Frequently Asked Questions About Going to Medical Billing and Coding School
Interested in a career that plays an important role in healthcare, but behind the scenes? You may be researching medical billing and coding school options. Here at Altierus Career College, we offer an eight-month medical billing and coding diploma that can help you learn the knowledge and skills you need to get started pursuing job opportunities in the field.
On this page, we answer some frequently asked questions about the medical billing and coding career path, including duties and responsibilities, training options, certification, salary information, and more.
What Is Medical Billing and Coding?
What do medical billers and coders do?
Medical billers and coders take healthcare records and convert them into electronic records using industry-standard codes. These codes are used to build patients’ medical histories, generate insurance claims, record payments, and provide anonymized data for medical research.
Medical billers and coders may perform the following duties:
- Review the records they are given for accuracy and completeness
- Enter data into the correct databases using accurate codes
- Ensure they follow safe and secure data-handling practices to maintain the confidentiality of patient records
- Call medical practitioners, insurance companies, or patients to confirm information or follow up on payments
- Organize and back up health records to ensure they are archived for future use
Is there a difference between medical billing and medical coding?
Yes, although the two functions are closely related. Many people who work in medical billing and medical coding do some of both, especially if they work at a smaller organization.
Medical coding translates the information used in medical reports into codes that summarize what conditions the patient has, what treatments they received, and what supplies and medications were used to provide that treatment. These codes can be used for healthcare research and healthcare policy development, and they also create the information needed for medical billing.
Medical billing focuses on creating records (or using records created by others) to generate insurance claims and ensure payments are made to providers.
Our blog post “What’s the Difference Between Medical Billing and Medical Coding?” goes into this answer in more detail.
What “codes” do medical billers and coders learn?
At our medical billing and coding school, students learn three main coding standards commonly used in the U.S. healthcare system. These are:
Current Procedural Terminology (CPT)®—CPT was created by the American Medical Association in 1966 in order to have a standard way to report medical procedures to insurance organizations. CPT goes through regular revisions to reflect new developments in medicine.
International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision (ICD-10)—The ICD-10 is the World Health Organization’s set of codes which are used to indicate what illnesses or injuries patients have.
Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) Level II—HCPCS codes, originally developed by the U.S. government, are used to record what medical devices, supplies, transportation, medication or other services and items are used to treat patients.
Where do medical billers and coders work?
Medical billers and coders tend to work in offices based in hospitals, medical practices, health insurance companies, and other related organizations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the most common employers of medical billers and coders in 2020 were:
- Physicians’ offices—15%
- Administrative services—5%
- Professional, scientific, and technical services—5%
Why is medical billing and coding important?
Medical billing and coding plays a key role in ensuring that patients’ medical histories are complete, accurate, confidential and portable—that is, they can be accessed by any medical provider or insurance company (as long as the patient gives permission for that access).
Medical billing and coding professionals can catch errors which could lead to incorrect bills or even medical practice errors, such as duplicate tests. Learn more about how medical billers and coders help healthcare providers and patients in our article, “Four Ways Medical Billing and Coding Supports Better Healthcare Service”.
How to Get Started in Medical Billing and Coding
What do you need to know before starting medical billing and coding school?
Medical billing and coding students need a high school diploma or equivalent qualification, such as a GED. They should be comfortable working with computers and able to type with speed and accuracy. In addition, it helps to have an interest in medicine and healthcare, though previous college or work experience in the field isn’t a requirement.
How long does it take to become a medical biller or medical coder?
Medical billing and coding school lasts less than one year. Students can complete our diploma program in as few as eight months in a format that blends flexible online coursework with one day on campus per week.
What classes will I take in medical billing and coding school?
Students in our medical billing and coding program learn a blend of health science fundamentals, information about the insurance and healthcare system in the U.S., practical coding skills, and office administration skills. Topics covered in class may include:
- Anatomy, physiology, diseases, and conditions
- Types of medical treatment
- Procedural coding and diagnostic coding
- Payment procedures, including how to process claims and collect payments
- Essentials of healthcare system regulation, including protection of patient data under HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996)
Altierus medical billing and coding students also complete a practicum or externship experience in a real-world work setting.
Do I need certification or a license to work in medical billing and coding?
You do not need a license to work in medical billing and coding, but obtaining industry certification can help with your career search. Along with your diploma from a medical billing and coding school, industry certification confirms for employers that you have learned principles of medical billing and coding to a high standard.
At Altierus Career College, we include preparation and exam fees for the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) certification in your tuition costs. Read more about pursuing medical billing and coding certification in our blog post, “Choosing the Right Path to Earning Your Medical Billing and Coding Certification.”
Why Go to Medical Billing and Coding School?
How much do medical billers and coders make?
The BLS reports that the nationwide median annual salary for medical and health information records technicians (their term for medical billers and coders) was $44,090 in May 2020. The bottom 10% of medical billers and coders earned less than $28,800, while the top 10% of earners made more than $73,370.
Salaries vary according to the job market you live in and your employer. We offer our medical billing and coding program in Tampa, Atlanta and Houston. Here’s what salaries looked like in those states as of 2020:
What Medical Billers and Coders Make in Florida
- Median: $39,080
- Bottom 10%: $27,220 or less
- Top 10%: $65,810 or more
What Medical Billers and Coders Make in Georgia
- Median: $40,950
- Bottom 10%: $27,700 or less
- Top 10%: $76,340 or more
What Medical Billers and Coders Make in Texas
- Median: $39,990
- Bottom 10%: $26,790 or less
- Top 10%: $67,570 or more
Is it worth it to go to medical billing and coding school?
If you want a career that combines technology with medical knowledge and plays an important role in ensuring patients receive the insurance coverage and treatment they need, it’s absolutely worth it to go to medical billing and coding school.
Medical billing and coding professionals are also projected to benefit from strong job growth over the next ten years. The BLS projects that job openings for medical billing and coding should grow by 8% over the 2019-2029 period—twice as fast as the overall job growth rate of 4%.
A career that makes a difference, is in demand, and takes less than one year to train for—we’d say that going to medical billing and coding school is a great choice.
Learn More About Our Medical Billing and Coding Program
Contact Altierus Career College today to learn more about our eight-month Medical Billing and Coding diploma program!