Associate of Applied Science (AAS): Health Care Degree Overviews

Oct 15, 2019

Students pursuing careers in health care have a variety of options available to them at the associate's level. Students can get an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in health care administration, medical assisting or medical coding and billing.

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Essential Information

There are several AAS degree options related to health care. Options include Associate of Applied Science in Health Care Administration programs that teach the fundamentals of health care office management. Students who want to assist doctors can apply to an Associate of Applied Science for Medical Assistants program, which consists of coursework and clinical studies. Aspiring medical coders and health information technicians could choose an Associate of Applied Science for Medical Coding and Billing program, which teaches records management and ICD-9 coding procedures.

Depending on the program, students might be required to participate in laboratory experiences, practicums, clinical experiences, or internships. Each program takes about two years to complete and has its own educational requirements for admission, but the minimum requirement is a high school diploma or the equivalent.

Associate of Applied Science in Health Care Administration

In these programs, students learn to perform office duties in health care settings, including collecting and interpreting data, analyzing and solving issues using health care ethical and legal principles and training employees. Students can also develop managerial skills useful in the operation of health care facilities.

The curriculum for these programs typically includes coursework and internships where students obtain hands-on training in an office setting. Course topics might include:

  • Patient record keeping
  • Insurance claims preparation
  • Accounting
  • Health care management
  • Health care laws
  • Human resource management

Associate of Applied Science for Medical Assistants

These programs usually combine administrative training with medical training, while teaching students about examination room procedures, medical lab testing, medical transcription and general office procedures. This can include coursework and hands-on training in areas like equipment sterilization, medical records management, patient preparation and laboratory testing. In addition to high school diplomas or equivalent, prospective students may be required to show proof of current immunizations, physical examinations and CPR certification.

In these programs, students typically complete coursework, conduct lab studies and participate in clinical education. The clinical education is commonly offered in the form of supervised internships and practicums. Course topics may include:

  • Medical transcription
  • Human diseases
  • Health care communications
  • Medical insurance billing
  • Medical terminology
  • Anatomy and physiology

Associate of Applied Science for Medical Coding and Billing

Medical coding and billing programs are typically offered at technical schools and community colleges and can usually be completed in less than two years. Students can learn medical terminology, insurance coding and various administrative duties to assist in the preparation and submission of insurance and billing documents. In addition to coursework, students complete supervised internships to obtain hands-on experience in a medical setting. Course topics may include the following:

  • Manual and computerized accounting
  • Collections
  • ICD-9 coding
  • Medical transcription
  • Records management
  • Medisoft office management software

Popular Career Options

Graduates of health care administration programs are qualified for office positions in various medical settings. Possible career titles may include:

  • Billing clerk
  • Front office assistant
  • Data entry clerk
  • Admissions clerk
  • Medical records clerk

Upon completing training programs, medical coding graduates are qualified for employment in physician offices, clinics, hospitals, nursing homes and insurance companies. Common career titles may include:

  • Medical coders
  • Coding specialists
  • Health information technicians
  • Medical records technicians
  • Medical records coders

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for medical assistants is expected to grow 23% between 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than average. As of May 2018, medical assistants earned a median annual salary of $33,610, reported the BLS.

Continuing Education and Certification Information

Graduates of health care administration associate's degree programs interested in becoming medical and health service managers can pursue bachelor's degrees, and eventually master's degrees, in health administration. A master's degree may be required for aspiring medical and health services managers.

Professional certification can also enhance employment and earning potential. In addition to earning the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) certification, graduates of health care administration associate's degree programs are eligible to sit for the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) exam through the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), along with the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) certification examination.

Graduates of medical assistant associate degree programs can go on to pursue bachelor's degrees in related medical fields, including nursing or health care administration. Although medical assistants are not required to be licensed or certified, many employers may prefer certification as a demonstration of their knowledge and skill in the profession. The American Medical Technologists (AMT) and the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) both offer certification to medical assistants who pass a written exam.

Graduates of medical coding and billing programs can also pursue further education through bachelor's or master's degree programs in health care administration in order to advance into medical and health service management positions.

Additionally, the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), the Board of Medical Specialty Coding & Compliance (BMSC) and the Professional Association of Healthcare Coding Specialists (PAHCS) offer specialty coding certifications.

Overall, no matter which healthcare AAS program you choose, you will graduate with the skills you need to apply for entry-level jobs in the healthcare industry or pursue higher level studies in the field.

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