Medical record and health information technology specialists code patient information and data to send to medical insurance companies for reimbursement and recordkeeping purposes.
It’s a rapidly growing field, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reporting that employment is expected to grow by 8% between 2019-2029, which is faster than average.
Let’s take a look at the best medical billing and coding programs for prospective students, how much they cost, and how you can get your foot in the door when starting your career.
Medical billing and coding classes offer entry into an in-demand field for anyone with a high-school diploma or GED.
While coding and billing are different things, classes often prepare you to do both. Some jobs on the market will have you doing both, while others will be more specialized.
When you learn online medical coding, you’re learning how to identify diagnoses, tests, and procedures in clinical documentation and how to transcribe them into standardized codes using the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) standards. You’ll also learn common medical terminology.
To put it simply, a medical coder takes the doctor’s instructions (like the scribbles on a doctor’s note) and turns them into numeric or alphanumeric codes that are standardized and can be read by insurance providers.
If you work in billing or do both billing and coding, you’ll use these codes to create insurance claims that are sent from the medical office you work into insurance providers.
You can find these classes at accredited colleges, typically in the form of an associate degree program. This is a two-year program where you learn the essentials of medical billing and coding.
A career in medical billing and coding can be rewarding. It’s an affordable and short program that you can complete in as little as two years. If you choose, you can specialize and take your education further.
If you’re interested in working in the medical field and are drawn to administrative work, this is the perfect career for you.
Medical billing and coding as a profession is set to see exponential growth. Couple that with an average salary of $44,090 a year, and it’s a no-brainer.
The class will prepare you for entry-level positions in doctors’ offices.
Like any college program, tuition rates vary depending on the school and specific program you’re attending.
To become a medical records keeper, you need to be certified. Schools are offering online programs in this field that can cost you as little as $749.
Local community colleges offer a two-year degree program for an average of $3,440 yearly. This type of program is recommended over the online-only alternatives, as it helps you network and carries more weight on a resume. It may also include a practicum or training program.
Santa Barbara City College offers one of the most affordable programs for $1,748 to California residents.
Then there are accredited programs that are substantially more expensive, costing around $13,727, like Northland Community and Technical College.
Accredited programs are recommended over the other options. You’ll get more support from your school when it comes to finding a job. Plus, having a degree from an accredited school will help get you hired easier.
Let’s take a look at two certifications and an exam that can help get you started on a successful career path in medical billing and coding.
If you have the funds to go to an American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) certified school, you can use that degree to become certified. They claim that 75% of members earn $50,000 or more, which is above average, making it worth pursuing.
The AHIMA-recognized programs come in different forms. There are options to pursue an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree, or even a master’s degree.
This is the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) certification. They offer certifications in both medical billing and coding, as well as more specialized certifications in medical documentation and compliance.
Many professionals in the health information world hold certifications from both AAPC and AHIMA. Getting certified in both can only further prove your skills and expertise, resulting in higher salaries and increased job stability.
Completing the CPC (Certified Professional Coder) exam is recommended. It’s highly recognized in the industry and can be completed both through AHIMA and AAPC.
Passing the coding certification exams increases your earning potential by up to $25,000, according to the AAPC. CPC salaries were an average of $57,201 in 2019.
Let’s take a look at how you can get started in the industry.
The first thing you want to do is determine whether the field is actually for you. You don’t want to invest in a career you won’t enjoy long-term.
To help you understand if this is the right path for you, you should look up what a day in the life of a medical coder or certified coding specialist looks like. You can find excellent breakdowns on YouTube, or you could just read up on the job online.
Figure out what kind of options you have when it comes to schools and your budget. This will help you figure out whether this is actually a possible career path for you.
Look up the schools in your area (and the online ones) and see what options you have.
You could be lucky and live near a school with an accredited medical coding and billing program. If not, a community college program is your next best bet.
Because tuition costs can vary widely, this step will ultimately come down to your situation, as well as just how much schooling you’re looking to do.
You’ll complete relevant courses at the school you choose. However, it’s also worth looking into online courses you can dabble in for free to give you an idea of what to expect.
There are many tutorials online breaking down some common medical codes, such as the ICD-10 (International Statistical Classification of Diseases).
You can also find online tutorials on the invoicing process, which is another large part of the career.
This will prepare you for your program and set you up for success.
When you complete your program, you may be able to find a job right away. That’s an excellent choice to get experience in the field.
However, we recommend you prepare for the CPC exam while completing your program or immediately afterward. It will set you up for a substantially higher salary as well as an easier time finding a job.
Hiring managers prefer candidates that have passed certification exams, so don’t discount them.
If you’re lucky enough to have graduated from a school that offers graduates career services, take advantage of them.
These resources can help you craft an excellent resume and cover letter. You may also be able to practice your interview skills and even get advice directly from a hiring manager in the industry.
AHIMA and AAPC also offer support services to their members.
Once you’re confident in your resume and interview skills, begin looking for jobs.
Your school may assist you with finding your first job. Or you can visit job boards, like Jobcase’s job search page, and browse medical coding and billing jobs in your area.
Skim the job descriptions and responsibilities to get an idea of what each job expects. You can use this information to bolster your resume, tailoring it to each individual job description.
The health information sector is growing rapidly. A qualified and dedicated medical coder will have no trouble having a successful career in the field.
Once you land a job, don’t get too comfortable. It’s important to seek out continuing education opportunities throughout your career. Health insurance policies change all the time.
Because health sciences and the healthcare field changes so quickly, you’ll want to keep your knowledge as relevant as possible.
Here are four of the best medical billing and coding schools in the country:
Northland Community and Technical College in Minnesota offers a Medical Coding Specialist certificate program that prepares graduates to complete the entry-level national coding exams, making it one of the best options available.
It’s an expensive option, with tuition costing $13,727. However, it’s one of the best online programs, with all 60 credits offered completely remotely.
Because its coding program is accredited, it’s a bit more expensive than your average community college. But it’s well worth it.
As medical coding and billing is a popular work-from-home career, it makes sense for the learning opportunities to be online as well.
Central Texas College offers a Medical Coding and Billing Specialist program that’s completely online.
Tuition is $3,090, which is much more affordable than Northland. The program is 340 course hours, and you can complete them at your own pace within a year.
Central Maine Community College has a Medical Coding and Electronic Health Records program that prepares students to work in the healthcare industry.
They give students the option to complete a one-year coding program or an associate’s degree. This online medical billing and coding certificate enables students to sit for the CPC exam.
There are part-time opportunities available as well.
Keiser University’s Associate of Applied Science degree in Medical Administrative Billing and Coding prepares full-time students to sit for the CPC exam as well.
It’s offered at all of their Florida campuses, with no online option currently available. The coursework is similar to the above options.
It’s the most expensive of all of the options, with tuition being over $20,000. However, enrollment comes with the option of seeking out financial aid.
When you graduate, you’ll have a coding degree.
Because there is so much growth in the medical billing and coding industry, finding a job in your area probably won’t be too challenging.
However, not every job in the field is the same. Make sure you look over the job description and responsibilities to ensure you know what’s expected of you if you were to fill the position.
Some positions will look for medical billers with accreditation, while others are hiring any certified coding associate.
There are also a lot of remote opportunities for people working in the healthcare industry. The job is administrative and can be done remotely. If you’re looking for those types of opportunities, this could be the right career path for you.
When applying for jobs, make sure you use the information in the job description to your advantage. You should tailor your resume and cover letter to each individual job posting to increase your chances of getting an interview.
A career as a medical coding professional has the potential to be lucrative and rewarding.
If you’re interested in working in the medical field and enjoy administrative work, this could be the gig for you. While there is some schooling required, it’s a rapidly growing industry with huge growth in the winds.
Would you consider a career in medical coding?