A medical billing and coding certificate program provides you with the knowledge and skills that you need to pass the medical billing and coding certification exam and start working in an entry-level job in the field. Accredited medical billing and coding online certificate programs are an excellent option for students who want to spend as little money as possible getting into the field, take the necessary courses from home and finish their degree in less than a year.
Who Should Pursue A Medical Billing and Coding Certificate?
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Working adults and parents often pursue certificate programs because they are relatively short and inexpensive. Some certificate programs can be completed in as little as 3 months for about $3,000, allowing entry into the profession with a fairly small investment of time and money.
Additionally, the flexibility of earning a certificate online, as opposed to attending classes on a traditional campus, also attracts students who have other responsibilities. Studying online during the day, evening or on weekends allows students to balance their family or work lives with their coursework.
Though certificates in medical billing and coding have many advantages, you should know that most management and administrative positions in this field will require you to earn more education before you can qualify for these jobs. Medical billers and coders who do more than entry-level work have at least an associate’s degree in medical billing and coding and more often a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management or a related field.
Holding a Job During Your Medical Billing and Coding Certificate Program
Roughly half of all students who attend college also have either part-time or full-time jobs. If you work full time, you may need to pursue your medical coding certificate online in order to have enough flexibility in your schedule to fulfill your work commitments. Whether you decide to work just a few hours a week or want to keep your full-time job, you should consider the benefits and challenges of working while you earn your certificate in medical billing and coding.
Pros and Cons
One of the main perks of holding a job while working toward your certificate is that you may not have to apply for financial aid or incur any student loan debt while you are enrolled in your certificate program. Graduating from your program without any student loans or with only small loans will make it much easier for you to transition into your new career as a medical biller and coder.
However, it is important to remember that working while pursuing a medical billing and coding certificate can increase your stress while decreasing the amount of free time that you can devote to a personal life. Working and studying for any degree or certificate requires discipline and efficient time management, and this is particularly true of intensive accelerated programs. If you work during the day, you will probably have to spend some of your evenings and weekends keeping up with coursework.
How to Balance Work and School
If you do plan to work while you take classes toward your certificate online or offline, here are some tips for balancing the 2 commitments:
- If possible, do not take too many classes at once.
- Try to finish your work at work so that you can focus on studying at home.
- Get proper sleep, exercise and eat healthy foods. All of these can help reduce stress and increase your productivity.
- Try to take a day or at least a half day off from school and work each week to relax and do something that you enjoy.
Students who cannot afford to pay tuition should investigate financial aid options. Federal student aid programs are the largest and best source of aid for college students, but many medical billing and coding certificate programs do not qualify for federal student loans. Students seeking financial aid should investigate the following common funding sources:
- Any federal student loans available through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
- Private scholarships such as the AHIMA Foundation Medical and Billing Scholarship
- Employer tuition reimbursement programs
- Loans from banks and other private lenders
Medical Billing and Coding Certificate Courses
Both offline and online classes for medical billing and coding certificate programs offer similar coursework. The best online medical coding certificate programs commonly require students to take courses in the areas described below.
Medical terminology courses teach students the meaning, spelling and use of technical terms that are used in the medical field. After taking a medical terminology course, students should be able to relate these terms to the structure of the body and understand common medical abbreviations and acronyms.
Anatomy and Physiology
Common topics covered in anatomy and physiology courses include the basic biology of the human body as well as the circulatory, skeletal, muscular and nervous systems. Students acquire skills in recognizing bodily systems and understanding the functions of organs.
Common topics in medical billing courses include insurance and processes for billing and reimbursement. Students who take these courses learn how to verify that healthcare documentation is accurate and meets legal and ethical requirements as well as regulations and standards.
Courses in medical coding cover standardization, code categories, guidelines and coding errors. After taking a medical coding course, students should be able to recognize and accurately apply various code types such as ICD-9, ICD-10, HCPCS and CPT.
Gaining Admission to a Medical Billing and Coding Certificate Program
Applying for course programs at medical billing and coding colleges is relatively simple. You will need to complete an application by including your personal information and submit it online or mail a hardcopy to the school. Most certificate programs make admissions decisions relatively quickly, so you can often expect to hear back within 2 to 6 weeks.
Completing an application generally requires students to provide their contact information, citizenship, birth date and employment history, and there is usually an application fee of $50 or less. Students also submit their high school diploma or GED as well as proof of any previous medical billing and coding coursework.
Online vs. Offline Course Applications
The application process is usually quite similar regardless of whether the medical billing and coding program will be held online or in the classroom. Sometimes registration for medical billing and coding certificate programs can be completed and paid for in a single online session that takes less than an hour. Those who will attend classes on the school grounds may need to obtain a student ID card and a parking pass and provide evidence that they have all the vaccinations required by the school.