The job outlook from 2010 to 2020 for medical billing and coding -- officially called a medical records and health information technician -- is expected to increase by 21 percent, which is faster than average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Occupational Outlook Handbook also states candidates need post-secondary education to enter this occupation and many employers require professional certification. Choose an educational option based on cost or time required and take it one step further with certification.
Earn a medical and billing certificate in six to 12 months or more. Learning medical billing and coding with this approach normally costs several hundred dollars. Check local institutions, such as community colleges and specialty schools or accredited online programs for specific details. Earning the certificate does not transfer as college credits. These classes typically cover basic inpatient and outpatient coding and some might include necessary background courses in health record content, medical terminology and anatomy. This is a good option for someone who already has a college degree, since many employers prefer hiring someone with a degree. You might find employment in smaller medical offices with a certificate only but advancement is unlikely without further education.
Register for an associate’s degree program specializing in health information technology. An associate of applied science degree requires two years of full-time study and costs several thousand dollars. Only use accredited degree programs. Associate’s programs include core classes, such as English and math, but the majority of your classes are centered on health. This includes in-depth training in medical coding and billing. Obtaining an associate’s degree enhances your likelihood of finding a job as well as increasing your salary range and advancement potential. The AHIMA requires an associate’s degree for certification. The AAPC recommends an associate’s degree.
Obtain a bachelor of arts degree in health information technology or health management from an accredited institution. This degree requires four years of full-time study with classes centered on health information and health management and cost tens of thousands of dollars, but it also increases your earning potential according to AAPC 2011 salary survey results. A BA degree is a good option for someone who wishes to learn a lot about the health information field, or someone who is considering a job in health management or similar opportunities.
Go to The American Health Information Management Association and The American Academy of Professional Coders websites to learn about different medical coding certifications. Choose one based on where you want to work, such as a medical office, hospital, group practices or specialty centers. Becoming certified increases your employment opportunities and salary range. The AAPC offers CPC, CPC-H, CPC-P, CIRCC and 20 specialty-coding credentials certifications. The AHIMA offers CCA, CCS and CCS-P. Once you determine the specific certification you want, learn what the eligibility requirements are for that certification.