Medical Billing and Coding Degree Programs and Training
Medical billing and coding professionals are an integral, though largely unseen, part of the health care industry. As patients go to their doctors for the treatments they need, medical billers and coders work in the background -- generally employed at hospitals, nursing homes, doctors' offices and government agencies -- to ensure that the financial part of the system runs smoothly. In order to do this important job, some employers require medical billers and coders to receive extensive industry training.
Medical billing and coding degree programs
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov), medical coders and billers -- also known as medical records and health information technicians -- generally receive an associate degree or a professional certificate in order to enter the field. When earning a high school diploma or its equivalent, students interested in entering this field are encouraged to take courses in math, computer science, biology and health. After graduating high school, students can enter the field after studying medical billing and coding for one or two years, but some may choose to continue their education past that point. Some of the degree programs that are available to medical coders and billers include:
- Certificate programs. Medical billing and coding certificate programs generally take one year to complete. Students enrolled in these programs can expect to learn the basic principles of the field and gain the practical experience they need to work based on the industry's HCPCS, CPT, and ICD-9-CM coding manuals.
- Associate degrees. Medical coding and billing professionals who complete associate degrees generally finish these programs within two years. These programs give students a more in depth look at the field, increasing their understanding of the standards that guide the field and the ethical principles that these professionals are expected to adhere to.
- Bachelor's degrees. Students enrolled in undergraduate billing and coding degree programs may be able to finish their degrees within four years. These programs teach students more advanced information about medical terminology, how to code different procedures and diagnoses, and the computer databases that coding and billing professionals are expected to master to be successful in the field.
- Master's degrees. Medical billing and coding professionals who want to advance in their careers and pursue managerial positions in the field may consider enrolling in a two-year master's degree program in health information management. These degree programs teach students the business behind health care and information technology so they have the tools to manage other professionals.
Medical billing and coding training
Each school that offers a medical coding and billing degree program has its own unique curriculum, but there are subjects generally taught no matter which school students enroll in. The following topics are examples of what students may study:
- Medical terminology
- Medical billing
- Medical coding
- Health care reimbursement methods
- Health care law and ethics
- Health care statistics
- Computer systems
Career outlook for medical billers and coders
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the medical coding and billing field is on the rise, thanks to factors such as the aging American population and the increased use of electronic medical records in health care facilities. In fact, between 2012 and 2022, jobs for these professionals are expected to increase by 22 percent -- which is faster than the average growth of most occupations. These professionals earned a national median annual wage of $34,970 as of May 2013.
AAS Medical Reimbursement & Coding, Bryant & Stratton College, Accessed June 23, 2014, http://www.bryantstratton.edu/degrees/associate-degrees/aas-medical-reimbursement-and-coding
Certificate in Medical Billing and Coding, Drexel University, Accessed June 23, 2014, http://www.drexel.com/online-degrees/nursing-degrees/medical-billing-coding/index.aspx
Medical Billing and Coding Classes Online, Penn Foster Career School, Accessed June 23, 2014, http://www.pennfoster.edu/programs-and-degrees/medical-billing-and-coding/medical-billing-and-coding-career-diploma
Medical Billing & Coding Professional, San Francisco State University, Accessed June 23, 2014, http://www.cel.sfsu.edu/medical-billing/
Medical Records and Health Information Technicians, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm
Medical Records and Health Information Technicians, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292071.htm
Online Insurance Billing and Coding Specialist, Herzing University, Accessed June 23, 2014, http://www.herzing.edu/online/career-programs/undergraduate-degrees/healthcare/insurance-billing-and-coding-specialist