Get Certified: Careers In Medical Coding

Do you want a flexible job you can do from home? Look into getting medical billing and coding certification.

If you are looking for an emotionally and financially fulfilling career, medical coding is certainly one to consider. In the United States in 2020, medical billing specialists and medical coders earned an average of $21.75 per hour, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics. They also earned approximately $45,240 per year.

A medical billing and coding certification is desirable because you can often find positions in the field that allow you to work from home. You can also work as many hours as you want. If you are a parent, the flexibility of medical coding and billing may allow you to easily juggle work and those obligations. Medical coding can also allow you the flexibility to visit family and friends or take vacations whenever you may want. To start your career as a medical coder, you need to first learn the certification process.


What is Medical Coding and Billing?

Medical coding and billing is a type of certification you can obtain that allows you to work on the records of medical patients. Often, medical coding and billing are thought of interchangeably. In fact, certification courses often cover both. However, they are actually two different skills. If you become a medical coder, you are responsible for:

  • Learning Universal Codes Used by Insurance Companies

  • Looking Up Insurance Codes as Needed Online or in Reference Books

  • Inputting Insurance Codes in Patient Records

  • Reviewing Patient Records That Already Contain Codes for Accuracy 

As a medical billing specialist, your responsibility is to update patient records with billing information. You must collect money owed by patients and process claim disputes in cases where insurance companies do not pay for treatment. If insurance companies do pay, you must also update patient records to reflect those payments. Depending on the position you accept, you can work as a billing specialist, coder, or both.

Requirements for Getting a Medical Coding and Billing Certification

There are no formal higher education prerequisites for taking a course in medical coding and billing. However, you must have a high school diploma or GED. You also need to pass a criminal background check either being allowed to sign up for a certification class in most instances. Additionally, any company you later apply to work for may run its own criminal background check prior to hiring you.

How Long Does it Take to Get Medical Coding and Billing Certification?

Much like the career itself, medical billing and coding classes are often flexible. You can sign up for a class that takes as little as three months to complete. However, you can also opt for a class that takes as long as one year to complete. You can make that choice based on your schedule and the time you have to invest. Either way, expect to spend around 50 to 60 hours doing coursework. Although, every course is different.

Online and On-Site Medical Coding and Billing Classes

When you are pursuing a medical coding and billing certification, you have the choice of on-site or online classes. On-site courses are offered at multiple colleges. You can check your local educational institutions for options. If attending classes in person at set times is difficult due to your schedule, consider online courses. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) is one top source for online medical coding classes. AHIMA courses include:

  • Certified Coding Specialist – Physician-based (CCS-P)

  • Certified Coding Specialist (CCS)

  • Certified Coding Associate (CCA)

Jobs and Industries for Certified Medical Coders

You may wonder what jobs you can obtain with a medical coding certification. You are not limited to working for small doctors' offices. According to sources like Rasmussen University and Goodwin University, your certification can open many doors for you. Possible job sources for either in-house or work-from-home medical coding include but are not limited to: 

  • Hospitals

  • Clinics

  • Insurance Agencies

  • Colleges and Universities

  • Government Agencies

  • Law Offices

  • Healthcare Consulting Firms

  • Anywhere Else Medical Records Are Processed

How Much Does Medical Coding and Billing Certification Cost?

When considering the cost of medical coding certification, you must think about two charges. The first is the amount it costs you to take a medical coding certification course. That amount varies widely by source. According to the popular education resource website, an online course may cost less than $750. However, attending classes at a college in person could cost between $1,000 and $19,000, depending on the college and the specific course. Accredited programs typically have higher costs. 

After completing any medical coding and billing course, you must also take an exam to receive your certification. Several organizations offer coding certification exams, including AHIMA. Expect to pay a few hundred dollars for membership fees and exam costs when seeking certification through such organizations. 

How to Get Free or Reduced-Cost Medical Coding and Billing Certification

If you cannot afford to pay thousands of dollars to become a medical coder, you do not have to give up on that career path. There are many ways to obtain the training you need, even when funds are short. Start by filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. You may qualify for federal grants or loans that way. You can also apply for national or regional need-based scholarships. Additionally, there are specific scholarships for medical coding and general medical scholarships for which you may qualify.

If you are attending classes through a local college, you also have the option of speaking to the college's financial aid department. Your college may have a direct grant or scholarship to offer you. If so, that money typically does not require repayment. Even if no such options are available, the school may provide you with a payment plan to make the cost of your medical coding certification easier to manage.

Continued Medical Coding Certification

When starting down the path of becoming a medical coder or billing specialist, a final consideration is ongoing education. There are multiple levels of coding certifications. The more education and experience you have, the more money you are likely to earn in the field. You may find it worthwhile to enroll in an extended educational program, for that reason. You can also pursue a specialized medical coding degree, such as a certified inpatient coder (CIC) degree. A specialty degree may provide you with a wider range of job opportunities, as well as higher pay.