While the overall medical coder job description is relatively constant, there are two types of medical coding careers—outpatient coding and inpatient coding.
Outpatient coding characterizes the majority of coding done in the healthcare industry. All of the coding for doctors offices, clinics, outpatient care facilities, etc. is classified as outpatient coding.
Inpatient coding is done in hospitals for those who were admitted for an extended stay. Typically this coding is more complex because it involves longer patient records. Inpatient coding positions typically require more education, experience, or certification, but there is also usually more advancement opportunity because the positions are typically in larger organizations.
Inpatient coders are often outpatient coders first. They may be trained on the job to move to inpatient responsibilities or may take additional formal training to expand their skills sets.
Certification is also more important for inpatient coders. There are certifications for both outpatient and inpatient coding (learn more about medical coding certification), but while outpatient coding employers may or may not require certification, inpatient employers almost always do.