Best Medical Billing & Coding Certification Programs

Oct 20, 2021

What is a Certificate Program in Medical Billing and Coding?

A certificate program in medical billing and coding prepares students to accurately record and submit a patient's medical records and ensure that their health insurance pays the healthcare provider. During the program, students will gain experience in the classroom by taking hands-on training labs using medical billing and coding software, so that they will understand how to complete such tasks when working in the field after graduation. A certificate program in medical billing and coding usually takes one year or less to complete, and students must take and pass an exam in order to become certified. Three types of certification exams exist, including the Certified Professional Coder (CPC), Certified Coding Associate (CCA), and Certified Billing and Coding Specialist (CBCS). Each one is offered by a different organization and includes entry-level certifications. These programs quickly prepare students to enter a rapidly growing field; the BLS has a projected growth rate of 8% from 2019 to 2029 for all medical dosimetrists, medical records specialists, and health technologists and technicians.

What Is the Difference Between a Certificate and a Degree in Medical Billing and Coding?

Compared to a degree program, which can take two to four years (or more) to complete depending on the degree level, a certificate in medical billing and coding requires significantly less time to obtain. Because of the shorter time span, certificate programs typically cost less than degree programs. Degree programs have a wider curriculum which includes a varying number of general education courses along with major-specific courses, while a certificate program has much fewer courses that specifically relate to the medical billing and coding. In most cases, all credits earned from a student's certification program can be applied towards an associate degree in another healthcare field, if desired.

Should I Get a Certificate in Medical Billing and Coding?

A certificate program in medical billing and coding can offer many benefits to prospective students, especially those who wish to enter the workforce within a year or less-some programs have as few as 18 required credits, which will allow students to complete the program and enter the job field within a year's time. These programs allow graduates to work in various types of healthcare environments, such as doctor's and dental offices, hospitals, emergency rooms, and insurance companies, as well as law firms and government agencies. Prospective students who wish to work in these environments while handling medical billing and coding, medical records, and medical transcription should consider pursuing a certificate in medical billing and coding. Some jobs even allow employees to work from home, which could benefit students who desire some flexibility. Students with great interpersonal and analytical skills, as well as the ability to be precise and detailed, would do well in a medical billing and coding career.

Career Options After Completing a Certificate Program in Medical Billing and Coding

Completing a certificate program in medical billing and coding provides students with the organizational, business and information management, office administration, and computer skills needed to process patient data and maintain records. These skills ultimately lead to many career opportunities in the healthcare industry where employees will ensure that patients' medical records are accurate and kept up-to-date. They will also ensure that an individual patient's healthcare provider has been reimbursed by the patient by submitting insurance claims. Professions where these skills and tasks can be utilized include those such as a medical transcriptionist, medical records and health information specialist, medical records and health information technician, and medical billing administrator.

Medical Transcriptionist

Becoming a medical transcriptionist typically requires a certificate in medical billing and coding offered by many colleges and vocational schools. Students in such a program acquire skills in computers, critical-thinking, listening, time-management, and writing, all of which are necessary for a medical transcriptionist job. Medical transcriptionists make transcripts of voice recordings, phone calls, or other speech dictations by listening and then writing or typing what they hear. Often times, a transcript has already been developed by a speech recognition program, so a transcriptionist may only be required to check it for inaccuracies and make any required edits. This profession is largely employed by administrative and support services, followed by hospitals, and medical laboratories. According to the BLS, the employment outlook for a medical transcriptionist is expected to decline by 2% from 2019 to 2029. The median annual salary for this profession was $35,270 in May 2020.

Medical Records and Health Information Specialist

A medical records and health information specialist typically has some postsecondary education or a certificate in medical billing and coding. In this career field it is typically preferred that graduates from a certificate program have taken and passed a certifying exam, or will do so after they are employed. This certification must be renewed continually with relevant courses. Employees in this field are responsible for coding a variety of health data, including records of treatments, insurance information, and medical history. According to the BLS, the job outlook for a medical records and health information specialist is expected to increase by 8% from 2019 to 2029. The median annual salary for this career was $44,090 in May 2020.

Continued Education After a Medical Billing and Coding Certificate Program

After obtaining a certificate in medical billing and coding, students can continue their education by transferring their credits from the certificate program to a bachelor's-level program. This could potentially decrease the completion time of a bachelor's degree by as much as 9 months. Students who complete a medical billing and coding certificate program can pursue a variety of relevant majors, including a Bachelor of Science in Health Administration. Earning a certificate in medical billing and coding before enrolling in a bachelor's degree program is beneficial because it allows students to gain invaluable experience and skills and potentially continue working while they pursue further education.

Courses for a Certificate Program in Medical Billing and Coding

The course topics and curriculum for a certificate program in medical billing and coding prepare students for certification exams and to successfully find employment after graduating. During the course of this program, students will learn many skills and subjects, including medical terminology, procedures and medication, health services, health insurance and reimbursement, processing information, and classification of medical data. All of knowledge is ultimately used to ensure that health records are accurately kept and payments are reimbursed so that patients have the best possible care. Typical courses for a certificate in medical billing and coding include health science fundamentals, human anatomy and physiology with lab, medical terminology, computer applications, medical insurance, and records management systems. Some classes or entire programs may be offered in an online format.

Human Anatomy and Physiology with Lab

In this course students will be able to understand and correctly identify the human body structure and systems and how they all work together. Other topics include understanding human cells as well as other bodily tissues and organs, including their functions. The laboratory component of this course covers these topics through exercises and observations on the computer to learn about the functions of these systems.

Medical Terminology

This course instructs students about the fundamentals of medical terminology used in healthcare settings. Students will learn about medical abbreviations and medical terms and will become familiar with many diseases which can afflict the human body. Students will also learn the origins of the roots, prefixes, and suffixes of medical terms.

How Long Does a Certificate Program in Medical Billing and Coding Take?

The time it takes to complete a certificate program in medical billing and coding varies and depends on the school at which the program is offered. For instance, at some schools, a certificate can be attained in a year with full-time enrollment, while others offer 9- or 10-month programs.

How to Choose a Certificate Program in Medical Billing and Coding

In order to choose a certificate program in medical billing and coding, many factors must be considered, including the cost, location, program format, and program length. Medical billing and coding certificates are offered at a wide variety of schools, so the cost of a program can range greatly depending on the price per credit and the number of credits required. Location is also an important consideration, and if a student is already employed this factor becomes even more important as a local program will be more beneficial and less disruptive. Students currently maintaining jobs and families may want to search for schools that offer different program formats, such as hybrid or fully online medical billing and coding programs as these formats offer a lot more flexibility, especially with scheduling and commuting, than campus programs. For example, some online programs allow students to take courses at their own pace or at any time of the day that works for them, as long as they are completing and submitting their work by the required due dates. Program length is important to consider and is closely tied with cost as the faster the program, the less the program will cost.

How to Get into Medical Billing and Coding Certificate Programs

In order to be considered for acceptance to a certificate program in medical billing and coding, schools require that students to fill out an application for admission. This is might be followed by an interview with an admissions advisor in order to assess whether or not the student is a good fit for the program. Some schools have application deadlines a couple times per year while other schools have open enrollment where students can submit an application at any time. Admission to a certificate program in medical billing and coding requires students to possess at least a high school diploma, GED, or sometimes even an associate degree or higher. ACT or SAT scores may also need to be submitted and, depending on the program, minimum scores must be met. Official transcripts must also be sent to the school from either a former college or high school. In some schools an English placement exam is also required.

Cost of a Medical Billing and Coding Certificate Program

The typical range of cost of a certificate program in medical billing and coding can range anywhere from $295 per credit to as high as $600 per credit. With these rates, the total cost of a certificate program could be $15,000. There is also a fee to take the certification exam after completion of the certificate program, which can range from $199 to $299 depending on the type of exam.

Financial Aid and Scholarship Resources for Medical Billing and Coding Certificate Programs

Financial aid and scholarship resources for medical billing and coding certificate programs include the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), where an online application is available and in which the school you are enrolled in determines your federal aid eligibility. A scholarship available particularly for such a certificate program is offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), which awards based on students' academic performance. In order to be eligible for this scholarship, students must be attending a relevant program full-time at the associate, baccalaureate, or graduate level and have completed 24 credit hours with at least 6 hours of classes remaining in the program of study. A GPA of at least 3.5 must be maintained as well. Requirements for this application include an essay, recommendation letter, application, personal statement, and official transcript. The award ranges from $1,000 to $2,500; the post-baccalaureate certificate award is $1,500. The deadline for this scholarship is August 30, 2021.

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