Interested in becoming a medical biller and coder? You’re in luck—there are hundreds of programs available today that are entirely online. You won’t have to travel to campuses and risk catching the coronavirus, and online programs are often more affordable than their in-person counterparts.
Not to mention, with fast-track programs, you can complete your training in about 10-13 months, depending on the program and how fast you want to become certified.
When you’re looking for an online school for your certification, there are a few things to consider while shopping around. In this guide, we’ll talk more about what a medical biller and coder does, what to look for in your chosen program, and what the job prospects look like for someone who’s recently graduated from a training program.
So, You Want To Be A Medical Coder?
First and foremost, we need to define what a medical coder/biller actually does, and go over some of the job responsibilities so you know what you’re getting into.
A medical coder is, in their own way, a translator; taking complex medical forms and translating the procedures, jargon, and other information into standardized medical codes, which are then used to properly bill the insurance provider. Without these codes, there would be far too many payment loopholes and there wouldn’t be an industry standard to go by.
Essentially, you’re the one that makes sure the codes are correct so that invoices can be paid. Since many patients can’t afford direct care outright, you’re playing an incredibly important median role between the insurance company and the patient(s).
A biller is simply a person that creates the bill with those standardized codes, and, more often than not, the two are the same person. If you’re creating the codes, it only makes sense to create and send the invoice, too.
What The Education/Training Looks Like
Medical billing and coding classes can be completed online, in-person, or through a hybrid program. For the sake of this article, we’ll be talking specifically about online programs.
Alright, so you’ve never taken online courses, and you’re uncertain. Are they legit? Do they cost more? Will I still have to train in-person? Where do I start? These are all valid questions, but really, online courses are as simple as in-person courses, except for one small detail.
Since you’re not required to be in a physical classroom, you won’t have the accountability that comes with going to and from class each day. Yes, you’ll still need to attend online classes, but if you choose a course that has a lot of “work-at-your-own-pace” modules, you’ll be at the mercy of your personal discipline. And let’s be honest—COVID has eroded that quite a bit, hasn’t it?
We’ve all slacked off a bit in the previous months, mostly because the world around us seems to be on fire. The most important thing to remember is that it’s ok to lose some productivity when there’s a literal pandemic at your doorstep.
But don’t let that hold you back from moving into a better future, either. You can discipline yourself, get that coursework done, and move on to a better career.
How Long Does It Take?
In most cases, billing and coding courses can be completed in about 10-12 months, with a degree taking anywhere from 18-24 months, depending on the program. Be sure that your school is accredited. If it’s not, your degree could potentially mean nothing once you graduate.
What Programs Are There?
Next, you’ll need to look at the program options. Do you want a strict, fast-paced program, or a work at your own pace program so you can finish when you want to? This will affect your decision, so be certain when you’re looking for what you actually need versus what you want.
Next, compare costs. Yes, college is expensive, but shorter programs like these are usually much more affordable. Don’t be afraid to call or visit several colleges and compare tuition rates before making your final choice.
Job Outlook, Growth, and Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website, medical billing and coding fall under the category “Medical Records and Health Information”. That being said, this is a job category that looks good as far as growth and salary go. Starting out, you can make about $42,000 per year, but your salary will depend on a number of factors.
The job category is also predicted to add some 29,000 jobs in the next decade; a growth of about 8%, which is much faster than average. That means there’s a much higher chance of you finding decent employment once you’ve graduated!
Becoming a medical biller/coder only takes about 10-12 months, can land you a decent salary out of the gate, and potentially puts you into a category of jobs that’s expected to grow in the next decade. The best part is that many of these programs can be completed from your home!