How to Become a Medical Billing Clerk: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a medical billing clerk. Research the education requirements, certification information, and experience required for starting a career as a medical billing clerk. View article »

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Video Transcript

Medical Billing Clerks

Medical billing clerks prepare invoices, code medical procedures, and send out bills to patients. Career opportunities are available in various types of medical facilities, including hospitals, clinics and private practices. Clerks gather data after an appointment to determine the amount of the bill, including information about the procedures and tests a doctor administered to a patient.

In settings that are open around the clock, clerks might work overnight or weekend hours. Medical billing clerks spend many of their work hours seated and looking at computer monitors.

Career Requirements

Degree Level None required, but a certificate or associate's degree can be helpful
Degree Name Medical billing and coding
Licensure and Certification Voluntary certification available from the American Academy of Professional Coders
Key Skills Basic math skills, good communication skills, understanding of medical terminology and billing procedures; detail-oriented and proficient in using coding and financial software programs
Median Salary (2015) $37,110 (for medical records and health information technicians)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015)

Steps to Be a Medical Billing Clerk

Step 1: Obtain Postsecondary Training

Medical billing and coding programs are available at the certificate and associate's levels. While both programs feature similar courses and cover the same topics, those who earn an associate's degree have the option of continuing their education at the bachelor's degree level. Courses typically cover topics like medical billing, coding medical procedures, medical terminology, and insurance billing. Students become familiar with CPT, ICD-9 and HCPCS manuals, which include medical codes for insurance companies and reimbursements. Opportunities are also available to learn how to complete insurance forms and file claims.

Some programs can prepare graduates to take the exams for relevant certifications, such as the Certified Professional Coder designation from the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) or the Certified Coding Associate certification from the American Health Information Management Association. Programs that give students standard training plus preparation for advancing their career may save time and money.

Step 2: Gain Experience

Employers look for applicants who have billing and collecting experience. In some cases, employers only want candidates who have experience in medical or hospital billing, and those who have worked in the field become more and more valuable.

Step 3: Obtain Certification

Although certification is rarely a hard requirement to become a medical billing clerk, some employers give preference to candidates who have a coding certification of some kind. The AAPC offers the Certified Professional Coder designation, which shows that the holder is proficient at reading medical charts and is able to assign the correct code to a variety of medical services. According to a salary survey conducted by AAPC, coders with advanced certification tend to earn more than those without one.

Step 4: Consider Additional Training

Obtaining education beyond the certificate or associate's degree levels can lead to administrative or management opportunities in the health care or insurance industries. For example, earning a bachelor's degree in healthcare management may open doors to new career paths.

Medical billing clerks could pursue a certificate or an associate's degree in medical billing and coding, and certification could be helpful.

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