The health care industry has continued to grow despite cutbacks in many other sectors of the economy. With this in mind, students interested in entering the field relatively quickly may want to consider an associate degree in medical billing and coding. Students enrolled in this type of medical billing and coding training will learn about medical terminology, human anatomy and physiology, electronic health records, medical reimbursement, health information law and management, diagnostic and procedural coding, health care delivery systems, and computer applications. Students may also be required to complete an externship, but this can be arranged remotely for online students.
Why an Associate Degree?
Most students getting their online associate degrees at medical billing and coding schools can expect two years of full-time study. An associate degree or certificate and professional medical billing and coding certification are all that are required to qualify for positions in this field. Jobs may be found with hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices, and other health care facilities. In addition to industry-specific training, students at the associate level will be required to complete a core curriculum of composition, natural science, mathematics, social studies, and humanities courses. This general education foundation could be helpful if you decide to transfer to a bachelor’s degree program in the future.
Getting Into an Associate Degree Program
Applicants should understand the eligibility requirements. Some common criteria schools are looking for include:
- A high school diploma or equivalent
- Any transcripts from other college course work
- Application form and fee
- Application essay (if required)
Inside an Associate Degree Program
Typically, you can expect this type of program to take two years to complete. This will depend on level of enrollment, the number of courses required for graduation, any transfer credit, or time off from the program, of course. Common curriculum subjects include medical terminology, medical law and ethics, health care delivery systems, medical reimbursement, procedural and diagnostic coding, electronic medical records management, and computer technology, among others. Classes in composition, communications, mathematics, natural science, humanities, and social science are also general education staples for a two-year degree.
Online medical billing and coding programs give working adults, parents, and those with travel limitations the ability to take their education into their own hands. Even without direct face-to-face interaction, discussion boards, streaming video, web conferencing, and chat technologies help students interact with their peers and professors. This is particularly useful for group projects and presentations. Any field experience requirements can be arranged in your local area.
What’s Next for Associate Degree Holders?
Graduates with an associate degree in medical billing and coding may want to pursue professional certification, since many employers prefer this when reviewing job applicants. If you attend an accredited program, certification will likely be included or all topics needed to pass the exam will be covered in the curriculum. Certification is offered through the American Academy of Professional Coders, American Medical Billing Association, and the American Health Information Management Association. Entry-level administrative positions are available with hospitals, doctors’ offices, nursing homes, clinics, and other related facilities.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that the demand for medical records and health information technicians will increase by 21% from 2010 to 2020. This is significantly stronger growth than the 14% increase expected for all jobs over this time frame. The mean annual wage reported to the BLS in 2011 was $35,920 for individuals working in this position. The most jobs were found with general medical and surgical hospitals followed by physicians’ offices. Please keep in mind, these statistics are estimates. Actual pay can vary based on your level of experience, location, the general economic climate, and the type of employer.