Medical billers and coders perform an important role in medical offices. They convert different health issues and the medical treatments for those issues. These codes are a simple way for medical offices to communicate information to health insurance companies when they are billed for the health services that were provided to their client.
A medical billing degree is available in the form of associate degrees or certificate, whether you participate in a traditional program or earn a medical coding degree online.
If you want to begin a career as a medical coder, you should be aware that the best programs are accredited by either the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) or as the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). It is also possible to earn an education at the certificate and associate degree levels. No matter what level of education you earn, it is a good idea to become certified in the field as well. Check the Guide to Accreditation in Higher Education to learn more about accreditation and how to determine if the program you select meets the necessary standards.
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An education in medical billing and coding prepares you to be an integral part of the healthcare system. You will learn to apply special codes to different illnesses and treatment procedures in order to make the process of billing patients easier for physician’s offices and insurance companies.
Medical coding does not require extended formal education before you can begin a job. Although you can earn a traditional or online degree, you can also qualify for jobs in this field without a degree if you become a certified medical biller and coder. Even the best medical billing degree online and traditional programs only offer associate degrees, since this is considered the highest level of education in the field. If you choose not to earn a medical billing online degree or complete a degree from a brick-and-mortar school, it is a good idea to complete a certification program. Having some education, like a certificate, will greatly improve your job prospects. If you decide to pursue an associate degree or certificate, you can either learn through traditional programs or get your medical billing and coding degree online.
Certificate in Medical Coding
Before a medical employer hires you to organize and manage their patients’ healthcare information, they usually want to be sure that you have at least a certificate from an accredited program. You can earn an accredited medical coding certificate online or through a traditional classroom-based program. Earning your medical billing certificate costs less money and takes less time than earning an associate degree because it offers a smaller number of focused classes.
- Credit hours/length of study: 15-18 credit hours
- Coursework: medical billing, medical coding, administrative processes, medical terminology, anatomy and physiology; in some cases, an internship to practice skills
- Employment prospects: entry-level medical coding or medical billing
Associate Degree in Medical Coding
An associate degree is the highest level of education that you can earn in this field.It is considered the premier education for people who are interested in a medical coding career. Therefore, your job prospects will be greatly improved if you are willing to earn an associate degree instead of halting your education after earning a certificate or completing a professional exam preparation course.
- Credit hours/length of study: 60-65 credit hours
- Coursework: clinical classification systems, insurance procedures, anatomy and medical terminology
- Employment prospects: medical coder or biller, possibly in a supervisory role
Although certification programs and associate degrees have different educational requirements, both paths offer courses that prepare students for careers in this branch of healthcare. Classes should help prepare you for specific certification exams. Associates degree programs offer more general courses in medical terminology, anatomy and physiology and medical coding that prepare you for several certification exams as well as a broader career in the healthcare industry. Be sure to thoroughly research requirements in your state or at the institution where you would like to work.
It can be difficult to choose the right school with dozens of offline and online programs attempting to grab your attention. As you look for a school, keep in mind that the best medical coding programs are accredited and offer internship placement and career services.
Qualified billers and coders are needed in many different work environments, including physician’s offices, hospitals, insurance companies and other healthcare agencies. And although the idea of working from home appeals to many, keep in mind that most people in the field do not work from home. That doesn’t mean that you will not be able to find a job working at home eventually, but you may need to spend a few years working in an office first.