Medical billing and coding involve organizing medical records and ensuring accuracy and quality. The aging population of the United States requires more medical care. As such, there is also a growing demand for medical billers and coders, and other careers in the medical industry. Consequently, more students are contemplating enrolling in the best online certificate programs in medical billing and coding.
Those in such programs learn analytical and technical skills while honing an eye for detail. Earning a certificate in medical billing and coding provides an entry point into the medical industry, with students having the opportunity to work in medical institutions right after they finish their programs. While working as medical technicians, transcribers, or medical assistants, they can continue their studies in an associate or bachelor’s program in medical coding. This article covers all you need to know about how to get started in an online certificate program in medical billing and coding.
An accredited online certificate program can help you advance in your profession without having to leave your house. You can attend online lectures, study from home, manage a hectic schedule, and communicate electronically with instructors and students as part of your program. Those who desire greater flexibility in completing their education or who want to attend classes while working full-time or raising a family may be interested in an online program.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, enrollment at online higher education institutions increased by 2.2% in the spring 2021 semester, with part-time students driving the rise (National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 2021). This spring, full-time enrollment at online colleges increased by less than a percentage point, but part-time enrollment increased by 5.1%. The expansion was also fueled by older students aged 21 to 24, whose enrollment increased by 7.1%.
The popularity of online degree programs in the last decade has made positive impacts on how employers perceive it. Innovations in technology, improvements in pedagogy, and continuous research in the field of online education have only made online programs viable for many students. As such, employer perception of graduates from these degree institutions has shifted over the years. While there is still uncertainty, especially when hiring fresh graduates from online schools, employers are now more concerned about the reputation of the school, the quality of the program, and the overall industry experience of the applicants as opposed to focusing on how they earned their credentials.
However, there is still work to be done, especially in changing the perception among the general public. According to the Public Viewpoint: COVID-19 Work and Education, “most Americans (59%) believe that in-person education and training is more highly valued by employers than online training—an interesting result, given that employers would not necessarily know that a credential was completed online unless disclosed by the job candidate” (McKenzie, 2020).
However, the pandemic has affected the interest among potential students. As many as 35% showed interest in pursuing an online class or degree within the next five years, which shows the improving perception of these programs’ viability (Strada Center for Education Consumer Rights, 2020).
Source: Strada, 2020
Besides, the pandemic has raised the demand for different types of doctors and medical practitioners. These specialists, in turn, need help in operating their clinics. Online education is compensating for this need. As such, employees would recognize online degrees, training, and certificates, like a certificate in billing and coding and a certificate in medical office administration.
Many online degree programs are accessible in different parts of the world. Consequently, certificates and diplomas granted by these institutions are recognized in most territories as well. According to EducationData, the online learning industry will continue to rise to $370 billion by 2026.
However, see to it that you are attending an accredited online institution recognized by your country. Regulated industries often have varying professional qualifications in different parts of the world. As such, where you finish your degree may not matter, but you may need to take a qualification exam in your home country in order for you to be recognized as a professional in your field.
Source: Education Data, 2021
An online certificate degree in medical billing and coding provides prospective healthcare workers with a clear path into the sector. Prospective students with excellent interpersonal skills as well as analytical and detail-oriented mindsets are frequently successful in this job. Completing high school biology, anatomy, and computer subjects might also help students prepare for this path of study.
Although the specific structure and criteria differ depending on the school, students may generally finish an online medical billing and coding degree in one to two years. The majority of programs require 18 to 30 credits.
Learners who pursue online degree programs in medical billing and coding receive insights into the systems and procedures required to efficiently run a healthcare front office. Students learn about health insurance and reimbursement, appropriately record medical and patient data, and report healthcare services and procedures using the Current Procedural Terminology system.
The convenience factor is one of the most appealing aspects of online vs. on-campus education. Simply said, online education may be completed from any location, at any time, and is an incredibly flexible alternative that can easily fit into students’ hectic schedules. Students can attend classes during their commute, lunch break, over the weekend, or after their children have gone to bed—it is entirely up to them to arrange their class time in a way that works for them.
On-campus education, on the other hand, offers less flexibility. Many programs, particularly those geared toward adult learners and working professionals, will offer nighttime classes to accommodate students’ other obligations, students will still be required to attend class at specific times, which may conflict with working hours, parenting responsibilities, and other routines. Furthermore, students should consider commute time to and from campus. This may be a significant obstacle to individuals who do not have dependable transportation or who reside in rural locations without a college campus nearby.
Another advantage of attending an online college is that you will have almost unrestricted degree program possibilities. When you take online degree courses in medical billing and coding, you may enroll at any school that offers the curriculum you desire, whether it’s in another state, across the country, or even across the globe. As a result, you may select an online degree in medical billing and coding that is tailored to your objectives, interests, and planned career path.
One of the most significant drawbacks for students contemplating on-campus programs is that the course choices of local institutions limit their options. While relocation is a possibility for adult learners who have established lives, professions, and relationships, it is frequently not a viable alternative. Due to geography, most adult students who want to take on-campus classes only have a few options, and those options may or may not include the program they are looking for.
On-campus education is often structured in a style that students are acquainted with: classes are held in physical classrooms, professors deliver lectures and conduct discussions, and students engage in in-person discussions regarding course material. This is extremely similar to the classroom experiences that students may have had in high school; thus adult learners are naturally drawn to it. On-campus class experiences are structured around face-to-face contact, which many students like—being in a classroom with your peers, starting discussions, building connections, asking questions, and planning in-person meetings with professors and support staff as required.
For some students, the online learning experience might be strange and even uncomfortable at first, especially if they are not used to interacting through writing. However, by the end of their first term, most students have totally acclimated to this new learning method. Their relationships with professors and classmates have become perfectly normal. Furthermore, some students find the online discussion style to be more demanding than the typical classroom experience because they must think more carefully about what they write and cannot just raise their hand to answer a question.
One of the most important factors in deciding whether to take online or on-campus programs is your chosen instructional strategy.
In-person classes are more dynamic than online classes in some ways, and they provide more options to learners with different learning styles especially in the medical field. For example, if you are an auditory or visual learner, lectures may work well for you. Discussion groups can help people who learn best by talking through a subject or question, and those who learn best by reading and writing can take notes and review course presentations. Furthermore, there is a case to be made that in-person education provides greater accountability because you must attend a class every day, and get more support because you have a built-in network of classmates, instructors, and academic support services at your disposal. If you require structure in order to succeed, a classroom setting may be ideal for you.
On the other hand, online classes are considerably more flexible, which may be a major advantage for certain students and a difficulty for others. Online students must be self-motivated and organized, and they must hold themselves accountable for attending class and completing homework in the same way that on-campus students do. If you have a strong personal will to achieve and are an independent student (which takes some self-discipline), online learning may be a good fit for you. Other factors to consider when determining your learning style’s compatibility with an online learning environment are your comfort with reading as a method of absorbing information and your ability to communicate effectively in writing, both of which are critical to your success in an online classroom.
Of course, access to technology is also an important factor in attending online programs. As the study “Online Learning: A Panacea in the Time of COVID-19 Crisis“ published in the Journal of Educational Technology Systems noted, “ensuring digital equity is crucial in this tough time. Not all teachers and students have access to all digital devices, the internet, and Wi-Fi. Unavailability of proper digital tools, no internet connections, or unstable Wi-Fi connections can cause a lot of trouble due to which many students might lose out learning opportunities.”
However, according to the author Shivangi Dhawan, these challenges allow experts to explore possibilities in developing flexible programs, offline delivery methods of classes, and creating innovative pedagogical approaches to education (Dhawan, 2020).
Affordability is a concern for all prospective students, whether they are contemplating online or traditional school. It’s also a component that varies greatly from school to institution, making it difficult to say that one type of education is considerably less expensive than another. However, owing to the lack of expenditures connected to on-campus education, such as transportation, housing and board, and textbooks, students can expect some savings from online education in general. Tuition is typically lower as well due to the absence of overhead necessary to conduct online programs.
While conventional education is typically more expensive, it can range in price from nearly comparable to online education (especially at public schools) to significantly more expensive. One advantage of traditional education is that many schools provide institutional financial aid, which many online colleges do not. And this can have a significant impact on the student’s out-of-pocket expenses, especially when combined with federal financial aid options or employer tuition reimbursement.
You can call the financial aid departments of the institutions you are considering to discover more about average assistance packages, their eligibility for student loans, and tuition prices, and then compare the total dollar amount you will owe every semester.
You should also thoroughly examine the entire cost of attendance at the universities you are considering. It is critical to establish whether you will be charged additional hidden fees for things like access to distance learning, technology, online libraries, or materials (for an online program) or student activity fees (for on-campus programs). All of these expenses must be included when estimating the cost of your education, and they may rapidly mount.
Although students may be concerned that their degree would be devalued as it was obtained online, this is not the case for many companies. As long as the college that awarded the degree is authentic and accredited, the degree is just as valid as one acquired via traditional learning. In certain occupations, the fact that the degree was achieved in a specific field is more essential than where it was obtained.
In certain cases, an online degree is more appealing to potential employers than a traditional degree. It may be appealing to an employer to see that the student was able to balance between a profession and a family while still pursuing an education. Exercising excellence while pursuing an online degree demonstrates a high level of dedication, intellect, and a strong work ethic. It also demonstrates to potential employers that the student is self-sufficient and capable of working effectively without direct supervision.
It is critical to realize that not all employers will see online degrees in the same way. Some may have had negative experiences with employees who obtained an education through online diploma mills. This is one reason a student could consider enrolling in an online campus affiliated with a traditional, brick-and-mortar institution. Employers may be more likely to hire someone who has a degree that is backed up by reputation, whether acquired online or not.
Students pursue online degrees for a number of reasons. They may, for example, need to plan their study around the obligations of full-time work or family commitments. Some students choose to avoid long journeys to school or prefer the convenience of studying at home. Others prefer online classes because they are less expensive.
Choosing whether or not to enroll in an online school is a significant and personal choice. In addition to the overall cost, evaluate if a program offers coursework or formal concentrations in your area of interest, whether your selected school is accredited, and whether online education fits your learning style.
The total amount you spend on tuition is typically referred to as the net cost of an online degree. Tuition is often charged per credit hour for online students. A college, for example, may charge undergraduate students $300 for tuition for each credit attempted. Because most bachelor’s programs need 120 credits, students at that school must pay total tuition of $36,000 for their online certificate degree in medical billing and coding.
The amount of money you get in scholarships, grants, or other types of financial help is also considered in the net cost. For example, if your university costs $60,000 in total tuition for a bachelor’s degree but you earn a $10,000 yearly scholarship, the net cost of your four-year education is just $20,000. Online students may not necessarily be eligible for the same financial help as students pursuing their degrees on campus. Furthermore, some public universities do not offer in-state tuition rates to online students.
Most students must pay a variety of fees in addition to tuition. To begin with, most schools and institutions require an application fee that is often little more than $100. Certain categories of students, such as veterans, active-duty military people, or their families, may be exempt from this charge in some institutions.
While online students may typically avoid paying costs for campus-based services such as parking, food plans, or mandated student health insurance, they may be required to pay distance education fees. A college, for example, may charge a per-course or per-credit price for online learning or technology, but many schools now include this cost in their “e-tuition” rate.
Schools may also impose fees for transferring credit, enrolling in online courses, or failing to pay your tuition by the deadline. Contact your college’s financial services or billing office to learn about all of the costs you may be required to pay as an online student.
One of the most frequent indirect expenditures spent by online and on-campus students is purchasing books and other course materials. At the start of each term, teachers distribute a list of materials that students must have access to in order to participate in class discussions and complete assignments. While you may frequently check out books for free from your college’s library, you may still need to buy single-use items like workbooks.
Online students at certain institutions may pay a fee for virtual access to all of their needed course materials rather than purchasing physical copies of books. Colleges generally build a collection of articles, videos, book chapters, and problem sets and then charge students a fixed annual fee to access these resources via computer, tablet, or smartphone. Remember that at the end of the year, you may lose access to online resources.
Many students prefer online learning because it eliminates the need for them to spend time traveling to school to attend lectures, engage in group discussions, or collaborate with their peers. Depending on how far you live from school, you may save a lot of money on fuel, parking, and car maintenance.
Certain transportation-related expenses may also be waived for online students. Some colleges, for example, charge in-person students an annual fee to utilize buses that transport students from one section of campus to another.
Even if you pursue your degree online, you may need to visit campus on occasion especially in the medical field. When students initially enroll in classes, some institutions require all students to attend an in-person orientation session regardless of how they expect to study. Exams may also require you to visit the campus, but many institutions now enable online students to complete these examinations from proctored locations around the country.
Depending on the path you choose to follow in your medical billing and coding profession, you can acquire certification via one of two associations. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) is the first regulating organization, offering certifications in medical coding/billing as well as health information management.
In comparison, the Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) provides certificate programs focused on professional services such as inpatient/outpatient coding and billing. Both the AAPC and the AHIMA are nationally and internationally recognized, so which choice is ‘better’ depends on your objectives.
Although you may choose between the two, some coders possess certificates from both organizations since certain hospital coding roles only recognize certain qualifications. You can enhance the number of possible job options by pursuing credentials from both organizations.
|Institution||Program Name||Location||Status||Tuition||Credits||Length||Format||Instruction Style||Minimum GPA|
|Kaiser University||Ph.D. in Psychology||Fort Lauderdale, Florida||Private||$26,380||60 to 78||3-4 years||Online with two residences||Asynchronous and Synchronous||2.7|
|Liberty University||Ph.D. in Psychology||Lynchburg, Virginia||Private||$595 per credit||60||3 years||Hybrid||Asynchronous and Synchronous||3|
|Michigan State University||Ph.D. in Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Special Education||East Lansing, Michigan||Public||$819 to $1,577 per credit||66||5 years||Hybrid||Asynchronous and Synchronous||N/A|
|Saybrook University||Ph.D. in Psychology||Pasadena, California||Private||$1,275 to $1,470 per credit||66 to 82||5-6 years||Online||Asynchronous and Synchronous||3|
|Touro University Worldwide||Doctor of Psychology in Human and Organizational Psychology||Los Alamitos, California||Private||$700 per credit||66||3 years||Online||Asynchronous and Synchronous||3.4|
Medical billers and coders are essential members of the healthcare team. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that positions for medical records and health information technologists will rise by 8% between 2019 and 2029. With such a promising career outlook, now is an excellent time to seek a degree in the healthcare business.
An older population is also boosting demand for medical billers and coders. As people live longer and struggle with more chronic diseases, health care institutions must adapt to these changes. Medical coders and billers will be required to guarantee that facilities are properly compensated for this increase in treatment.
Experts also observed an increase in the usage of electronic coding systems and auditing software. However, these technologies are unlikely to completely replace specialists. An expert biller and coder will very certainly be required to manage the massive flood of electronic data, ensure the proper codes are utilized, and monitor the effective flow of money.
Medical billing and coding is a fast expanding discipline that plays an important function behind the scenes in healthcare. The job necessitates a detail-oriented attitude and specific technical competence, and it is perfect for people who wish to work in non-patient-facing roles within the healthcare business.
A certificate program is the shortest path to employment in the profession since most are completed in less than a year. These are concentrated programs of study that include the fundamentals of disease processes, therapeutic methods, nomenclature, bodily systems, and ICD-10 coding. Students will also learn how to use medical office software, bill for services, and comply with regulatory requirements. These schools’ curricula are meant to educate students for immediate work and to take formal certification examinations.
Prospective transfer students should be aware that transferring is not the same as applying to college for the first time since a few extra processes are required. Research should be your initial step, and it should begin with a deeper look at curriculum and programs, tuition costs (including cost per credit), and accreditation status. As an aspiring health information technician, you should look for programmatic accreditation, such as CAHIIM (Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management), in addition to institutional accreditation.
Just like a bachelor’s or associate degree, an online certificate program in medical billing and coding has admission requirements for new or transferring students. Most involve the following admission documents:
Source: American College Testing
Potential students should have a solid working understanding of computers, be detail-oriented and analytical, and have great organizational abilities. Medical coders frequently work with minimal supervision; hence candidates should be self-starters who can work independently.
Students interested in attending online certificate courses in medical billing and coding must have a computer that can run typical applications for classes, such as communication software, word processors, presentation platforms, and browsers. Similarly, a good internet connection is needed in order to attend online classes, one-on-one consultations, and even virtual group work.
Students in an online certificate program in medical billing and coding also learn how to use industry-specific applications such as:
On top of that, students will need to familiarize themselves with popular programs utilized in the medical industry, such as electronic health record (EHR) software, telemedicine, CRM, appointment scheduling applications, medical billing software, and hospital management platforms.
Every online certificate program in medical coding and billing has its unique set of courses and prerequisites, although certain core classes occur more frequently. The courses listed below are only a sample of what you could experience while working for your degree.
In many online certificate programs in medical billing and coding, new topics such as big data, AI, and other emerging subjects are also covered. As described in the Design and Implementation of Big Data-Based Documents to Optimize Medical Coding, hospitals are now beginning to utilize data warehouses to streamline their entire operations.
“These warehouses contain heterogeneous information from all medical specialties that offer patient care services,” the researchers highlighted (Noussa-Yao et al., 2018).
An online certificate degree in medical billing and coding often involves similar training and classes. However, online schools vary in quality and curriculum. As such, it is important that you conduct proper research when choosing an institution as well as a relevant program. Here are a few factors to consider when looking for an online certificate program in medical billing and coding.
Although some basic classes occur more frequently, every medical coding and billing online program has its own courses and prerequisites. The following list describes a couple of courses you can find when getting your credential:
A medical coding certification is not required to work as a medical coder, but it may help individuals advance in the industry, and most companies want coders to become certified. Certifications enable growth, more employment options, and higher pay. Certification is also required for top income and long-term success as a top medical coder. Some of the most common certifications are:
|Institution||Type||Degree Name||In-State Tuition and Fees||Out-of-State Tuition and Fees||Acceptance Rate||GraduationRate||Student to Teacher Ratio||Location|
|Texas A&M University||Public||B.S. in Forensic and Investigative Sciences||$12,783||$39,340||58%||80%||21:1||College Station, TX|
|Penn State University||Public||B.S. in Forensic Science||$18,450||$35,514||76%||85%||15:1||State College, PA|
|Towson University||Public||B.S. in Forensic Chemistry||$10,198||$24,334||76%||76%||16:1||Towson, MA|
|George Washington University||Private||B.S./M.F.S. in Forensic Chemistry||$58,640||$58,640||14%||94%||13:1||Washington, D.C.|
|West Virginia University||Public||B.S. in Forensics and Investigative Science||$8,976||$25,320||84%||56%||20:1||Morgantown, WV|
|West Chester University of Pennsylvania||Public||B.S. in Forensic and Toxicological Chemistry||$10,471||$22,295||23%||85%||19:1||Chester County, PA|
|University of Mississippi||Public||B.S. in Forensic Chemistry||$8,828||$25,100||88%||59%||16:1||Oxford, MI|
|University of North Texas||Public||B.S. Biochemistry, Biology, and Chemistry - Forensic Certificate||$11,090||$20,906||74%||64%||26:1||Denton, TX|
|Loyola University Chicago||Private||B.S. in Forensic Science||$46,060||$46,060||67%||75%||41:1||Chicago, IL|
|Sam Houston State University||Public||B.S. in Forensic Chemistry||$8,736||$18,552||83%||67%||21:1||Huntsville, TX|
The CAHIIM, which accredits general programs, including medical billing and coding, and the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), which provides certification for medical coders and lists courses that are accredited, are two nationally recognized accreditation organizations that focus on medical billing and coding. One or both of these organizations should be mentioned on the websites or printed materials of accredited medical billing and coding schools. To validate accreditation, always cross-reference the school’s statements with the real organization’s records.
Medical billing and coding entail documentation and transcribing various medical procedures, examinations, tests, and treatments into standardized codes for invoicing through insurance or other compensation systems, as well as for clinical trial management system vendors. Technically, the billing and coding procedures are distinct, yet they are inextricably linked. Those who want this career can take online medical coding training programs and certificate programs can help further their careers.
They also have the option to continue their academic career in an associate’s or bachelor’s program. As professionals learn more about the intricacies of the healthcare system and the operations of a medical institution, they can eventually pursue a career in healthcare administration. With further investments in experience, academic training, and professional skills, those in the industry can expect a fruitful career ahead.