Degree programs related to medical data entry, such as those in medical coding and billing, are generally offered at the associate level and take two years to complete. Students enrolled in these programs learn the various codes, medical terms and abbreviations that apply to procedures and diagnoses. Those codes are used by insurance companies to make payments for ill and injured patients. Students also get an overview of the various types of employers that require data entry skills, including hospitals, doctor's offices, insurance companies and nursing homes.
During the program, students should build a strong sense of professional standards and communication in order to better interact with medical personnel and patients. Online classes are sometimes available.
To qualify for admission, students should have their high school diploma as well as keyboarding and computer skills.
Associate's Degree Programs in Medical Billing and Coding
Courses focus on the practicalities of the profession while also preparing students to work in one or more healthcare environments. Ethical standards are also emphasized, since maintaining confidentiality and accuracy are essential goals of the medical field. Some examples of common courses are:
- Healthcare environments
- Medical terminology
- Coding systems
- Reimbursement methods
- Medical records
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Medical records and health information technicians held down almost 190,000 positions in the field in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Many professionals worked for surgical and general hospitals, but the top-paying employer was the professional, scientific and technical services industry. As of May 2015, the mean annual wage for these professionals was $40,430. The BLS projected job growth of 15%, much faster than the average for all occupations, for medical records and health information technicians from 2014 to 2024.
It is common for medical coders and other health information technicians to earn certification or credentials. The American Health Information Management Association allows professionals to become Registered Health Information Technicians once they earn an associate's degree and pass a credentialing examination. The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) and the Board of Medical Specialty Coding (BMSC) also offer certification in the field.
For students interested in the clerical or administrative side of the medical field, a degree related to medical data entry, such as a medical billing and coding associate's degree, can provide a path to getting a job in this growing field.