6.01: Accredited Billing and Coding Schools
Medical billing and medical coding offer two of the fastest-growing fields in the health sector. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment in health information and management (which includes coding and billing) to grow by 11% from 2018-28.
Many organizations, schools, and companies offer instruction and training in medical coding and billing. In this course, we'll explore how to choose the right online and on-campus accredited medical coding schools.
The Importance of Accredited Online Medical Billing and Coding Schools
Accreditation is the process by which a third party organization or governing body ensures a school's quality of instruction and programs. Institutional accreditation affirms the quality of a school as a whole, while programmatic accreditation attests to the quality of a particular program within the school.
Colleges and universities are accredited at the institutional level by the accrediting bodies approved by the Council of Higher Education Accreditation. These agencies cover different geographical areas. Schools in Vermont hold accreditation by the New England Commission on Higher Education, while institutions in California receive accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.
Schools receive their programmatic accreditation from agencies devoted to that subject area. Accredited online medical billing and coding schools meet requirements set by the Commission on Accreditation of Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). This organization only accredits programs that confer associate and bachelor's degrees.
When you're looking for accredited medical coding schools online, make sure they maintain regional and CAHIIM accreditation. Accreditation ensures an employer or another school will recognize your degree. This process also allows students to apply for and receive federal funding to attend that school. You are not eligible for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) unless enrolled in an accredited medical coding school.
Degrees and Certificates
Associate degrees typically take two years to complete, with some students considering them the halfway point to full bachelor's degrees. These degrees typically comprise 60 credits, while bachelor's degrees include 120 credits. Most accredited online medical billing and coding schools offer associate degree programs.
Students usually complete certificates in one year. While associate degrees demonstrate general knowledge and a concentration in one area, certificate programs focus on one area of study. These programs are often more affordable and easier to earn while maintaining employment. An associate degree, however, may look better to a prospective employer or certifying body. The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), for instance, recommends you have an associate degree before you take the certified professional coder exam.
Accredited online medical coding schools do not offer bachelor's degrees as frequently. If you're going to earn a bachelor's degree in health informatics (the general field of health information, including collection, analysis, and management), you'll want to look for managerial positions related to coding and billing, rather than coding and billing itself.
What is AAPC?
The AAPC certifies medical coders in 28 specialty areas and provides its members with job listings, networking opportunities, and professional development. AAPC advocates for the profession at the national and state levels. Its 190,000+ members can join state and local chapters.
Membership benefits include access to a virtual knowledge center, an online discussion forum, a monthly magazine, mentors and advisors, and continuing education resources. AAPC offers individual and discounted student memberships.
Finding Accredited Medical Coding Schools Online
Now that you know more about the available levels of education at accredited online medical billing and coding schools, consider how to choose your ideal program.
Community colleges and technical schools offer some of the best options for learning medical billing and coding. These options are less expensive than traditional universities, and many offer associate and certificate programs. Most community colleges and technical schools host night classes, allowing you to earn a certificate or degree while continuing your career.
Technical schools and community colleges also benefit from accreditation and association with larger, more renowned schools. If you live near the campus, you can engage in face-to-face learning with instructors, which is invaluable in a subject as complex as medical billing and coding. If you are going to pursue an online degree, try to find a program affiliated with a nonprofit public school or university. Many schools now offer courses and degrees online. Always consider schools that offer financial aid before looking into private, for-profit institutions.
You can make an exception for professional organizations like the AAPC and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Both of these professional organizations offer courses in medical billing and coding. However, since they're not education bodies, they can't be accredited.
Taking courses from these organizations can be expensive, though. Students should prioritize degrees or certificates at community colleges or technical schools over taking classes solely through the AAPC or AHIMA.
What to Look For in the Top Accredited Online Medical Billing and Coding Schools
When you're exploring online medical coding schools, make sure to look for accreditation and a dedicated program to health information management (HIM), health informatics, or medical billing and coding.
You should also make sure that each accredited online medical billing and coding school offers courses in the healthcare process, anatomy and physiology, and general medical terminology. If you're going to invest in a degree or certificate, make sure you get the full spectrum of the medical billing and coding professions.
Financial Aid for Accredited Medical Coding Schools Online
There are some accredited online medical billing and coding schools with financial aid for students who qualify. Contact each prospective school to see what types of medical billing and coding financial aid are available through scholarships and grants.
You can also find scholarships through professional organizations, such as the AAPC. Medical billing and coding students must hold good academic standing and demonstrate financial need to become eligible for this type of financial aid.