Online Associate's Degree in Medical Billing and Coding
Hospitals and other healthcare facilities require medical billers and coders to keep records of patients' diagnoses and treatments. Read further for information about earning an online associate's degree in medical billing and coding and what types of classes you could take. Schools offering Insurance Billing & Coding Specialist degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
Overview of Medical Billing and Coding Associate's Degree
This program usually consists of 60-90 credits, generally takes two years to complete and typically leads to an Associate of Applied Science. The degree can prepare you for an entry-level position in hospitals, clinics, medical offices and health-insurance organizations. You can expect to learn the basics of medical billing and coding as it relates to the three main coding manuals: HCPCS, ICD-9-CM and CPT. In addition to being available online, the program may be taken on-campus or in a blended format.
|Program Format||Partially or fully online; real-time, online class sessions may be required; internships sometimes included|
|Accreditation||Students may want to seek out programs accredited by the CAHIIM, especially if they hope to pursue further education or certification|
|Common Courses||Medical billing, medical coding, anatomy and physiology, medical terminology|
|Job Outlook (2014-2024)*||15% (for medical records and health information technicians)|
|Median Salary (2014)*||$35,900 (for medical records and health information technicians)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
How Does the Online Program Work?
In general, an online associate's degree in medical billing and coding is valued the same as that earned in an on-campus setting. The online program is often delivered asynchronously, allowing you to access the material 24/7, at your convenience. However, courses are usually conducted within specified start and stop dates. Schools use a course management system such as Moodle or Blackboard that allows you to communicate with faculty and classmates and submit assignments.
You may be required to participate in set meetings or discussions conducted synchronously over the Web. This means that you log in at a specified time to participate in real time, with the entire class. Schools may even give you the option of participating in a hybrid program, in which you can complete some courses online and some on campus.
How Do I Find a Program?
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is an excellent source information on postsecondary institutions. You may want to search the NCES online database for a school that offers an appropriate degree program.
The Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM) maintains an online directory of accredited undergraduate and graduate programs in health information management. It's worth noting that CAHIM accreditation may be important to you at a later date, if you decide to pursue further education or certification.
What About Program Content?
Typical courses you may find in a program include medical office billing, coding and insurance, anatomy and physiology, finance, medical terminology, medical reimbursement systems, computer applications and healthcare delivery. You may find that a program contains an internship component. Internships must be completed in person at a school-partnered, external healthcare facility.
Upon graduation, you may be eligible to sit for a certification examination. Certification examinations are administered by professional organizations such as the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), the Professional Association of Healthcare Coding Specialists (PAHCS) and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Certification is technically optional. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the registered health information technician (RHIT) certification offered by the AHIMA is the credential most employers look for when hiring (www.bls.gov).
What Are Some Employment and Wage Projections?
The BLS projected that employment opportunities for medical records and health information technicians will increase 15% from 2014-2024. This is faster than the national average for all occupations. This may be due in part to a growing senior population and the consequent need for more healthcare tests, treatments and procedures, all of which must be properly processed, coded and billed. In 2014, the BLS determined the median annual salary for all medical records and health information technicians was $35,900.
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