What Is Medical Coding and Billing?
Medical coding and billing clerks, also known as medical billing specialists, are health information professionals who work in medical facilities such as hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices. Their primary responsibilities revolve around reading the information doctors record about a patient’s visit and translating that into billable codes, which represent standardized pricing agreements made with insurance companies and other parties liable for the costs of healthcare.
Most medical billers and coders entering the profession hold a two-year associate’s degree. Because this career path is in high demand, you’ll find a variety of schools offering medical billing and coding degree options, including diploma, certificate, associate’s and bachelor’s degrees.
When deciding which one is right for you, you should consider several different factors that could influence your choice including family obligations and future career plans.
Medical Coding and Billing Educational Requirements
Medical coding and billing education is typically done through certificate, diploma, and associate’s degree programs, with the main difference between credentials being the duration of the program and the amount of general education required. Coding and billing are sometimes separated into two different positions, but most educational or training programs available will cover both topics together. Medical billing and coding programs are also commonly available online.
Some medical billing and coding programs, even those offered online, will require a practicum or other form of real-world experience be completed prior to graduation. Many programs are designed to provide the knowledge needed to pass particular certification exams after completion. Always ensure that any program you take will fit with the certifications and education needed for your situation; including specific state requirements.
Medical Billing and Coding Degree Options
You’ll want to consider the different facets of each type of degree program. For example, a certificate program will allow you to enter the workforce quicker, but you may earn a higher salary with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
- Certificate or Diploma: Certificate and diploma programs generally take nine months to one year to complete. These programs are offered by career colleges and community colleges. Career college programs usually have a faster time to completion.
- Associate’s degree: Associate’s programs last two years and provide general education curriculum that goes beyond medical billing and coding degree information. Both career colleges and community colleges offer associate’s degree programs. If you are planning on advancing your education later in your career, the credits you earn while in your associate’s program courses will count toward earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
- Bachelor’s degree: At the bachelor’s level, colleges and universities offer programs in health information management and health care administration, which take four years to complete and provide other general education curriculum. Earning a bachelor’s degree will provide you with greater career options and can qualify you for management positions.
Medical Billing and Coding Degree Courses
As a medical billing and coding specialist, you’ll need expertise in a wide range of areas—from anatomy and physiology to insurance claim procedures and medical office administration—in order to do your job. With this in mind, a typical medical billing and coding program will include the following classes:
Anatomy and Physiology: Anatomy and physiology will give you a basic understanding of the human body’s organ systems, their functions and how they work together.
Insurance Claim Procedures: All medical billing and coding courses will offer a version of this class, which will train you in the standard procedures for filing an insurance claim.
Medical Coding: Typical coding workshops in a medical billing and coding course will teach you how to apply Current Procedural Technology (CPT), International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) and Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) codes.
Medical Office Administration: Provides basic knowledge of how to keep a medical office running smoothly. You will learn how to take care of routine tasks such as greeting patients, scheduling appointments and handling other various clerical work.
Medical Office Technology: Included with most medical billing and coding courses, this class will teach you how to use typical medical office equipment and software.
Medical Terminology: This course will train you in the proper names for human anatomy, bodily processes, diseases and related medical procedures.