What Degree Do I Need to Be a Medical Coder?

As a medical coder, you will be responsible for turning patients' medical information into coded data for health care providers. You will use several different coding and classification systems. Associate degree and certificate programs are available to teach you about these systems, as well as the essential medical and biological knowledge necessary to become a professional medical coder. Schools offering Insurance Billing & Coding Specialist degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Medical Coder Career Overview

As a medical coder, some of your job duties would include retrieving patient records, reviewing patient information for preexisting conditions and facilitating communication between billing offices and clinics. Though you won't provide direct patient care, you'll work closely with physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals. You'll be responsible for ensuring that health records are complete and accurate, protecting patients' confidential information and entering data electronically. The work you do will help healthcare providers receive reimbursements for their services from insurance companies.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Median Salary (2018) $40,350 (for all medical records and health information technicians)
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 13% (for all medical records and health information technicians
Degree Field Health Information Technology
Continuing Education Available online

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Programs for Medical Coders

As an aspiring medical coder, you can choose from certificate and associate degree programs in medical coding or health information technology. These programs can provide you with the knowledge needed to be competitive in the job market and prepare you for certification exams. In both types of programs, you can develop your skills and knowledge involving essential medical coding systems. These coding systems allow you to translate verbal descriptions of medical diagnoses, disease descriptions and hospital procedures into numerical statistics used for health care research and reimbursement purposes. You will also learn communication, administration and technological skills necessary to operate in the modern medical world.

Program Requirements

A certificate program in medical information coding contains 34-36 credit hours. Your certificate can be earned in as little as one year of full-time study. You also have the option to complete your courses entirely online. Associate degree programs can be completed in two years and require you to complete general education courses. These programs often require a professional practice experience, like a practicum or an internship, to be completed at the culmination of the program.

Common Courses

In an introduction to medical coding course, you can learn about the fundamentals of the main medical coding systems used in hospitals and physicians' offices. The ICD-9-CM, CPT/HSCPCS, RBRVS and DRG coding systems are among the ones emphasized, and the relationship between all of them is highlighted as a means of presenting accurate data. You may also study the history of these coding systems and the development into their modern-day forms.

Medical vocabulary courses present you with the basic medical terminology necessary to function properly in the modern health care industry. You will examine the structure and formation of key medical words based on their prefixes, suffixes and root words. You will also learn how to pronounce, spell and define these words. Commonly used abbreviations are also discussed.

The most common therapeutic drugs, medications and laboratory tests used in medical professions are introduced in pharmacology and pharmacotherapy courses. The effects and side effects of these pharmaceuticals are highlighted, as are the causes of medication errors. You will also study the ethical and legal rights involving the proper administration of pharmaceuticals.

Certification Info

After completing a certificate program or earning an associate degree, you are prepared to pursue certification through organizations like the American Health Information Management Association, American Academy of Professional Coders or Professional Association of Healthcare Coding Specialists. Becoming a certified coding associate, certified coding specialist or certified professional coder is an important career move, because many employers require one of these certifications. You are required to complete a certain number of continuing education credits every so often to maintain your certification status. Opportunities to earn these credits are often offered by the certifying organization.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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