May 8, 2012 by Staff Writers

Are Online Medical Billing and Coding Schools Legitimate?

Many perfectly legitimate schools offer certificate programs online. Studying medical billing and coding through distance education is a convenient way to gain the specialized knowledge necessary for this profession. However, you should be diligent with your research. Scammers are always out there, ready to fool people and take their money.

Many types of people choose online medical coding schools, such as working adults, healthcare professionals who want to branch into medical billing, people returning to the workforce, and retired individuals looking for extra income. In fact, online medical billing and coding schools are a viable option for people who want:

  • The convenience of working at home.
  • The flexibility of learning at times of the day that work best for their schedule.
  • To save money on college tuition.
  • To study medical coding as a second job opportunity.
  • To save gas and mileage traveling to a brick-and-mortar school.

Costs

But before you enroll in just any online program, first determine whether your school of choice is legitimate or not. A fake school website offering medical coding classes will have several tell-tale signs. For one, these organizations want your money as soon as possible and will tell you what you want to hear — that learning medical coding is easy, fast, and cheap. In truth, a trustworthy school’s website will tell you outright that medical billing and coding training is time-consuming, takes determination and lots of study, requires the oversight of experts and teachers, and requires a significant monetary investment to become trained and certified. Remember, while taking courses online can be more affordable than taking courses on a campus, it’s not going to be easier or significantly cheaper in price.

A legitimate online medical coding school will ask students for a down payment for their courses, a registration fee, and perhaps a fee to download special software. These costs may scare some people into thinking the school is not legitimate, but these expenses are typical. Some schools may offer discounts and financial aid under certain circumstances. Feel free to call them for more information. However, do be wary of schools that advertise a flat fee for the entire program or demand the entire program’s tuition be paid upfront before any classes begin.

Accreditation

Online schools are just as educational and legitimate as physical schools; they just offer their classes electronically. Finding an online medical coding school that is accredited is not difficult. Look on the site for logos of accreditation organizations affiliated with the school or call the school to verify its accreditation status. Then, cross-reference this accreditation by searching the databases of accredited colleges provided by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Having a certificate from an accredited online school can be valuable in attaining a good job. Employers may even check if a prospective employee’s certificate is accredited. The American Academy of Professional Coders lets employers verify AAPC medical coding credentials of employees, contractors, and consultants.

Characteristics of Legitimate Online Schools

Legitimate schools and providers of certificates and diplomas will offer:

  • A curriculum of courses and study topics.
  • Degrees.
  • Accreditation application.
  • A physical address.
  • Phone number with real human beings on the line.
  • Consultation with teachers who offer feedback and instruction.
  • Links to legitimate education programs, networking, and other training resources.
  • Financial aid.
  • Career placement programs and resources to find a job.
  • Networking and FAQ sections for more information.

Keep in mind that fake accreditation agencies and illegitimate schools abound on the Internet. A fancy website does not necessarily mean the school is legitimate — just that it can afford a skilled Web designer. To find the fakes, keep the list above in mind. In addition, beware of schools that list an unusual address in places such as the Caribbean or Eastern Europe. Finally, watch out for signs that the website was put together hastily, such as poor grammar, broken links, or too many exclamation points.

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