Jennifer Young
Community Specialist
Community Specialist
Posted September 23, 2021

Which is the best school for obtaining a medical coding certification?

Learn about what's involved in a medical coding role, how to obtain and medical coding certification, and which schools offer the best programs.
Jennifer Young
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Community Specialist
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Which is the best school for obtaining a medical coding certification?
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If you’re looking for a field with a promising future, medical coding may be it.

With a projected growth rate of 8% (compared to an average of 4%), there will likely be jobs aplenty in the coming years.

But what is involved in medical billing and coding? If you do want to get into this field, how do you go about it?

We’ll provide answers to these questions and show you the best institutions and schools that can help you obtain medical coding certification.

What is medical billing and coding?

Medical billing and coding are two separate processes, but both play a crucial role in receiving payments for health care services.

When a patient comes to a healthcare provider, for either an inpatient or outpatient procedure, the provider keeps details of the service or visit in the patient’s medical file.

When the patient leaves the hospital or physician’s office, a medical coder examines the patient’s medical records pertaining to that visit and connects any services provided to billing codes under the following categories:

  • ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS diagnosis codes

  • CPT and HCPCS procedure codes

  • Charge capture codes

  • Professional and/or facility codes

Coding professionals play an important role. Health insurance claims may be denied if patients are billed for services that aren’t documented on their patient records. In some extreme cases, providers may even be subject to liability or a fraud investigation.

What are the best medical billing and coding certifications?

So, what does it take to become a certified coding specialist?

There are a few pathways and certification programs available. However, healthcare recruiters are typically looking for applicants who have passed an exam from a well-known school.

Some of these institutions include:

  • Certified Professional Coder (CPC) - offered by the AAPC

  • Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) - offered by the AHIMA

  • Certified Professional Biller (CPB) - offered by the AAPC

  • Certified Coding Specialist – Physician-based (CCS-P) - offered by the AHIMA

Your decision to study one certificate program or another will be based on your career goals, location, and ability to meet the eligibility requirements of a given course.

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Let’s look at the top five best schools and courses for obtaining a coding certificate, so you can choose the best option.

The top 5 best medical billing and coding schools

American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) offers three courses.

1. Certified Coding Associate (CCA)

This is AHIMA’s broadest coding certification.

To obtain a CCA certification, students must:

  • Have a high school diploma

  • Study the AHIMA

  • Pass the CCA examination, administered online

This exam is based on the AHIMA codebook.

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2. Certified Coding Specialist (CCS)

The CSS certification is the next step up from a CCA.

To obtain a CCS certification, there are no specific eligibility requirements, though it’s advised that you have one of the following before taking the CCS exam:

  • A minimum of two years of medical coding experience

  • Have a CCA plus one year of coding experience

  • Have an alternative coding certification from another provider plus one year of coding experience

  • Hold a CCS-P, RHIT, or RHIA from AHIMA

It’s also advised that you have studied the following (likely covered as part of a bachelor’s degree program):

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3. Certified Coding Specialist – Physician-based (CCS-P)

The CCS-P is similar to the CCS certification, except it’s focused on working in a physician’s office rather than a hospital.

Hutchinson Community College

Hutchinson Community College offers just one enrollment option: Healthcare Coding - CERT C.

This can be studied as an online program. Its only prerequisite is that students obtain a high school diploma with the following results:

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HCC students will take 15 courses, totaling 45 credits, and must obtain a C or better across all coursework to pass.

American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC)

The AAPC is another respected institution for learning coding guidelines and methodologies. It offers two study pathways.

1. Certified Professional Coder (CPC)

To become a Certified Professional Coder, you’ll need to pass the CPC exam, which covers topics such as the application of HCPCS Level II supply codes in a real-life scenario.

The AAPC also offers options to prepare for the CPC exam.

2. Certified Professional Biller (CPB)

The CPB is similar, except the focus is on billing rather than coding.

To pass the certification exam, you’ll need to demonstrate an understanding of:

  • The various policies offered by insurance companies

  • Typical medical terminology used

  • Knowledge of the coding system and coding guidelines

Florida A&M University

Studying for a Medical Coding Certificate at FAMU involves:

  • Completion of three prerequisite courses (HSC 3531 - Medical Terminology, BSC 2093 - Anatomy and Physiology I, and BSC 2094 - Anatomy and Physiology II)

  • Passing three additional courses with a C or higher

University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati offers a Medical Billing and Coding Certificate, which is a 32 credit course that prepares students for the CCA and CPC exams.

It’s an online course with full-time and part-time options that can be completed with one year of full-time study.

How long does it take to earn a medical billing and coding certification?

This depends largely on the type of accreditation you’re going for. Some require up to two years of experience before applying.

The average timeframe is between four and 15 months, with most medical coders following a pathway that looks like this:

  • Post-secondary education

  • Basic credentials such as CCA

  • Work experience as a medical coder

  • Advanced credentials such as CCS

Medical billing and coding jobs hiring now

Want to get a feel for what the medical coding job market looks like?

Check out Jobcase’s current listings here: Medical Billing And Coding Jobs.

Is a medical coding certification right for you?

Being a part of the healthcare industry can be extremely rewarding, even if you’re not out there on the frontline helping patients directly.

Becoming a medical coder is a reasonably straightforward process. For many, it doesn’t require many years of continuing education to achieve competency.

For most, it involves a year or so of study, plus passing the CCA or CPC. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be ready to land your first medical coding job.

Bookmark this Jobcase job search for when you’re ready to look for your next job.

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