How to become a medical biller and coder: 4 medical billing and coding courses online

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Medical billers and coders handle health care claims and payments for health care providers, insurance companies, and patients. They do so by using universal medical codes, which describe the treatments and services a patient receives, as well as what the provider charges so insurance companies can provide reimbursement.

Medical billers and coders work for hospitals, doctor’s offices, and other medical facilities. They ensure these facilities continue to run smoothly by securing payer reimbursements, adhering to regulatory compliance, and enabling continuity of care. 

With the rising need for health care services across the U.S., medical billing and coding is a rapidly growing field. It’s also a great choice if you’re looking for a rewarding career change. 

“Medical coding and billing are excellent career choices because there is so much room for growth,” says Kaitlyn Brack, a medical coding quality analyst and approved instructor for the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). 

Though many medical billing and coding jobs require you to be onsite in a physician’s office, hospital, or clinic, a number of flexible, work-from-home opportunities also exist. 

Coders and billers can specialize in different types of health care or learn specific skill sets like auditing, compliance, practice management, medical transcription, revenue cycle, and health informatics.

You do not need a degree to become a medical coder, though most employers prefer candidates who have a certificate from a certified medical coding program (plus certified medical billers and coders make more money). According to the AAPC, medical coders, on average, make $47,200 per year without certification and $60,097 with certification.

Here's what you need to know about becoming a medical biller and coder:

How to become a medical biller and coder: 3 steps

If you’re interested in becoming a medical biller and coder, these are some steps you should take:

Step 1: Take an online course

While a certificate is not necessary to become a medical coder, having one will make you stand out in an applicant pool. And if you are making a career change, having some training will certainly be beneficial when you seek employment. 

To become a certified medical coder, you will need to pass one of several standardized exams. Training programs for these exams are offered at vocational and technical schools throughout the country. You will need a high school diploma or equivalent to apply. 

These programs provide training for national certification exams and entry-level positions in medical billing and coding. Most coding programs can be completed in a year or less, and many are offered online. 

Step 2: Obtain certification

After you complete a program in medical billing and coding, the next step is to get certified. To do this, you will need to receive a passing score on specific exams. 

There isn’t one single accreditation agency for medical coding in the United States, but there are several organizations that offer certifications for aspiring medical coders. The AAPC and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) offer some of the most commonly recognized medical coding certificates.

Step 3: Search for jobs with ZipRecruiter and other online job boards

Once you’ve obtained certification, it’s time to start seeking employment. Be sure to update your resume so it includes all relevant training, certifications, and skills potential employers will be looking for in a successful candidate. Include any internships and relevant work experience in your applications.

Brack also has a set of criteria she looks for in the hiring process.

“I looked for individuals who are detail-oriented, eager to learn, who have a strong affinity for compliance, are invested in their education, and who display professionalism,” she says.

Companies hiring for positions in medical billing and coding often post on job sites like ZipRecruiter, Indeed, and LinkedIn. You may also be able to find remote medical billing and coding jobs on FlexJobs.com.

Many schools that offer certification programs have a career services department that can assist you with your resume, interview prep, and job search. 

Medical coding certifications

If you are interested in a career in medical coding, it’s a good idea to become credentialed. While it is not a requirement for every company, many employers do require or prefer to hire credentialed employees. 

“If you look at medical coding job postings, you will see verbiage like, ‘CPC (Certified Professional Coder) Required,’” Brack says. You might consider the following courses in your journey to get certified:

Certified Professional Coder (CPC®)

Passing the AAPC’s Certified Professional Coder exam is the final step to being credentialed as a CPC. The AAPC offers a CPC Preparation Course to help students get up to speed to pass the exam.

The course, which can be completed in 4 to 6 months, teaches fundamental coding skills for professional services. Students will leave the course with a broad knowledge in reviewing and assigning the correct procedure and diagnosis code for physician services. 

The CPC Preparation Course is available online and can be done at your own pace for $2,595  or live with virtual instruction at set times for $3,395. 

Certified Coding Associate (CCA®)

The Certified Coding Associate (CCA) credential from the AHIMA is another great option to help you begin a career in medical coding. Candidates who pass the CCA exam will have successfully demonstrated coding competencies across hospital and physician practices. 

You can prepare for the exam at your own pace with an online medical coding course or if you prefer an academic setting, the AHIMA has partnered with a number of accredited schools throughout the country where you can take a course in person. Many of these schools also offer online programs. On the AHIMA’s website, there is a directory of 27 Professional Certificate Approval Programs. Inquire with each school for the format and cost of the course.

Free online medical billing and coding courses

To learn more in general about a career in medical billing or coding, consider taking this introductory course from Udemy. The 60-minute mini course covers an overview of medical billing and coding tasks, teaches students how to assign medical codes in a family practice setting, and offers insight into education and experience options to become a medical biller and coder. Check out Udemy’s free introductory course >>

Many students across the U.S. are eligible for financial aid, which can cover some or all of the tuition for a course in medical coding, such as the University of Cincinnati’s Online Medical Coder Certificate Program. The curriculum prepares students for both the CPC and CCA exams. The course can be completed in a year and can be done either full or part-time. Students can see if they’re eligible for financial aid by completing the FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form. Various scholarships are also available from the school.

If you’re a single mom, you can also check out our post with 21 scholarships for single moms.

FAQs about medical billing and coding certifications

Which medical billing and coding certification is best?

For people starting out in medical coding, a CPC or CCA certification is best. “Additional specialty certifications are going to be dependent on the direction your career takes or the place you want it to go,” Brack says.

Which medical coding certification pays the most?

CPC or CPA certification are considered core credentials. According to the AAPC, passing the CPC exam elevates your earning potential by more than $25,000 above annual salaries as those without the medical coding certification. In 2022, CPC salaries average $58,055 per year, the AAPC reports. After obtaining core credentials, you can then go on to achieve additional specialty certifications that can increase your salary. 

Brack offers her career path as an example of salary potential as a medical coder: “When I became certified with my CPC, my pay increased $12,000 per year; when I was promoted and passed the Certified Family Practice Coder (CFPC) certification, my pay increased by an additional $6,000 per year; my next career move came after passing the Certified Evaluation and Management Coder (CEMC) certification, and that increased my pay by an additional $9K. There are four core coding certifications, 18 specialty coding certifications, and limitless opportunities.”

FAQs about medical billing and coding as a job

Is medical billing and coding hard?

Medical billing and coding may not be for everyone, Brack says. However, as with most things, persistence pays off. 

“I was one of those people that did not excel in the typical subjects, but medical coding clicked for me almost instantly,” Brack says. “The more I invested in my education, the easier those aspects of coding came to me. This career field is one that you get out of it what you put into it.” 

Check out this video that shows a day in the life of a medical biller and coder:

Is medical coding a stressful job?

Every profession has its stresses, and medical coding is no different. 

“The most stressful pieces of this profession derive from frequent guideline and coding updates, education, among other things, but that is also what entices so many of us that have a true appreciation for the field,” Brack says.

Does medical coding require math?

Medical coding requires some math, but not extensively, Brack notes. She says most of the time basic addition is involved in billing units of medication, procedures, and other services. 

“The services that are billed based on time, like anesthesia, it’s being able to translate minutes into units,” she says. 

What is medical billing and coding salary?

Brack says pay is highly dependent on whether a person is credentialed, the number of credentials they hold, years of experience, and their employer. 

The AAPC has a salary checker that can help you assess your salary potential. The organization reports that on average, medical coders make $54,797 annually ($47,200 per year without certification and $60,097 with certification).

Ziprecruiter lists the national average salary for medical coders at $44,772 per year ($67,500 at the high end). 

Bottom line: Is medical billing and coding worth it?

Medical billing and coding can be a rewarding career choice with room for growth and good earning potential. Get started with a core certification to get a broad knowledge of the medical coding field, then you can move on to additional certifications and specialities if desired.

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Which medical billing and coding certification is best?

For people starting out in medical coding, a CPC or CCA certification is best. “Additional specialty certifications are going to be dependent on the direction your career takes or the place you want it to go,” says Kaitlyn Brack, a medical coding quality analyst and approved instructor for the American Academy of Professional Coders.

Which medical coding certification pays the most?

CPC or CPA certification are considered core credentials. According to the AAPC, passing the CPC exam elevates your earning potential by more than $25,000 above annual salaries as those without the medical coding certification. In 2022, CPC salaries average $58,055 per year, the AAPC reports. After obtaining core credentials, you can then go on to achieve additional specialty certifications that can increase your salary.

Is medical coding a stressful job?

Every profession has its stresses, and medical coding is no different.

Does medical coding require math?

Medical coding requires some math, but not extensively, says Kaitlyn Brack, a medical coding quality analyst and approved instructor for the American Academy of Professional Coders. She says most of the time basic addition is involved in billing units of medication, procedures, and other services.

What is medical billing and coding salary?

The American Academy of Professional Coders has a salary checker that can help you assess your salary potential. The organization reports that on average, medical coders make $54,797 annually ($47,200 per year without certification and $60,097 with certification).

Is medical billing and coding worth it?

Medical billing and coding can be a rewarding career choice with room for growth and good earning potential. Get started with a core certification to get a broad knowledge of the medical coding field, then you can move on to additional certifications and specialities if desired.

Ashley Welch has more than a decade of experience in both breaking news and long-form storytelling. She served as the health editor for CBSNews.com for several years, reporting, writing, and editing daily health news articles and features. She currently works as a freelance editor and writer for a number of health, wellness, and lifestyle outlets, including Oprah.com and Healthline.

Ashley holds a bachelor's degree from Fordham University and a master's degree from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York, where she studied health and science reporting.

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