There are no master's degree programs in medical coding, but students who are interested in entering the field may pursue an Associate of Applied Science in Medical Billing and Coding. Medical billing professionals who wish to pursue a graduate degree and advance to managerial positions may consider earning a Master of Science in Healthcare Management. The associate's-level program covers the fundamentals of medical coding and terminology. Master's degree programs in healthcare management focus largely on business administration and records management principles. In both of these programs, students can expect to take lecture-based courses and get hands-on training in the field.
Associate of Applied Science in Medical Billing and Coding
Associate's degree programs in medical billing and coding provide students with a basic understanding of the healthcare industry, medical procedures and medical terminology. Students are expected to learn how to transform records of medical procedures into a kind of shorthand code that can be used for record-keeping and billing purposes. Some vocational schools and community colleges offer work experience credits or externships at hospital, healthcare centers, or insurance companies. Common courses include:
- Healthcare systems
- Medical terminology
- Basic coding systems
- Diagnosis codes
- Reimbursement techniques
- Law and ethics in healthcare
In addition to a high school diploma or GED, students interested in enrolling in an associate's degree program related to medical coding should have a strong command of the English language and basic computer and keyboarding skills.
Master of Science in Health Information Management
While there are no master's degree programs in medical billing and coding, students who are interested in pursuing careers in medical records and management might consider enrolling in a master's degree program in health information management. This program combines elements of healthcare management, business administration and information technology and teaches students how to develop and manage the collection and recording of healthcare data. Courses found within a master's degree program in health information management combine the technical aspects of healthcare with management skills. Some examples of such classes are listed below:
- Health informatics
- Electronic health records
- Records management
- Coding and classification systems
- Human resource management
- Management principles
In order to apply, students must have a baccalaureate degree in a field such as organizational management, business management, information technology or healthcare management. Some professional experience in management or medical record keeping and coding could also be required.
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in 2014 that there were 188,600 medical records and health information technicians working in the United States (www.bls.gov). The majority of these individuals were employed by hospitals, physicians' offices and nursing care facilities. The highest-paying industry for medical records technicians in 2015 was professional, scientific, and technical services. The BLS further reports that the median annual salary of these professionals was $37,110 in 2015.
Medical and health services managers held 314,950 jobs in the United States in 2015, according to the BLS. The BLS reports that these individuals earned a median salary of $94,500 per year in 2015. Employment of medical and health services managers is predicted to rise 17% from 2012-2022, which is higher than the average for all occupations.
The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) offers certification for professional medical coders and billers. The credentials offered by this organization are purported to help medical records professionals gain employment or earn higher salaries in their current positions. Some available certifications include the Certified Professional Coder (CPC), the Certified Professional Coder - Outpatient Hospital (CPC-H) and the Certified Professional Coder - Payer (CPC-P).
In summary, if you are just starting a career in medical coding, you can pursue an associate's degree in the field. If you already have experience and want to advance your career, an MS in health information management is the most relevant graduate option.