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What is Medical Billing and Coding? Covering the Basics

Posted Friday, Jan 7, 2022 by Kevin Arnold

Looking to get on a new career path? If your career sweet spot is a field that makes a difference behind the scenes of healthcare, has strong projected job growth, and doesn’t require years of training, medical billing and coding (MBC) could be right for you. But what is it? This article takes you through the basics of what medical billing and coding is, what training and skills are required, and how you can get your foot in the door of the industry.

Medical Billing and Coding Is a Growing Field

First, choosing to train for MBC career opportunities means training for a growing field. Rising demand for healthcare and the continuing trend toward electronic health records (EHRs) means the economy will need more MBC workers to keep up with the data generated by healthcare services.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that nationwide job openings for health records and information technicians (the BLS category that includes MBC) will grow 9% over the 2020–2030 period, compared to an 8% growth rate for all occupations. That could mean up to 37,100 new jobs in the field across the U.S.[1]

What Medical Billers and Coders Do

Sound job growth prospects are good news, but how do you know training for an MBC career is the right fit for you? Understanding the duties of both the medical billing and medical coding functions can help.

Billing, Coding or Both?

Medical billing and medical coding are two separate job functions. Both involve accurate record keeping and what could be seen as a form of translating.

Medical coding involves reading notes about medical procedures, surgeries, and medications, and then translating them into codes to create accurate documents about what happened during a patient’s treatment.

In a typical day, medical coders may:

Medical billing takes medical codes and translates them to generate a bill so private or public insurers can determine which providers need to be paid and what portion of the cost the patient will be responsible for covering.

Daily duties for medical billers may include:

Medical billing and medical coding work hand-in-hand to ensure medical facilities receive payment for services provided, and patients don’t pay for care they didn’t receive. MBC specialists may not work directly with patients or doctors, but they make an important contribution to successful medical care.

You can learn more about the differences between medical billing and medical coding in our previous article, “What’s the Difference Between Medical Billing and Medical Coding?”

What Skills Are Needed for Medical Billing and Coding?

Analytical Skills

To succeed in MBC, you’ll need the ability to understand and analyze medical records and diagnoses. You’ll then need to determine which codes most accurately reflect the services performed. This is an important skill that will often directly impact a facility’s compensation and a patient’s payments.

Attention to Detail

It’s never about the “big picture” in MBC. Details are what counts: a code that’s off by one character can make an enormous difference in what a patient needs to pay.

Communication and Interpersonal Skills

MBC specialists need to email or call medical professionals, insurance company representatives, and other MBC workers every day. It’s important to develop listening skills, the ability to write clearly, and strategies for relating to others in professional settings.

Technology Skills

MBC specialists use electronic health record software and other computer programs on a day-to-day basis. You’ll need to be capable of mastering new software programs quickly and have good data-entry skills.

What Medical Billing and Coding Specialists Earn

The BLS reports that the median annual salary for medical and health information records specialists was $44,090 as of May 2020. The lowest 10 percent of workers earned less than $28,800, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $73,370.[2] The industries that paid the most included government agencies and hospitals.[3]

Medical Billing and Coding Training

Now that you have an idea of the job growth prospects, job duties, and median national salary for medical billers and coders, it’s time to get an overview of how to train for a career in the field.

Complete a Diploma Program

A great place to start your medical billing and coding journey is to complete a diploma program. At Altierus Career College, our Medical Billing and Coding Diploma takes as few as eight months to complete. Courses cover topics including:

Our program features a blended learning format that combines online coursework with in-person labs. Currently, our MBC students come to campus one day per week for the hands-on portion of their program. They also complete a 200-hour externship experience.

Pursue Industry Certification

The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) administers an exam that MBC specialists can take to earn Certified Professional Coder™ (CPC) certification. Earning industry certification can help you stand out with employers. Our diploma program includes built-in preparation for the CPC exam to give our students an additional credential to take into the job market. It’s part of our all-inclusive approach to career training!

Take the Next Step Now

Ready to learn even more about MBC training at Altierus? Take a look at our Medical Billing and Coding Diploma program today!


[1] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm#tab-6

[2] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm#tab-5

[3] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm#tab-5, second table, “medical dosimetrists, medical records specialists, and health technologists and technicians”

Kevin Arnold, Medical Billing and Coding Instructor

Kevin Arnold has a wealth of knowledge to share in medical billing and coding, as well as health insurance as a full-time medical billing and coding instructor at Altierus. He finds the blended format of the MBC program works well for his students. They can listen to lectures on their own time at home and then come to class ready to put what they learned into action by working through coding scenarios and operative reports. Kevin lives for the ‘ah ha’ moment in a student’s eyes when everything they’ve been studying connects. Seeing their confidence shine from within is what makes his work in the classroom worth all the effort.