How Long Does it Take to Complete a Billing and Coding Program?

By Rachel Schneider

An individual interested in learning how to become a medical coder can review this guide to learn more about medical billing and coding certification, diploma programs, and associate degree opportunities. We note the differences among each program type, allowing readers to determine which pathway they should follow to accomplish their specific career goals.


The medical billing and coding field includes many different certification opportunities and career paths, including medical auditing, healthcare compliance, medical coding, practice management, and clinical documentation. Upon completing medical billing and coding programs, individuals can pursue entry-level positions in the field.

Medical Billing and Coding Programs

Candidates interested in enrolling in medical billing and coding programs can consider different educational levels depending on their career goals. Certificate, diploma, and associate medical billing and coding opportunities prepare learners for entry-level roles in the discipline, although some employers prefer a specific educational background.

  • Medical Coding Certification

    This certification features requirements and regulations aligned with current healthcare delivery systems. Medical billing and coding professionals can seek certification across disciplines, including compliance, medical coding, billing, and auditing, to demonstrate their experience and competencies to employers. The length of time it takes to obtain certification depends on the type of certification individuals pursue and the educational program they complete.

  • Medical Coding Diploma

    Although the length of time it takes to earn a diploma in medical billing and coding can differ depending on the institution, learners can anticipate program completion in less than one year of full-time study. Students explore courses in medical billing and health insurance; medical office procedures; and law, ethics, and confidentiality in allied health. Distance learners complete virtual labs and online simulations.

  • Associate Degrees in Medical Coding

    Enrollees learn to assign the correct medical codes for diagnostic procedures and other services. These degrees typically take learners about two years to complete. Degree-seekers learn about different administrative and clerical functions related to compliance, insurance claims, and reimbursement. Specific course topics and credit requirements vary across colleges and universities. Still, enrollees typically must satisfy about 60 credits of coursework, exploring topics in medical law and ethics, pharmacology, and medical office procedures with insurance.

Medical Billing and Coding Jobs

Medical billing and coding jobs encompass many different roles. Graduates can pursue careers as medical records and health information technicians, tracking patient outcomes for quality assessments. These professionals review patient records to ensure accuracy, timeliness, and appropriateness of data. The annual median wage for the occupation reached $40,350 in 2018 and received a projected job growth rate of 11% from 2018-28 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Medical coding professionals experience the highest employment levels in the general medical and surgical hospitals industry. Other high-paying industries include scientific research and development services and religious organizations. Professionals who want to pursue the highest salaries can consider positions in the junior college industry. The outpatient care centers industry features the highest concentration of employment opportunities for the occupation.