Certificate programs for coding specialists prepare students to sit for the appropriate coding specialist national examinations. An associate's degree program in health information management strengthens coding specialists' leadership and management skills. Skills necessary for coding patients' health information can be obtained by completing a certificate program for coding specialists, a health information management associate's degree program or a bachelor's degree program in health information administration.
Certificate Program for Medical Coding Specialists
Coding specialists may choose from a plethora of certificate programs throughout the United States. All of them prepare coding specialist professionals to understand the standard coding languages known as International Classification of Disease (ICD-9) and Current Procedural Terminology (CPT).
The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) has multiple levels of certification designations. Students must pass national examinations to gain Certified Coding Associate (CCA), Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) and the Certified Coding Specialists - Physician-based (CCS-P) professional designations. Coding specialist certificate programs emphasize proficiency of ICD-9 and CPT codes. Many also introduce computer applications that help coding specialists record these codes. Certificate programs also include courses in medical terminology, anatomy and physiology.
Associate's Degree in Health Information Management
Coding professionals interested in obtaining AHIMA's Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) designation need to complete an accredited associate's degree program in health information management. Some programs may prefer candidates that have already completed a certificate program. Students become proficient lead coders in ICD-9 and CPT language. Students also build leadership and management skills necessary in day-to-day medical coding operations in hospitals, doctor's offices and other health facilities. This coursework covers:
- Medical science and terminology
- ICD-9 coding
- CPT coding
- Health care management
Bachelor's Degree in Health Information Administration
Coding specialists who advance their education with a bachelor's degree program hone their professional leadership and management skills. Graduates of this degree program seek top-level coding administrative positions in health information management offices in hospitals, mental health facilities, physician's offices and public health agencies.
A bachelor's degree program in health information administration trains these individuals to create, implement and operate accurate and efficient health information systems. These professionals often oversee numerous coding staff and work in tandem with other healthcare-related administrative offices. Coursework of a bachelor's degree program in health information administration prepares advanced coding specialists to administer health information applications and programs to small- and large-scale institutions. These courses explore:
- Health information management strategies
- Business administration principles
- Information technology applications
- Ethics law
- Privacy mandates and compliancy issues
Certificate programs for coding specialists prepare individuals to find employment in hospitals, doctor's offices, long-term care facilities, mental health institutions and public health organizations. Many graduates of an associate's degree program in health information management find managerial positions in hospitals and other healthcare-related institutions. Obtaining a bachelor's degree in health information administration leads many coding specialists to top administrator positions within healthcare institutions and governmental public health agencies. Completing one of these degree programs can qualify individuals to work as:
- Certified Coding Associates (CCA), Certified Coding Specialists (CCS)
- Certified Coding Specialists - Physician-based (CCS-P)
- Medical coding specialists and medical billing coders
- Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA)
- Medical coding administrator
- Compliance coding officer
Employment and Salary Prospects
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of employed medical records and health information technicians - a group that includes medical coders - was projected to increase 15% from 2014 to 2024. The BLS also noted that medical records and health information technicians earned mean yearly wage of $40,430 as of 2015.
Continuing Education Information
Upon successful completion of a certified coding examination, professionals are expected to maintain their certifications by completing continuing education units (CEUs) within their 2-year recertification cycle. The AHIMA states that CCAs, CCSs, and CCS-Ps must complete ten CEUs and perform two annual coding self-assessment reviews in order to maintain certification.
Graduates of an associate's degree program in health information management who are certified as RHITs need to pursue continual training. This includes 20 AHIMA-accredited continuing education units within their recertification cycle.
Registered Health Information Administrators need to maintain their certifications by completing 30 CEUs (continuing education units) as required within their recertification cycle. Other coding professionals often attend annual conferences or seminars that offer up-to-date information on this industry.
Programs in medical coding can prepare students for professional careers in the medical field as medical coding specialists and other similar occupations. These programs are available at the certificate, associate's and bachelor's degree levels.