The application processes for medical billing and coding college programs differ somewhat depending on the organization or school and the program type. Associates degree programs require you to complete your application up to 3 months before classes start, while certificate programs may accept applications just a few weeks before courses start. Overall, applications for online courses tend to be simpler than applications for classes held on a campus.
Applying to Medical Billing and Coding Certificate Programs
If you wish to pursue a certificate program in medical billing and coding, you will begin the application process after choosing one or more colleges that you would like to apply to. Certificate programs at top colleges for medical billing and coding generally begin in the fall, spring and summer. Most certificate programs continue to accept applications until a few weeks before classes begin, but be sure to make note of the application deadlines for each program that you are interested in.
The most time consuming part of the process involves gathering documents. An accredited college for medical billing and coding will require a copy of your GED or high school diploma. You may also need to provide transcripts of any other relevant coursework as well as a certificate of English language proficiency if you are an international student. Students who will take their certificate courses in campus classrooms often have to provide proof of immunization.
Once you have the paperwork ready, you will send it to the school together with an application form and a small processing fee. It is a good idea to call the admissions office or meet with an advisor after your application has been submitted to make sure that it was received. Once you are accepted, you will be able register for the courses and pay tuition.
Whether you apply to earn your medical coding certificate online or offline, you will have to provide the following items:
- Online or paper application form with your contact information, citizenship and educational history
- Non-refundable application fee, usually $20 to $50
- A high school diploma or GED
- Transcripts of any college or related coursework that you have completed
- Information about income and employment
- Proof of English language proficiency – for international students only
- Proof of immunizations – for brick-and-mortar programs only
- Tuition, usually $3,000 or more which can often be paid in installments
Well-established medical billing and coding colleges often have higher admissions standards than other organizations and may require letters of reference or application essays.
Applying to Medical Billing and Coding Associates Programs
Once you have chosen the best medical coding college for your associates degree, you can begin the application process. Be sure to check each school’s website for application deadlines because they can vary from a few weeks to several months before courses start.
Next you will need to obtain a copy of your GED or high school diploma and transcripts of any other relevant coursework that you have done. International students may have to provide proof of proficiency in English. If you will attend classes on campus, you may have to provide proof that you have received certain immunizations. And if your program involves coursework or practicums at a medical facility, you may need to pass a background check and drug test. Before you get these things, check first with your chosen school about their specific requirements.
Once you have assembled this documentation, you can send it in with your application form and fee. It is likely that you will need at least one telephone conversation or meeting with an admissions advisor to make sure that everything has been received. Once you are accepted, you can register for courses and arrange to pay tuition.
Most associates degree programs begin in the fall and spring semesters and take 1 or 2 years to complete depending on how many courses you take each term. Some medical coding colleges allow students to begin associates programs at up to 5 different times during the year, but certain courses may not be offered every term.
To apply for an associates degree in medical billing and coding, you will have to submit most or all of the following items to the college that you have chosen:
- Application form including contact information, citizenship and educational history
- Non-refundable application fee between $20 and $50
- A copy of your high school diploma or GED
- Official transcripts of any related coursework
- Information about current and past employment
- Proof of proficiency in English – international students only
- Proof of immunizations – offline programs only
- Tuition of about $20,000 over the course of the program
Some schools also request essays and SAT or ACT scores. Institutions with good reputations may be more selective in their admissions.
Applying to Online Schools
Like offline programs, online programs require students to provide personal information, educational history and a non-refundable application fee with their application forms. Students applying for online programs do not usually have to undergo a background check or provide proof of immunization. Otherwise, the application process is almost identical to brick-and-mortar schools.
Applying for Classes Offered by the AAPC and AHIMA
The process for enrolling in a course with the American Association of Professional Coders (AAPC) is about as simple as making an online purchase. First you set up an account with your personal information and then enter your credit card number. Enrolling in the American Health Information Management Association’s (AHIMA) distance education program is similar. Students create accounts, submit transcripts including proof of prerequisites and then purchase courses. Obtaining transcripts from the schools that you have previously attended will probably take the most time in the process.
AAPC online courses start on the day that the student purchases the course. Most AAPC courses are valid for 4 months after the activation date and the corresponding exam must be taken within a year.
An AHIMA exam preparation course generally lasts 8 weeks while their standard courses usually last 15 weeks. Students are able work at their own pace and can purchase another course immediately if they complete the course before the deadline. The start date is the date that the school receives payment or proof that the student has completed any necessary prerequisites, whichever is later.
AAPC offers discounts to members and to those who purchase bundled products. Annual membership for students is $70. Their training package costs $1,400 and includes a course, several practice exams and a voucher for the actual certification exam as well as access to certified coaches.
An AHIMA coding course can cost up to $2,000, although most of their offerings cost less and exam preparation courses may cost as little as $50. Discounts of up to 20% are offered to members and membership is only $35 per year for students.
Transition to Certification Exams
Most AAPC and AHIMA courses are designed to prepare students to pass specific certification exams. AAPC students have better success rates than others, but taking the course does not guarantee that you will pass the exam. The passing rate for first-time takers of most AHIMA certification exams ranges from 45 to 80%, and students can retake exams after 45 days.