For a quick path to a worthwhile job in the healthcare industry, you might look into obtaining medical billing and coding certification.
In a medical billing and coding certificate program, you’d learn to work with electronic health records, code and classify medical information, prepare healthcare claims, and communicate with insurance companies. Those are essential roles that keep health facilities running smoothly.
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Through online study and an externship experience, you could develop the skill sets and knowledge necessary to pass industry exams and start working as a certified medical biller and coder.
Online Medical Billing and Coding Certification Programs
Entering medical data into electronic health records software isn’t a straightforward process. The industry relies on classification and coding systems to track this data. Each diagnosis and procedure has its own code.
Keeping accurate records and processing billing information requires a keen understanding of these codes. If you want to work in the medical records field, it’s strategic to start with official training. In a college certificate program, you could spend around 4 months to 1.5 years preparing for this career. Then, you may be prepared to enter the industry as an informed, capable professional.
Your coursework might cover:
- Billing and reimbursement
- Coding systems like ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS
- Diseases and treatments
- Electronic health records
- Health privacy laws
- Healthcare communications
- Medical terminology
- Methods of healthcare delivery
- Parts of the body
Many courses will have lab components. Often, this certificate program includes an externship. During that experience, you would spend a period of time doing work for a health organization.
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You could both practice your skills and gain additional knowledge on the job. An experienced medical biller and coder would supervise your work. The externship might be done in person or remotely. Many students choose certificate programs over full degrees because they are shorter. You may be able to graduate from a medical billing and coding certificate program in 4 months or up to 1.5 years.
The lower credit requirement of a certificate program also means that it can be less costly than earning a degree. Even still, you might choose to earn a degree at some point. If you do your certificate program at a regionally accredited college, your work may transfer into a degree program.
Once you’re trained, you can choose to pursue national certification from a professional healthcare organization to show your skill and knowledge in this field. The classes in an online program could directly prepare you to pass an industry exam.
Many graduates work as medical records specialists, such as medical billers or medical coders. Some eventually become health information technologists or health services managers.
Medical Coding and Billing Careers & Salaries
Medical billing and coding certificate programs online prepare students to work as medical records specialists. Medical records specialists handle the data of patients’ medical files, and they often assign specific codes to diagnoses and services. Those codes are important for billing and insurance purposes. So, records specialists are sometimes called medical coders.
Medical records specialists often work in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and nursing homes. Various professional, technical, and administrative agencies also employ people for this line of work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare support occupations pay a median annual salary of $29,880.
|Careers||Annual Median Salaries|
|Medical and Health Services Managers||$101,340|
|Health Information Technologists and Medical Registrars||$55,560|
|Medical Records Specialists||$46,660|
|Bill and Account Collectors||$37,700|
|Medical Secretaries and Administrative Assistants||$37,450|
Education and experience requirements can vary from employer to employer. Some may want you to go back to school for an additional degree or certificate, and others might train you on the job.
If you continue your education, you might advance into related roles. For example, health information technologists spend their days working with patient data. Medical registrars use medical codes to review and organize healthcare information.
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Medical and health services managers oversee various healthcare departments, such as coding or health information. Your experience in medical billing and coding might also help you branch into other areas of healthcare. Additional schooling may be required, but your medical coding certificate could provide a solid foundation for getting started.
If you want to stay in healthcare, jobs to consider include medical secretary, pharmacy technician, medical transcriptionist, and medical assistant. For jobs that are relevant to a variety of fields, you could look into being a bill collector, a financial clerk, or an information clerk.
Medical Billing & Coding Certificate Curriculum & Courses
In a medical billing and coding certificate program, all the classes will focus on preparing you for your chosen career.
You may take courses similar to the following:
- Coding for Medical Billing: Correct codes are important for reimbursement purposes, which you’ll learn about in this class.
- Diagnostic Coding: This course will focus on using the ICD-10-CM to code medical diagnoses.
- Electronic Health Records: You can study current systems used for recording and organizing patients’ health history as well as other healthcare data.
- Healthcare Systems: This course will cover the organizations, departments, and personnel involved in providing health services and paying for patients’ care.
- Health Policy: In addition to studying the legal rules and regulations that guide healthcare practice, you may also talk about ethics in this class.
- Human Anatomy and Physiology: In an A&P class, you’ll learn about the parts of the body, their functions, and how they work together.
- Medical Terminology: You’ll learn the names of organ systems, diagnostic tests, and medications.
- Pathophysiology and Pharmacology: In preparation for working in healthcare settings, you’ll study diseases as well as medications and other treatments.
- Procedural Coding: You’ll become familiar with ICD-10-PCS in a class on procedural coding.
- Review: You may finish your program with a review course that prepares you for industry certification exams.
In addition to these classes, you may be required to complete an in-person or remote externship.
Online medical coding and billing certificate programs usually require applicants to have a high school diploma or a GED.
For the application process, you might be required to turn in:
- Application form that lists your basic information and your intended college program
- SAT or ACT scores or a placement exam (not required at all colleges)
- Transcripts from your high school or any colleges you’ve attended
In addition to turning in this paperwork, you may also be asked to speak with an admissions counselor.
Even though online medical billing and coding certificate programs don’t lead to full degrees, it’s still strategic to complete yours at a regionally accredited college.
Later on, you may decide to go back to school for an on-campus or online medical coding and billing associates degree or bachelor’s degree. If you did your certificate program at a regionally accredited college, some of your courses may transfer into your new program. That might help you get done with your degree faster.
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Regional accreditation can also be important for using federal financial aid, qualifying for industry certification exams, and qualifying for jobs.
Medical Billing and Coding Certifications
If you want to enter the field with a strong foundation, you can choose to go to college for either a certificate or a degree in medical billing and coding.
After that, you may be better prepared for industry certification exams. Two primary organizations offer professional certification programs for this field.
The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) has options that include:
- Certified Professional Coder (CPC)
- Certified Professional Biller (CPB)
- Dual Certified Professional Biller and Coder (CPC & CPB)
The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) has programs like:
- Certified Coding Associate (CCA)
- Certified Coding Specialist (CCS)
Many employers require job candidates to hold one of these industry credentials.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
If the cost of a medical coding certificate has you concerned, rest assured that financial assistance programs are available to help students who qualify.
Many medical billing and coding schools accept state and federal aid. Your responses on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will determine whether your income qualifies you for government help. The most common forms of federal aid are student loans, grants, and work-study programs.
To use government aid, you usually have to carry a minimum number of credit hours per semester. Scholarships are another source of funding that many students use. Your scholarships might come from your school, a professional billing and coding association, or another organization. An application and selection process is usually required.
There may be employer funding available for your certificate program as well, as some jobs pay a portion of their workers’ college costs.
What Can You Do with a Medical Billing and Coding Certificate?
Most people with medical billing and coding certificates work in the medical records field. Roles may be available in hospitals, long-term care facilities, doctor’s offices, and related organizations. Medical coder and medical biller are particular job titles within this career category.
Related jobs could include being a medical secretary or a health information technologist. Experience might even lead to a role as a health services manager. Additional training can help prepare medical coders for other healthcare jobs. Pharmacy technician and medical assistant are two possibilities.
What Does a Medical Coder and Biller Do?
Medical coders and billers are considered medical records specialists. In that role, one of the common responsibilities is to enter patient data into an electronic records system. Another is to apply medical codes to diagnoses and procedures for recording-keeping and billing purposes.
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In addition, people in this field are often responsible for communicating with insurance companies. Although medical records specialists are in the healthcare field, they do not provide patient care. Rather, they mostly work in office settings, where they enter data into computer systems. Throughout the day, they may speak with a variety of healthcare professionals, including nurses.
Is Medical Coding Hard?
In a medical coding program, you’ll have multiple courses about coding and classification systems. It’s necessary to become quite familiar with ICD-10-CM and other systems so that recording medical information becomes a quick and easy process for you. There will be lab classes and many hands-on opportunities to try out your coding skills.
Other topics you’ll study in this program include medical terminology, human anatomy, and pathophysiology. You’ll also learn about privacy laws and other healthcare regulations. Technology is an important part of this job, so it’s helpful if you’re comfortable using computers and data software.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Billing and Coding Certificate Online?
Certificate in medical billing and coding programs online often last between 8 and 15 months. Some full-time students may be able to finish in as little as 4 months. Others may need closer to 18 months to finish.
Depending on your college’s curriculum, you may be ready for national certification exams before completing the full program. That could help you qualify for a job in medical coding sooner than you might have expected. If you decide to get a medical coding associate degree instead of doing a certificate program, it may take you about 2 years of full-time study to graduate.
What’s the Difference Between Medical Assistant vs. Medical Billing and Coding Certificates?
Are you ready for a career in healthcare? Either a medical assisting certificate or a medical billing and coding certificate could help you quickly enter this important field.
|Medical Assisting Certificate||Medical Billing and Coding Certificate|
Both medical assistant programs and medical coding programs often involve hands-on externships.
Is a Medical Billing and Coding Certificate Worth It?
Yes, a medical billing and coding certificate is worth it for many students. Medical records are an important aspect of today’s healthcare operations, so organizations rely on the expertise of trained coding and billing professionals.
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A position in medical billing and coding could be a good fit for anyone who wants to contribute to healthcare without providing direct patient care. Plus, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts continued demand for medical records specialists over the next decade, with employment for these positions expected to rise 7%. That amounts to nearly 15,000 job openings per year.
Universities Offering Online Medical Billing and Coding Certificate Programs
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
Central Texas College
Central Texas College isaccredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
City University of New York
CUNY is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
DeVry University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Drexel University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Great Basin College
GBC is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Hutchinson Community College
Hutchinson Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Kennesaw State University
Kennesaw State University isaccredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Louisiana State University
Louisiana State University isaccredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Northwood Technical College
Northwood Tech is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Oconee Fall Line Technical College
Oconee Fall Line Technical College isaccredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Rasmussen University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
San Joaquin Valley College
San Joaquin Valley College isaccredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
Southern Regional Technical College
Southern Regional Technical College isaccredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
University of Cincinnati
The University of Cincinnati is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
University of Tennessee – Chattanooga
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga isaccredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Getting Your Medical Billing and Coding Certificate Online
Do you want to play an important role in healthcare? If you’re skilled with data and computers, perhaps you’d be a good fit for a role as a medical biller or a medical coder. You could prepare for the role with an online certificate program in medical billing and coding.
In addition to taking your classes online, you may even be able to complete a remote externship. Many academic certificate programs in medical billing and coding also help you prepare you for national billing and coding certification.
If you’re ready to get started, you can check out accredited schools that offer online medical billing and coding programs today.
Jordan is pursuing a Ph.D. in Public Policy and earned her Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management and her Bachelor's in Business Administration. Jordan's research focuses on adults returning to college and online degree programs.