Certificate and an associate's degree programs in medical billing are made to meet the entry-level needs of a high school graduates, as well as existing health care professionals looking to sharpen their skills. Often times, students may find these programs offered online. Graduates of these programs become proficient in using various types of medical office software programs. They may qualify to apply for valuable certification from professional organizations in this field.
Prior to enrollment students need to already have a high school diploma or GED equivalent. A strong background in English composition and punctuation along with the ability to able to type 40 words per minute is also strongly recommended. Biology and math courses may be required prior to starting the associates program. Internships may be required.
Medical Billing Specialist Certificate
Most one-year certificate programs prepare students to obtain certification from a variety of professional organizations. They cover the basics for people looking to be a medical billing specialist, such as medical claims processing and ICD, CPT and HCPCS coding. Higher degree programs include training and coursework in medical billing, but the most concentrated study in this area appears to be at the certificate level.
Coursework covers the basics in medical training and terminology, along with essential business skills needed to work in health care offices. Most programs include an internship. Classes may include:
- Medical terminology
- Data entry basics
- Health information management fundamentals
- Software applications for medical managers
- Human anatomy and physiology
Associate's Degree in Health Information
This two-year program offers instruction in all aspects of medical records management and health information, including medical billing. This degree program sometimes offers coursework that is transferable into a four-year bachelor's degree program in a related field. Associate's degree graduates will have received training in medical terminology and medical codes and reimbursement, and developed office skills needed to work in health care settings.
Students learn ICD, CPT and HCPCS coding needed for medical billing and research. Most programs prepare students for certification from a variety of professional organizations. Classes may include:
- Medicine and health technology
- ICD, CPT and HCPCS coding fundamentals
- Advanced billing and reimbursement coding
- Anatomy and physiology basics
- Health care information's legal and ethical issues
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) predicts an 8% job growth in employment from 2019 to 2029 for medical records and health information technicians; this group includes medical billing specialists. The median salary was $44,090 in May 2020, according to the BLS. These workers typically find jobs in doctors' offices, insurance companies, hospitals and other health care facilities.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
Many colleges offer 4-year bachelor's degree programs in health information technology that offer advanced coursework and training for aspiring managers. In some cases, coursework from associate's degree programs can be transferred.
Several professional organizations offer continuing education and certification opportunities for professionals in this field. For example, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), a professional organization, offers several credentials, such as the Registered Health Information Administrator, Registered Health Information Technician, Certified Coding Associate, Certified Coding Specialist, Certified Health Data Analyst and the Certified in Healthcare Privacy and Security designation.
Each of these certifications requires certain eligibility standards, such as a bachelor's degree or associate's degree and passage of an exam. Also, the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), Board of Medical Specialty Coding (BMSC) and Professional Association of Health Care Coding Specialists (PAHCS) have certifications in specialty coding.
Popular Career Options
While a graduate of associate's degree program in health information technology has the training to work as a medical billing specialist, other medical related careers are also an option. These include:
- Medical coding specialist
- Coding technician
- Medical administrative specialist
- Medical transcriptionist
Students with an interest in medical coding may do well as a medical billing specialist. These students may get the training needed to prepare for related certification exams by completing a Medical Billing Specialist Certificate or an associate's degree in health information.