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Demand for medical coding and billing employees is growing quickly due to an aging population and the digitization of medical records.

Medical records specialists maintain patient files and earn an average yearly salary of $47,180. A major part of maintaining accurate patient files is assigning clinical codes to medical services for billing, insurance reimbursement, and data analysis. There are certificate and associate degree programs that prepare graduates for a career as a medical coding and billing employee or medical records specialist. You can complete a certificate program in as little as nine months. The credit requirements range between 28 and 60 credits, and the yearly cost is $3,885 at a two-year college.

How to Choose a Medical Billing and Coding Program

Choose your area of study

Many medical coding and billing employers require certification for job placement. Base certificates include:

Advanced certificates require one or more of the above, plus a related associate or bachelor’s degree:

Consider your career goals before choosing your path. Certificate holders find work in hospitals, physicians’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, research facilities, and legal offices.

Programs vary from online to on-campus, with and without labs, and with or without work experience requirements. Your study schedule can also impact your decision, whether you want to complete it quickly with full-time studies or continue working while attending classes part-time.

Research schools and programs

The program you choose can influence your career path. Select from accredited schools to ensure you meet the required courses to sit for your certification exams and that your credits are transferable if you plan to continue your education later.

Schedule an in-person or video chat appointment with the admissions counselor or program representative. They can answer your questions and follow up in real time, giving you an idea of the support systems in place for their students.

If possible, attend an in-person or virtual information session and talk to the instructors and past graduates.

Prepare for tests and applications

Many schools that offer medical coding and billing programs have a high acceptance rate. The minimum requirement for admission is proof of high school graduation or equivalency (GED), proof of associate degree, or self-certification acknowledgment. A letter of recommendation, relevant employment history, and a short essay detailing why you’d be a good candidate for their program may be additional requirements.

Program graduates may need to sit for a separate certification exam with the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). The process for each school will vary. Contact the admissions counselor for the most current information and confirm their program meets the certification requirements for the chosen career path.

Select your program

Many schools offer suitable programs, and the high acceptance rate suggests you’ll have several options. Once you receive your notices of acceptance, review your career and personal goals and make adjustments as needed before selecting your final choice.

Set parameters for your study load and other logistical needs in your criteria list. Consider your learning style to maximize your chances of success. Do you work better in a self-directed course delivery method? Can you work full-time and complete online studies? Are you able to attend in-person labs? Do you learn better in a synchronous or asynchronous learning model?

These considerations and your home situation can significantly influence your ability to complete the program and your overall career success.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Financial considerations are the final determination in your program selection. You can complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application. The results of your application help institutions determine your eligibility for need-based financial aid, including grants, scholarships, and loans.

If you currently work in medical billing, your employer may be willing to pay for part or all of your education.

You can also look for community groups, non-profit organizations, and private foundations that offer relevant program funding. Be prepared to submit an essay detailing how your values align with their organization and why you are a good candidate for a grant or scholarship.

Best 50 Accredited Medical Coding and Billing Programs

Best Medical Billing and Coding Degree Programs_2024 badge

Keiser University

Weber State University

Eastern Gateway Community College

Cowley County Community College

Dakota State University

Washburn University

Idaho State University

East Mississippi Community College

Peirce College

Fortis College-Centerville

Sinclair Community College

Northwest Technical College

Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College

South Georgia Technical College

Southwest Wisconsin Technical College

Waubonsee Community College

Paris Junior College

Ivy Tech Community College

Barton County Community College

Gallatin College MSU

Discover More Options

How we rank schools

This list features some of the best medical and coding degree programs at top colleges across the country. Each school featured is a nonprofit, regionally accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for postsecondary education. Many of these options also have programmatic accreditation from agencies like the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Health Information Management (CAHIIM), both of which are reputable organizations that assess healthcare programs for educational excellence.

We evaluated each school’s program on admission, retention, and graduation rates as well as tuition costs, faculty, reputation, and the resources provided for on-campus students. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of medical and coding degree programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like U.S. News & World Report, among others, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

What Can You Expect From a Medical Coding and Billing Program?

Medical coding and billing graduates can expect to learn the core-level medical information required to advance their careers in medical administration. Graduates learn anatomy, medical law and ethics, medical terminology, and classification systems to code procedures and diagnoses. Some programs require biology labs or workplace internships.

It takes about two years of full-time study to complete the 60 credits required for an Associate of Science in medical billing and coding. Some options are shorter, requiring only 28 to 31 credits —  these programs usually take between nine months to one year to complete.

Potential courses you’ll take in a medical coding and billing program

  • Anatomy: Students learn human anatomy and physiology. The main focus is on muscles, bones, organs, and the circulatory, digestive, immune, nervous, respiratory, and reproductive systems.
  • Medical terminology: Medical terminology courses help students become familiar with terms and pronunciations they are likely to encounter in the medical field. 
  • Medical office procedures with insurance: Students learn to communicate with medical insurance companies, prepare and process medical documentation, and use computerized medical billing.
  • Technical and professional writing: These courses introduce students to writing in a business environment. This includes composing emails, replying to emails, drafting referral letters, and other professional documents.

Medical Coding and Billing Program Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to a medical coding and billing program?

Most programs require you to apply online. Visit the school’s website for specific details and to start the application process. Have digital copies of your transcripts, high school diploma or GED, and proof that you completed any related courses or certifications.

A resume or CV can further your application if it contains related work experience.

A well-written essay detailing why you want to take the program may also be a requirement. Include details about your values, why you want to attend their school, and what makes you a good candidate for the program.

How much does a medical coding and billing program cost?

Medical coding and billing program costs vary by institution and course delivery method. Other considerations include whether you are an in-state or out-of-state student, the course length, and whether you’ve enrolled in full-time or part-time studies.

The average cost is $3,885 per year at a two-year college. Additional costs include uniforms, lab fees, and online classroom technology fees. Your total out-of-pocket cost will also depend on your ability to get funding, including grants, loans, and scholarships.

How long does it take to earn a medical coding and billing certificate?

The length of time it takes to complete a medical coding and billing program depends on several factors, including whether you study full-time or part-time and the program length. Some certificate programs only require 28 to 35 credits, while an associate degree in medical coding and billing requires 60 credits.

You can earn a medical billing and coding certificate in as few as eight months and an associate science degree in two years.

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