Medical Billing & Coding Education: An Essential Industry

Medical billing & coding careers have a lot to offer. If you like working in front of a computer, assisting a healthcare facility in billing patients and vendors, are detail oriented, then this job may be a great fit for you. Medical billing and coding does require training in order for you to step into this career, but the good news is that it generally takes only a fraction of the time it would take for a regular degree.

Once trained, you can expect to make between $18-$25 an hour. The highest earners work in a physician’s office, with a hospital, or for large companies and top earners make around $60,000 a year. Medical billing specialists do not have to work in an office at all, however. If you are disciplined enough, you can work from home as a freelance coding & billing specialist. This career is one that is easily tailored to your lifestyle and personal goals, and is projected to grow at an 11 percent rate over the next few years. Find out how to get started on a Medical billing & coding career below.

What Does a Medical Billing and Coding Specialist Do?

Medical billers are workers who input the special codes used by insurance companies on behalf of the healthcare facilities and doctors. These codes are universal for the U.S. and every illness, treatment, procedure or diagnosis has its own number. Since this involves the medical field a knowledge of basic medical terminology is required. This is part of the training you will receive.

After the coding portion has been completed for a patient, the billing must be entered. These codes equate to an insurance’s payout and rates. Coders take this information and create a bill that goes from the doctor to the insurance company, Medicare or Medicaid, and also another one that goes to the insured for any costs not covered by their insurance. If a claim is rejected by the insurance company, the biller must research why it has been rejected, revise the claim and resubmit. Medical billing & coding professionals are in high demand because of the exacting nature of the work. Getting it right means the difference between the doctor being paid for his or her work, and the patient receiving the correct amount of coverage from the insurance company.

How to Train for a Medical Billing and Coding Career

Many options are available for medical billing & coding careers. The first route is to attend a traditional college or community college nearby. To enroll you must fill out and submit an application and be accepted into the program. Tuition is paid and books purchased. Most universities have financial programs to help pay for the cost of your education, or you can look at scholarships and grants to help finance it.

Likewise, you can find many online medical billing and coding courses offered. Unlike a brick and mortar school you have more flexibility in when you sit down to learn. You can work at your own pace and it is easier to balance your education around a busy work and family schedule. If you are self-motivated and can manage to take classes online, then you may find the online environment is a good choice.


Finding the Right School

Once you have determined which type of learning environment is best for you, finding the right school is the next step. Make sure that the school you consider is accredited and is recognized by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools, which is the governing agency for coders. Does the school offer financing or financial aid? If you are a veteran you may be eligible for almost free tuition through any of the military’s various assistance programs. The school you choose usually has someone to help coordinate this for you. Next, ask the school if they also prepare you for industry certification and offer either the American Academy of Professional Coders  certification, or the Certified Professional Coder certificate. Most employers will want to see that you have one or the other.

See which programs the school offers. Many only offer an associate degree, which is a one to two year degree. Others offer a four-year degree and a diploma. In general, the medical billing and coding degree/diploma can be earned in much less time. If you are diligent you can finish your associate degree program in as few as 11 months. If you want to apply yourself, you can finish the degree program in about 18 months. You will take classes such as diagnostic coding, billing and coding applications, procedural coding, healthcare communication, medical terminology and more.

Once you finish your schooling you are not quite done. Just like a lawyer you must pass your certification exam. These examinations are offered by the American Academy of Professional Coders  (AACP). Some employers do not care if you have taken and passed the exam, but in general most do.

Best Online Schools

Keiser University: Their medical billing & coding courses have trained many generations of coders. This degree is an associate in science and requires 60 credits to obtain. You must have graduated high school or have a GED to apply. They offer military assistance and accept transfer credits from other schools. Take your courses online or in person.

Pennsylvania Institute of Technology: Industry certification can be earned in as little as nine months and the program is accredited. To be accepted into the program you must have a high school diploma or GED, pass an assessment test and meet with an admissions counselor. This is offered online only.

Minnesota State Community and Technical College: This program is offered online only, but in addition to the same courses others offer, it requires you to apprentice under an experienced healthcare professional. This gives you practical real-world experience before you actually begin work in the workplace. GED or high school diploma is required. Several forms of financial aid and scholarships are available.