Not all jobs in healthcare involve providing medical assistance. For example, you can work as a health information technician, which involves filing and categorizing patient data for insurance reimbursement claims, or you could work as a medical billing manager.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the career outlook for medical and billing coding technicians—which is a common job in healthcare that does not involve providing care to patients—is promising. Employment of these workers is expected to grow by 11% by 2028, which is “much faster than average.”
Billing and coding professionals play a crucial role in our public infrastructure. People who work in areas such as billing management help hospitals to stay up and running while managing all of the administrative work that goes into providing healthcare.
The COVID-19 crisis has illuminated the importance of everyone in the healthcare sector, with people who work in medical billing and coding playing a key role in fighting the crisis.
If working in medical billing and coding is interesting to you, there’s one thing you should know: these jobs typically require certification or a college degree.
In this guide, we’re going to break down the top 10 online medical billing and coding schools. We’ll discuss the background behind these programs, their tuition, and what you can expect in the curriculum for each type of degree in this field.
Online Medical Billing and Coding Degree Rankings in 2020
The growth of distance education has resulted in a number of colleges offering their medical billing and coding degrees online. Because there are so many programs out there, it can be difficult to find one that is right for you. Here is a list of the top five low-cost medical coding and billing programs online that will help illustrate a glimpse of what’s out there:
- Degree: Medical Coding Occupational Endorsement
- Tuition: $175/credit
- Credit Requirement: 13 credits
The University of Alaska Fairbanks offers 35 online certificate and degree programs, which includes an occupational endorsement certificate in medical coding and billing. This course prepares you for employment in medical offices and hospitals as a medical coder and biller.
In the program, you’ll learn how to analyze medical codes, assign codes, and index diagnoses and procedures for reimbursement purposes. The course consists of 13 credits that cover topics such as medical terminology and medical coding.
As a student, you’ll be able to participate in a wide range of student activities alongside your degree, many of which can be run online. For instance, the university has a range of media outlets that are maintained by student volunteers, as well as an entire student activities office that oversees events at the school.
- Degree: Medical Billing and Coding Certification
- Duration: 11 months
Community Care College serves around half of its students online and is known for its medical coding and billing program.
As a student in its medical coding and billing program, you’ll learn about medical terminology, diagnostic and procedural coding, medical insurance, and other topics related to healthcare administration. Community Care College also offers resume writing, interviewing, and job search workshops to help you prepare for a job in medical coding and billing.
Notably, organizations such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cherokee Nation, Union Pines Surgery Center, and Oklahoma Medical Billing have all hired graduates from the school’s medical coding and billing program.
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- Degree: Medical Coding Specialist Certificate
- Tuition: $4,459 (total)
- Duration: 1 year
- Credit Requirement: 29 credits
The Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College (WITC) provides a specialist certification in medical coding. This program will prepare you for entry-level coding jobs in hospitals, clinics, and care facilities.
In this program, you’ll learn how to collect health data, apply coding systems, model professional behaviors, and use technology to support coding. You’ll study topics such as intermediate coding, human disease, and diagnosis coding.
According to a 2017-2018 graduate survey by WITC, 88% of its billing and coding specialist graduates were employed, 44% of which were employed in a related field. The range of yearly salaries earned by graduates of this program was $27,559 to $86,293.
- Degree: Associate of Applied Science in Medical Coding
- Tuition: $178.15/credit
- Duration: 2 years
- Credit Requirement: 60 credits
Northwest Technical College (NTC) offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in medical coding. This program provides comprehensive training in the nationally-recognized coding systems used to classify medical treatments.
In this program, you’ll learn about topics such as human anatomy, medical billing, insurance, and pharmacology. As a student at NTC, you’ll be able to access free tutoring for most subject areas in your degree. You’ll also be able to access the school’s online library catalog which provides a range of resources you may be able to use in your degree.
- Degree: Associate of Science in Medical Administrative Billing and Coding
- Duration: 2 years
- Credit Requirement: 60 credits
Keiser University offers an Associate of Science degree in billing and coding through its Fort Lauderdale Online Division campus. This program will prepare you to assign accurate medical codes for procedures offered by workers in the healthcare sector.
As a student in this program, you’ll be prepared for entry-level employment in billing and coding. You will also be prepared to take the American Academy of Professional Coders certification exam, which is incredibly valuable in the field.
Courses in Keiser University’s billing and coding program cover medical law and ethics, pharmacology, medical office management, coding, and more. Your associate degree will also include classes in mathematics, English, and the humanities to round out your studies.
What Is Medical Billing and Coding?
Medical billing and coding is an essential part of the healthcare system.
Behind every diagnosis given, or treatment prescribed, there is a code that is used for billing purposes. People who work in medical billing and coding can interpret these codes and turn them into the services that are listed on a patient’s bill.
The codes used in medical billing and coding are used by healthcare providers, government bodies, insurance companies, and other organizations involved in administering or tracking healthcare.
What Is the Difference Between Medical Billing and Coding?
Medical billing and coding both work together to make sure the payment side of hospital care runs smoothly. Medical coding involves assigning a code to each medical service provided by a doctor or a nurse and tracking those codes. Medical billing is where a bill will be created based on the services a patient has used while under care.
The bill created by a medical biller and coder is sent to an insurance company, who will calculate how much it must pay, and then the patient is sent the final bill.
Online Medical Billing and Coding Degree Offerings
Do you want to pursue a career in medical billing and coding? If so, there are plenty of educational options open to you that will help you acquire the skills and the knowledge you need to kickstart your career.
Online medical billing and coding classes have become especially common. These degrees offer more flexibility than traditional in-person offerings because you can study from anywhere. You may also have more flexibility over your schedule if you attend an online program.
There are three main types of training available in medical billing and coding:
- Associate’s Degree
- Bachelor’s Degree
Online Medical Billing and Coding Certificate
Most people who work in medical and billing have some post-secondary education in this space. Rather than pursuing a degree in healthcare, many workers opt for a certificate program, which will train you in everything you need to know to break into this career.
Certificate programs usually take between nine months and a year to complete.
Online Medical Billing and Coding Certificate Admission Requirements
Typically, online medical billing and coding certificate programs require you to have a high school diploma or a GED. You may also have to submit your official transcripts and general college entrance exam scores, depending on the program to which you have applied.
Online Medical Billing and Coding Certificate Curriculum
The entire curriculum of an online medical billing and coding program is focused on helping you understand how to translate medical diagnoses and procedures into a special code. These codes are used in labs, results notes, charts, and more, to help a hospital keep track of the services rendered to a particular patient.
In your certificate program, you can expect to cover topics such as:
- How to use computerized patient record systems
- How to manage and store data in compliance with relevant laws
- How healthcare services are organized
- The role of codes in the healthcare process
- Managing medical bills and codes
- Quality management procedures
The exact content of your course will depend on the course for which you have applied. Some programs will teach hospital case studies, whereas others may cover how to evaluate the quality of healthcare data, for instance.
Online Medical Billing and Coding Certificate Progression
Once you graduate from an online certificate in medical billing and coding, you’ll be prepared to enter into an entry-level position in this field. The most common entry-level positions available are being a medical billing clerk, an insurance claims analyst or adjuster, or a medical coder.
Online Medical Billing and Coding Associate’s Degree
While a certificate program is often sufficient to pursue an entry-level role in medical billing and coding, associate degrees are another common entry path. Associate degrees explore the intricacies of medical coding and billing in more depth than a certificate program, and will also cover broader courses such as medical finance and reimbursement systems.
Online Medical Billing and Coding Associate’s Degree Requirements
You’ll need to have a high school diploma or equivalent certification to enroll in an online medical billing and coding associate’s degree. Earning a certification in this field can help you strengthen your application as well.
Online Medical Billing and Coding Associate’s Degree Curriculum
The curriculum of an associate’s degree is similar to that of a certificate program, but with a few main differences. The first is that associate’s degrees cover a broader range of topics, such as finance. This is because the program is more advanced, and lasts two years, which is over double the length of a certificate program.
Online Medical Billing and Coding Associate’s Degree Progression
After earning this credential, you will be prepared for a wide range of entry-level positions in medical billing and coding. You may also choose to advance to a bachelor’s degree program in medical coding and billing, where you will explore this field in even more depth.
Online Medical Billing and Coding Bachelor’s Degree
If you are interested in advancing to a senior role in medical coding and billing in your career, then having a bachelor’s degree in either coding and billing or healthcare administration can be immensely useful.
Many people who enter into this career do so because of the lower barrier for entry than other jobs in healthcare. In most cases, a certificate or associate’s degree will suffice as the training you need to secure a job.
However, if you have high career ambitions, a bachelor’s degree is a valuable investment. It will help distinguish you as you start your career, and will unlock jobs with higher salaries and more long-term growth opportunities.
Online Medical Billing and Coding Bachelor’s Degree Requirements
Most bachelor’s degree programs require you to have earned a high school diploma or equivalent certification. Having a certificate in billing and coding or an associate’s degree in the field is also valued, but not a requirement.
You will also have to submit your high school transcripts, a personal statement, and you may be asked to send over letters of recommendation to the colleges to which you have applied.
Online Medical Billing and Coding Bachelor’s Degree Curriculum
Bachelor’s degree programs in medical billing and coding take four years to complete. During this time, you’ll work on a mix of general education classes in subjects like humanities and math, as well as courses related to healthcare and medical billing.
Here are a few of the topics you can expect to cover in your degree:
- How health records are managed, both electronically and physically
- How insurance claims are researched
- The terminology used in medical environments
- How healthcare is delivered to patients
Toward the end of your program, you may be expected to complete a capstone project or an internship. This will allow you to reinforce the skills you have learned in your training program and prepare you to transition into the workforce.
Online Medical Billing and Coding Bachelor’s Degree Progression
After graduating from a bachelor’s program, you’re ready to enter into a number of careers in healthcare administration. The most common path is to work directly in medical billing and coding, although you may also be able to use your degree to pursue other administrative roles in healthcare or insurance companies.
Once you graduate from a bachelor’s program, you’ll also be qualified to sit for the Registered Health Information Administrator exam. If you pass this exam, you’ll be well-positioned to start a wide range of careers at insurance companies, and in public and private health organizations.
What Can You Do With a Medical Billing and Coding Online Degree?
Medical billing and coding online degrees can unlock a number of career opportunities, depending on the level of education you attain.
If you graduate from a certificate or associate program, you’ll be suited to a number of entry-level positions in medical billing and coding.
For instance, you could become a medical records and health information technician, which involves organizing and managing health information data. The median salary for this worker was $40,350 in 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
If you get a bachelor’s degree, you may be able to enter into related careers in healthcare administration, such as medical and health services manager. The median salary for this type of worker was $100,980 in 2018, according to the BLS.
Do I Need a Medical Billing and Coding Degree?
Enrolling in any educational program is a big commitment. Even certificate programs can cost thousands of dollars and take around a year to complete. So, you may be asking yourself: do you really need a degree in medical billing and coding?
Certificates and degrees in medical billing and coding are best suited for people who want to work in healthcare, but do not want to be involved in administering treatments. This field is also a good entry point for careers in insurance or working in public health.
On the other hand, if you want to become a nurse, doctor, or take on another role where you would be providing healthcare, then you will need to go to medical school instead.
Online medical billing and coding degrees are a valuable investment if you want to get involved with helping hospitals manage their billing functions. In an online medical billing and coding degree, you’ll acquire the knowledge you need to enter into a career in this field.
Online medical billing and coding programs offer both a high degree of flexibility and usually do not involve any in-person elements. So, you can study from the comfort of your home for the entire program, without having to attend in-person labs like you would in other medicine-related degree programs.
If you’re thinking about a career in medical billing and coding or healthcare administration, a degree or certificate in billing and coding could be a good use of your time.