Students who are interested in medical billing and coding programs online or on campus will find that there are different kinds of schools that they can attend to earn their training. Colleges and universities offer certificate and associates degree programs that include a specific number of college credits, while professional associations offer training courses and materials that prepare students to take medical billing and coding certification exams. There are also for-profit organizations that offer distance learning programs in billing and coding.
For-profit organizations that offer programs and courses for medical billing and coding students are usually associated with a medical billing and coding group. It can be a good option to pursue coursework at a for-profit organization as long as it is reputable and recognized by groups like the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).
Pros and Cons
Many for-profit organizations offer brief courses in their online medical billing schools. Some have full medical billing and coding online degree programs and others do not. They usually offer online courses and many have flexible payment programs. On the other hand, however, they often lack the job placement resources that you can find at traditional universities and professional associations.
What to Look For
If an online medical billing school has a website address that ends in “.com,” you can be sure it is a for-profit organization. Don’t use this as your only test, however, since some for-profit schools may also use “.org” or “.net” as well. Look for clear information about accreditation and job placement in the website’s information section. Do not enroll in a medical billing online school if it does not provide this information.
Costs and Expenses
Both the cost and duration of programs offered by for-profit organizations can vary, although they are often cheaper than associates degree programs. When you are researching medical coding schools online, especially for-profit schools, only consider programs that provide clear and complete fee information on their websites. Be sure to compare the costs of several schools and read through their websites to make sure that there are no hidden fees in addition to the standard tuition rates.
Colleges and Universities
Public and private colleges and universities offer degree programs in medical billing and coding. You can find 2-year community colleges as well as 4-year schools with certificate and associates degree programs in online and on-campus formats.
Pros and Cons
One advantage of taking courses from a university or college is that there are many well known, trustworthy institutions that you can choose from, and their medical billing and coding school online classes often count as credit toward higher degrees in areas like business administration. Respected universities and colleges can also offer access to experienced faculty members who are available to speak with students face to face. In addition, most academic institutions have job placement offices that have relationships with real employers. Career centers at colleges and universities are also required to publish their placement rates to comply with U.S. Department of Education regulations.
What to Look For
If you are investigating top medical billing schools online and offline, look for programs that require students to get hands-on experience through practicums, internships or externships. Also check to see how many years each institution has offered their courses, and keep in mind that usually the longer they have been around the better.
Most of the best online medical billing and coding schools are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM), which ensures that the schools meet certain requirements set by AHIMA and the U.S. Department of Education. You can be sure that medical billing and coding schools at almost every traditional university will be accredited by one of these national associations.
The cost of attending a medical billing school online or offline depends on the duration of the program and the number of courses required. Most certificate programs can be completed in less than a year for about $3,000 while associates degree programs through a university usually take 1 to 2 years and can cost up to $20,000. Some scholarships are available for medical billing and coding online schools if they are affiliated with traditional universities, which is often not the case with for-profit schools. Moreover, accredited college and university programs are qualified to offer federal student aid or low interest education loans to students.
Professional organizations including the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) and the American Medical Billers Association (AMBA) offer courses for students who want to take medical billing and coding certification exams. These associations also offer membership and administer the certification exams that you need to work in the field.
Pros and Cons
Students who join professional organizations for medical coding immediately become part of a community of professional coders that may serve as valuable networking and educational resources. In addition, courses offered by professional associations are usually shorter and less expensive than those at for-profit schools or universities. Courses offered by the AAPC, for example, are designed to help you pass the specific billing and coding certification exams that are administered by this organization and get a billing or coding job quickly.
However, even though these courses will teach you the most important skills and knowledge areas that you will need on the job, they usually do not count for college credit. If you think that you might like to earn a college degree in the future from one of many accredited online medical coding schools, you should consider completing your medical billing and coding coursework at a school rather than a professional association. This way, you can transfer the credits that you earn in these courses and earn your college degree faster.
What to Look For
When you are investigating medical billing and coding schools online through professional associations like AHIMA and AAPC, make sure that the courses cover topics like medical terminology, anatomy and physiology and health information management as well as current procedural terminology (CPT) in both ICD-9 and ICD-10. If you are just looking to prepare for certification exams, these schools are usually a safe bet.
Costs and Expenses
Because they are nonprofits, professional associations like AHIMA and AAPC usually provide courses, programs and other materials for a reasonable price. While there is usually no financial aid available, their online schools for medical coding usually offer substantial discounts for those who become association members.
Program costs vary considerably depending on which certifications students choose to pursue. AHIMA’s training books cost about $30 to $100 each, and AAPC’s medical coding online school offers individual courses and packages that cost between $500 and $2,000 each, depending on the topic.
Are Professional Association Courses Right for You?
Taking courses from a professional association like AAPC can be a good option for those who wish to achieve certification quickly and do not plan to earn a degree. However, because these courses are brief and do not count toward college credit, students who want to earn a degree should look into accredited medical coding online schools offered by colleges and universities or a traditional brick-and-mortar program.