somewhere.

(I have no idea if this would work for you, though, as I'm not sure how severe your disability is - you say you have full use of your hands, but phlebotomists also often spend a lot of time walking to different floors to draw patients. So take my advice with a grain of salt if it wouldn't work for you.)
posted by sherber at 2:10 PM on December 9, 2013

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