Medical Billing and Coding Schools
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Medical billing and coding schools provide flexible training options that can lead to meaningful employment and respected certifications. Vocational programs in this area tend to be fast and focused, with diploma, certificate, and degree options available in-person and online. This essential field also allows for medical billing and coding specialists to work from home or in medical settings.
Education & Training
You generally need a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent credential to enter this field. Post-secondary training in health information technology or medical coding and billing is strongly recommended if you want to pursue certification and improve your job opportunities.
Length of Medical Billing and Coding Training
Although shorter programs are available through a few online training providers, most courses of study for medical billing and coding are designed to take anywhere from seven to 24 months.**
Most Common Length of School**
(range in months)
Medical billing & coding7-24
Certificate or diploma programs generally take less than a year to complete.** They provide a streamlined education focused on medical billing and coding fundamentals to help prepare you for entry-level employment and certification.
Associate degree programs provide a broader education that often includes a more comprehensive range of courses related to health information technology as well as classes in general subjects. Earning a degree at this level usually takes up to two years.**
Medical billing and coding schools near you or online may offer programs that include classes in subjects like:
- Medical terminology
- Human anatomy and physiology
- English grammar
- Medical data standards
- Electronic health records
- Healthcare laws, regulations, and ethics
- Diagnostic and procedural medical coding
- ICD, CPT, and HCPCS classification systems
- Health insurance systems and terminology
- Billing and reimbursement processes
- Coding compliance and auditing
- Medical office software and procedures
- Microsoft Word and Excel
- Professional communications
Skills You Can Learn
Many programs that include medical coding training help students gain abilities related to:
- Using electronic health records (EHR) software
- Using billing, database, and word processing software
- Creating and editing spreadsheets and documents
- Interpreting medical reports
- Identifying specific tests, diagnoses, and treatments within reports
- Assigning the correct codes to each diagnosis and procedure
- Updating patient records
- Complying with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
- Performing basic bookkeeping and accounting tasks
- Managing patient invoices and health insurance claims
Licensing & Certification
Medical billers and coders are not required to obtain licensure in any state.
Becoming certified professionally is technically voluntary. However, employers often look for people with certain types of medical coding certification. Some schools include the cost of at least one certification exam as part of the tuition and fees they charge. And some certifying organizations offer student discounts on memberships and exams.
You can become a certified professional through one or more of these organizations:
- AAPC: Formerly known as the American Academy of Professional Coders, this organization offers several certifications. The most basic ones include Certified Professional Coder (CPC) and Certified Professional Biller (CPB). To qualify for the exams, you need to become an AAPC member. For the CPC exam, you also need at least two years of verified coding experience or at least 80 hours of relevant education plus one year of experience. You can still take the exam if you don't have the experience. (If you pass, you will have apprentice status until you gain the necessary experience.)
- American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA): The most basic types of medical coding certification from this organization are the Certified Coding Associate (CCA) and Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) credentials. Both require formal training and a minimum amount of direct coding experience to be eligible for the exams. AHIMA membership is not required, but members pay lower exam fees.
- American Medical Billing Association (AMBA): To become a Certified Medical Reimbursement Specialist (CMRS), you'll need to have a high school diploma (or the equivalent), gain AMBA membership, and pass an exam that tests your knowledge of the field. To qualify for the Certified Medical Coding Specialist (CMCS) exam, you have to be an AMBA member and completed an approved training program. You must also have at least a year of experience, or already hold relevant certification from another organization.
- National Healthcareer Association (NHA): You can become a Certified Billing & Coding Specialist (CBCS) if you have a high school diploma (or the equivalent). You must also have completed an approved post-secondary program, gained one year or more experience in the field, and passed the exam.
- Board of Medical Specialty Coding & Compliance (BMSC): This organization offers exams for gaining coding certificates related to home care.
Education & Training FAQs
How long does it take to become a certified medical coder if you don't go to school for it?
It's possible to learn what you need to know through AAPC's online courses and pass the organization's most basic certifying exam in as little as half a year. That will get you the CPC-A credential. To remove the apprentice designation and become a CPC, you'll need to acquire at least two years of experience. But you can replace one of those years by using AAPC's Web-based Practicode program, which lets you get a lot of direct coding practice.
If you're completely new to the field and want to prepare for medical coding certification from other organizations, you'll probably need to complete a formal program through a vocational college.
Which coding certification is best?
The best medical coding certification mostly depends on the type of employer you want to work for, as well as any areas you want to specialize in. Although preferences vary, many hospitals and inpatient facilities like to hire people with certification from AHIMA, such as the CCS credential. Outpatient clinics, offices, and similar employers frequently look for people with AAPC certifications, such as the CPS credential.
AAPC and AHIMA tend to be the most widely recognized certifying organizations for medical coders. But it's a good idea to check out several job postings for your area to see if you can spot a clear pattern in the kinds of credentials that are being requested. To enhance your job prospects, it may be worth pursuing multiple certifications through two or more organizations.
Medical Billing and Coding Schools
- East Peoria, Illinois
- Moline, Illinois
- Springfield, Illinois
- Springfield, Missouri
- Birmingham, Alabama
- Lawrenceville, New Jersey
- Wayne, New Jersey
- Scranton, Pennsylvania
- Houston North, Texas
- Atascadero, California
- Oxnard, California
- San Luis Obispo, California
- Santa Maria, California
- Newark, New Jersey
- Woodbridge, New Jersey
- Woodland Park, New Jersey
- New York City, New York
Medical coders and billers are critical to the healthcare industry. They contribute to the accuracy of patient data and the timely reimbursement of medical providers.
10.7% growth from 2018 to 2028
Medical Billers & Coders
Average Yearly Openings
Length of Training
Most Common Length
Cardiology, dermatology, emergency care, gastroenterology, gynecology and obstetrics, interventional radiology, oncology and hematology, ophthalmology, pain management and anesthesia, pediatrics, rheumatology, surgery, urology
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- U.S. Department of Education
The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program pegs the median medical billing and coding salary at $42,630. Those at the top end of the wage scale earn more than $71,150. That's based on information for the broader occupational group that includes these professionals, additional types of health information specialists, medical dosimetrists, and other kinds of health technicians and technologists.
According to a medical coding salary survey by AAPC, certified coding specialists tend to earn much more than their non-certified counterparts. In 2019, certified medical coders made $55,923 on average. That's 33 percent more than the average salary of those without certification. Plus, those with two certifications earned an average of $64,890. And coders with at least three certifications made $70,608, on average.
Median Annual Wage Comparison
Job Openings & Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that medical records and health information technicians (which include coding and billing specialists) will experience employment growth of 10.7 percent between 2018 and 2028. About 16,800 job openings may be generated each year, mostly through people retiring or leaving this field for different careers.
- Opportunities to work from home: Many healthcare organizations outsource their billing and coding tasks to self-employed contractors or companies that specialize in providing these services. So it's possible to work in medical billing and coding jobs from home, and on a flexible schedule.
- The chance to earn a good salary without a four-year degree: With two years or less of medical billing and coding training, you can qualify for meaningful jobs. You can also pursue certifications that significantly increase your income potential.
- Enhanced job security: Health information coders and billers are essential to the medical sector. Codes and regulations change frequently, and the nation's aging population is putting more and more demand on the healthcare system. So the demand for specialists in this field should stay strong.
What a Medical Biller and Coder Does
Medical billing and coding specialists use the information from medical reports to classify specific diagnoses and procedures. That coded information gets used for things like:
- Updating patient records
- Compiling statistical data
- Submitting insurance claims
- Preparing invoices
Some people in this field do all aspects of the job, especially if they work for small employers. But it's also common for people to handle just coding or billing (not both).
Medical coders typically do things like:
- Identify patients' medical conditions and treatments based on notes and reports from physicians or other healthcare providers
- Assign the correct numeric or alphanumeric codes to each specific diagnosis and procedure
- Refer to official code books, databases, or other reference materials as necessary
- Ask for clarification from healthcare providers when needed
- Update and ensure the accuracy and privacy of patients' medical records
Medical billers generally do things such as:
- Assign costs based on the codes in newly updated patient records
- Prepare and file health insurance claims with private insurers or the public agencies that run Medicaid or Medicare programs
- Follow up with insurers when claims have not been processed or paid
- Get pre-authorization letters or confirmation of eligibility before certain patients receive particular kinds of treatments
- Seek clarification when conflicts or inconsistencies arise
- Communicate with patients to answer questions or explain the status of claims
- Create and send invoices to patients for services that insurance won't cover
- Set up and manage monthly payment plans for patients
- Turn delinquent accounts over to debt collection agencies
Professionals in this field tend to work in environments such as:
- Doctors' offices
- Long-term care facilities
- Home offices
- Rehabilitation centers
- Diagnostic imaging centers
- Medical laboratories
- Corporate or government offices
Some coders and billers work in general areas like family practice. Others work for specialized physicians or in specific types of departments or practices, often after gaining special medical coding certifications. Becoming a coding specialist for a particular area of medicine can sometimes reduce the number of codes and medical terms you need to know and stay updated on. It can also lead to a higher income.
Examples of specialty areas include:
Cardiology: Heart and blood vessel disorders and diseases
Dermatology: Skin, hair, and nail conditions
Emergency care: Injuries and illnesses requiring immediate action
Gastroenterology: Ailments that affect the digestive system
Gynecology and obstetrics: Health issues that are unique to women, including pregnancy and childbirth
Interventional radiology: Minimally invasive diagnostic and treatment procedures that are guided by X-ray, ultrasound, computed tomography, or magnetic resonance imaging
Oncology and hematology: Cancers and blood-related diseases
Ophthalmology: Eye-related disorders and surgical procedures
Pain management and anesthesia: Procedures for reducing patients' physical suffering or numbing their physical sensations
Pediatrics: Medical care of patients under age 18
Rheumatology: Diseases that affect people's joints, muscles, and ligaments (such as arthritis)
Surgery: Invasive treatments carried out by highly specialized physicians in areas like cardiovascular, thoracic, orthopedic, or abdominal-related disorders
Urology: Conditions related to the kidneys, bladder, urethra, adrenal glands, and male reproductive system
Can you perform medical billing and coding jobs from home?
Yes. Many medical billers and coders work remotely. This field is exceptionally well-suited to remote and flexible work arrangements. As long as you are qualified, self-disciplined, and highly organized, you can thrive at working from home. Since you don't have to commute and you can manage your workspace, you may even be more productive than you would otherwise be.
However, you must have a reliable high-speed Internet connection. And to comply with HIPAA, you'll need to ensure that your computer and all network connections are properly secured. Patient privacy has to be a top priority.
According to an AAPC survey, most remote workers in this field (nearly 60 percent) primarily perform medical coding jobs from home. That contrasts with only 3.5 percent of remote employees in this occupation, mainly performing medical billing from home.
The same AAPC survey also revealed that, on average, remote medical billers and coders have about 11 to 12 years of relevant experience. So you may need to get established in your career to have the best chance of landing a job that lets you work from home.
FlexJobs is one of the best websites for finding work-from-home positions because they do the work of ensuring that each opportunity is legitimate.
What classification systems are used for medical coding?
The three main types of coding systems used in the U.S. healthcare industry are:
- Current Procedural Terminology (CPT). These numeric and alphanumeric codes are used for all kinds of medical and clinical procedures performed in practitioners' offices, diagnostic laboratories, or other outpatient care settings. The codes are managed, maintained, and copyrighted by the American Medical Association (AMA). Each year, new codes are added, and obsolete codes are removed.
- Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS). These codes are based on the CPT system, but they are designed specifically for submitting claims for services covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
- International Classification of Diseases (ICD). These alphanumeric codes are created, monitored, and copyrighted by the World Health Organization (WHO). They are used for coding diagnoses in all settings. In the U.S., they are also used for coding procedures performed in inpatient settings like hospitals. The current versions are ICD-10-CM (Clinical Modification) and ICD-10-PCS (Procedure Coding System). A version of ICD-11 was distributed in 2018, and member countries will begin using it for reporting in 2022.
How hard is it to get a medical coding job?
It depends on the approach you take. If you don't get a formal education in this field, finding a job may be more difficult than it otherwise would be. Certification is also critical for improving your chances. Also, your prospects may be better if you seek an entry-level job in an outpatient setting (like a doctor's office) rather than an inpatient environment (like a hospital). Remote coding jobs are often geared toward those with a good amount of experience.
Invest adequate time to research potential employers in your area. Call their human resources staff to find out exactly what they look for in potential hires. Many places will prefer a certain level of education as well as particular certifications.
Qualifying to take professional medical coding certification exams usually requires a minimum amount of direct, on-the-job coding experience. However, as an inexperienced coder, at least one option can lead to a credential that helps separate you from the competition for entry-level positions. Passing the AAPC's Certified Professional Coder (CPC) exam allows you to gain the apprentice designation (CPC-A. This designation indicates you have the required knowledge even though you don't yet have the experience.
Many medical billing and coding programs include externships, which give students real-world practice and help them make connections that can lead to future opportunities. You can also take advantage of exclusive networking events and career development resources by becoming a member of one or more professional organizations for health information specialists.
Medical Billing and Coding Schools Offer Convenient Ways to Gain the Necessary Skills
Career colleges and trade schools can provide benefits like flexible class schedules and online training options. With the qualifications you can earn from medical billing and coding schools, plus certifications and experience, you can even pursue jobs that let you work from home.
* For salary information, the OES program includes medical billers and coders in the "medical dosimetrists, medical records specialists, and health technologists and technicians, all other" occupational group. For job outlook information, the BLS includes coders and billers in the "medical records and health information technicians" category.
** Length of training information is based on a combination of information from the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the U.S. Department of Education, and a wide sampling of relevant program lengths from about 30 individual school websites. They are a mix of public, private non-profit, and private for-profit institutions.