In addition to on-the-job training, entrants into the medical billing and coding field usually start out with a one-year diploma or two-year associate degree from an accredited medical billing and coding program, which can be obtained through a junior or community college. (See our list of recommended programs.)
Students can take classes in a classroom setting, which provides solid, hands-on experience and face-to-face contact, but the field also lends itself well to online learning, which benefits students who do not live near a campus or would have difficulty with scheduling due to family or work-related demands.
Billing & Coding Curriculum
Aside from general education, coursework generally includes an overview of informational medical topics, as well as an introduction to billing software. It is helpful to have a high school background that includes biology, math, chemistry, health and computer science, though many community colleges offer these courses as well. (See Medical Coding Course Description.)
Some common course subjects taken by medical billing and coding students pursuing an associate degree are:
- Medical terminology
- Data coding and abstraction
- Database management
- Quality improvement
- Computer science
More detailed information about a program’s subject matter can be attained by contacting a school representative. Potential students can learn about financial aid options, career placement services, and in many cases arrange a campus tour.
Medical Billing & Coding Certification
In addition to having a diploma or associate degree, medical billing and coding graduates can further improve their employability by passing an examination to become certified by one of the major certifying agencies for medical coders.
The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) offers several designations, including Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT), which is the designation most employers prefer. To be eligible for this designation, medical coders must have graduated from a program approved by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM).
Also available from AHIMA are the designations of Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA), Certified Coding Associate (CCA) and Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) for medical coders who meet the criteria.
The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) offers the designation Certified Professional Coder (CPC), as well as the Certified Interventional Radiology Cardiovascular Coder (CIRCC) designation for coders who specialize in radiology coding.
Technicians who choose to pursue the cancer registry specialization can become certified through formal two-year certificate programs approved by the National Cancer Registrars Association (NCRA).