What You Should Know About This Degree
Most medical coding programs offer either a certificate or an associate degree. Associate degrees take longer to finish than certificate programs, but the courses for an associate degree can later be applied to a bachelor’s degree. Consider your ultimate educational and career aspirations as you evaluate which of these two types of programs is right for you.
Online programs can usually be completed remotely, but some might have a brief in-person component. Check for any such component, and make sure it’s compatible with your schedule.
Certification in this field is optional, but almost all medical billers and coders are certified. You’ll have a hard time getting hired if you don’t hold a certification. The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) and the American Health Information Management Agency (AHIMA) are two nationally recognized certifying bodies.
Because certification is so important in the field, many programs will pay for your first certification exam. You’ll likely be responsible for additional attempts if you don’t pass on the first try.
Medical coding and medical billing are different job categories in the healthcare field. Medical coders work for healthcare providers, while medical billers work for insurers. The two professions use essentially the same knowledge, though, and the academic preparation for both jobs is the same.
As you evaluate medical coding programs, consider these questions:
- How long does it take to earn this online degree? Associate degrees usually require between 27 and 48 credits to complete. This will generally take two years if you study full-time. Certificates may be measured in courses, credits, or hours, and some can be done in as little as a few hundred hours. A few hundred hours takes a few weeks if you proceed the coursework at a full-time pace.
- Are courses offered synchronously or asynchronous? Coursework may be synchronous or asynchronous, meaning classes may be attended at a specific time or you may be allowed to do the work on your own schedule. Many programs offer a combination of synchronous classes and asynchronous homework.
When you identify a potential program, find out the required application materials submission deadlines. You can get this information from a program’s website or by contacting the admissions department directly.
Also consider how you’ll cover the cost of tuition. Depending on the program and your employment situation, you might qualify for financial aid, scholarships, or tuition reimbursement.