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Medical coding and billing specialists are an essential part of the healthcare system, as they ensure that patients receive the care they need and that insurance companies can accurately process insurance claims. A medical coding certificate can provide the proper training that individuals need to enter this important and fast-growing field.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical record specialists earn a median annual salary of $47,180. Individuals with a background in medical coding and billing can advance into other positions in healthcare administration, including health information technologist and health services manager.

The number of credits required for medical coding certificates varies by program, with most requiring between 20 and 40 credits. Tuition rates vary as well, especially for public institutions that charge different tuition rates for in-state and out-of-state residents. For the programs on this list, the average per-credit tuition rate is $136 for in-state students and $198 for out-of-state students.

How to Choose a Medical Coding Certificate Program

Choose your area of study

When planning out your medical coding education, it’s important to take some time to reflect on your overall goals and review your options. Most medical coding jobs only require a post-secondary certificate, but full degrees are also available. Earning a degree in medical coding can help prepare students for a wider variety of healthcare administration jobs and also boost earning potential. If you don’t currently want to pursue a full degree, attending a certificate program that allows you to apply credits towards a degree can save you time and money later.

Another key consideration is what type of professional certification you’ll seek after earning your certificate. There are several organizations that offer professional certifications in medical coding and billing, including the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), and the Practice Management Institute (PMI).

Having professional certification demonstrates your medical coding competency and familiarity with industry practices. When researching programs, find out which professional certification standards their curriculums align with. Obtaining professional certification from one of the above organizations is a separate process from earning your medical coding certificate from a post-secondary institution.

This is also a good time to determine your logistical needs, including whether you want a full- or part-time program and what your budget is for tuition and expenses. There are also many online medical coding certificate programs available in case remote learning is more accessible for you.

Research schools and programs

Setting parameters will make it easier to research programs and narrow down your options. You can typically find essential information about programs, including curriculum, cost, program completion time, enrollment procedures, and student outcomes, on a school’s website or by contacting their admissions office. Attending in-person or virtual open houses can also help you get a sense of the school’s culture and students.

When researching medical coding programs, it’s also essential to verify the school’s accreditation status. In the U.S., all public and most private 2- and 4-year institutions are regionally accredited, while trade schools and career colleges tend to have national accreditation. Both types of accreditation are valid, but attending a regionally accredited school gives students more flexibility to transfer credits between schools and is typically valued more by employers. A school’s accreditation status can also impact a student’s eligibility for federal financial aid. Students can check their school’s accreditation status via the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) database.

Prepare your application

The application process and requirements for medical coding certificate programs vary by institution. Visit the school’s website or contact their admissions office to get the most accurate information about how and when to apply to their program.

Some programs require a full application, while others allow students to enroll directly without submitting an application. The common elements of an application for a certificate in medical coding and billing include:

  • Completed application and fee
  • Official high school transcript
  • Resume or CV
  • Letter(s) of recommendation
  • SAT or ACT scores

Be mindful of application deadlines and start terms. Some programs have multiple start terms throughout the academic year, while others only enroll new students once or twice per year. Failing to meet application submission deadlines can impact your ability to start on time.

Select your program

Once you’ve collected enough research to make an informed decision, compare programs based on your priorities to determine which best meets your goals and personal needs. If multiple programs seem like a good fit, you can apply to all of them and choose based on where you are accepted.

Some things to consider when comparing programs are curriculum, faculty qualifications and areas of expertise, cost, available financial aid, course delivery method, and completion time.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

As part of your research process, you should also gather information about the cost of the program and available financial aid resources. This information is also typically available on the school’s website, or you can speak to a financial aid counselor if you have questions.

If you plan on using federal student aid, like loans, grants, or work-study, confirm that the program is eligible for this type of funding. Not all certificate programs are eligible for federal student aid, so if this is something you’ll need, be sure to select a program that is eligible.

To be considered for federal student aid and most forms of institutional need-based aid, you must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You can also explore merit-based aid resources, like scholarships from your school, private organizations, non-profit foundations, or community groups.If you’re working while earning your medical coding certificate, find out if your employer offers tuition assistance benefits. For students who are active military service members or veterans, find out if the school accepts GI Bill benefits or discounted tuition.

Best 50 Accredited Medical Coding Certificate Programs

Best Medical Coding Certificate Programs

GateWay Community College

Sinclair Community College

Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College

South Georgia Technical College

Paris Junior College

Barton County Community College

Southwest Wisconsin Technical College

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How we rank schools

This list reviews the best medical coding certificate programs in the U.S. A certificate is often not required by employers in the industry but helps you learn skills needed for the job and makes you a more attractive candidate for open medical coding positions.

We only selected programs accredited by institutions such as the Higher Learning Commission, the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities, and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. This accreditation ensures that the program has high academic standards and also means you will be able to transfer your credits between schools.

What Can You Expect From a Medical Coding Certificate Program?

Medical coding education introduces students to the various coding systems and procedures used to track patient information for healthcare networks, health insurance companies, and other entities. Students will learn the technical aspects of the job as well as laws and regulations that govern patient confidentiality and healthcare systems, health insurance policies, and formulas for calculating reimbursements. In terms of soft skills, medical coders must develop their attention to detail, analytical thinking, and proficiency in working with numbers and formulas.

There is often an experiential learning component of medical coding programs, such as an internship, which gives students hands-on experience in a healthcare setting. Internship sites may include physicians’ offices, hospitals, or outpatient treatment facilities. Students should verify experiential learning requirements and confirm they can accommodate them before enrolling in a certificate program.

Potential courses you’ll take in a medical coding certificate program

  • Introductory Medical Office Coding: Provides students with a basic understanding of medical coding language and procedures.
  • Medical Terminology: Covers essential terminology including anatomic, diagnostic, symptomatic, procedural, eponymic terms and standard abbreviations required for a working knowledge and understanding of the language of medicine.
  • Drug Classification for Coding: Introduces students to the major drug classifications, common drugs in each class, conditions for which drugs are administered, and their general effects.
  • Introduction to Healthcare Delivery: Gives students an orientation to the healthcare delivery system, including history, economics, medical/legal issues, professionalism, ethics, sociological aspects, and wellness concepts.
  • Medical Billing and Insurance: Introduces students to the necessary components for managing the medical insurance claims process in various healthcare settings, including inpatient and outpatient hospitals and outpatient physician offices.

Medical Coding Certificate Program Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to a medical coding certificate program?

Review the program’s website or contact an admissions counselor to find out what the program requires for admission. Some programs require an application, while others allow direct enrollment without an application. For direct enrollment programs, students must typically submit proof of a high school diploma or GED and pay a registration fee.

Applicants may also have to submit official transcripts from previously attended schools, a resume or CV, a personal statement, letters of recommendation, and SAT or ACT scores.

Find out if the program accepts new students on a rolling basis or if there are specific deadlines for new enrollment.

How much does a medical coding certificate program cost?

The cost of a medical coding certificate program depends on multiple factors, including whether the institution is public or private and whether students attending a public school are considered in-state or out-of-state. For example, of the programs on our list, the average per-credit tuition rate for in-state students is $136, while out-of-state students pay an average of $198 per credit hour. Because most programs assess tuition on a per-credit basis, programs that require more credits tend to be more expensive.

Keep in mind that financial aid like scholarships, loans, grants, and employer tuition assistance benefits will impact the total amount you pay out of pocket.

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

The length of time it takes to complete a medical coding certificate depends on the total number of credits the program requires as well as the pace of the program. Some programs can be completed in as little as ten months, while others may take up to two years. Full-time students will finish their certificate programs faster than those who attend on a part-time basis.

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