December 3, 2012 by Holly Cassano
How Long Does It Take to Complete Training to Become a Medical Biller or Coder?
The length of time it takes for your training depends on a number of factors, including if you are going to do online classes or actual classroom learning, whether or not you are looking for a certification or a degree, and if you want physician-based coding or facility-based coding. Each mode of learning has its own separate set of costs and timelines for course completion. The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) offers a CPC Preparation Course for physician-based coding and has an online certification program that can be completed in as little as four months for about $1,500. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) is for facility-based coding and has both a certification program and a degree program. AHIMA’s online Coding Basics Program is self-paced, but can be completed in about 15 months.
Many online certificate programs in billing and coding can be completed in less than a year, but if you are looking for a degree, an associate degree program is two years, and a bachelor’s is four years, classroom or online. This timeline is based on attending the program full-time. Medical coding and billing certificate programs, which are independent of the AAPC and AHIMA, are meant to be short-term and prepare you to take the certification exam. These types of programs allow you to graduate, sit for your certification, and upon passing, enter the workforce relatively quickly.
If you choose to complete an independent certificate program (that is not affiliated with the AAPC or AHIMA), it will provide you with the basics of medical billing and coding and arm you with the skills you need to be successful. These courses can range from three months to 12 months — it just depends on the curriculum being used.
Online courses offer more flexibility and you are often able to learn at your own pace, so you can either complete the course within the shortest duration, or if you need to take more time, you can learn at a slower pace. Traditional classroom settings are not as flexible and are more regimented and students will finish in the timeframe indicated by their degree plan.
At the end of the day, how long it takes you to complete a course or program is really dependant upon whether you choose traditional classroom instruction or opt for online learning.
One final note — if you do choose a program offered through a college or university, make sure the school is accredited.