Insurance Billing & Coding Specialist Careers: Salary & Job Description

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Get the truth about an insurance billing and coding specialist's salary, training requirements and career prospects. Read real job descriptions and see the pros and cons of becoming an insurance billing and coding specialist.
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Pros and Cons of Insurance Billing & Coding Specialist Careers

Insurance billing and coding specialists most commonly work in the healthcare field, translating diagnoses and treatments into codes for billing and insurance purposes. By looking at the pros and cons of insurance billing and coding specialist careers, you can better determine if it is a career that suits you.

Pros of Insurance Billing & Coding Specialist Careers
Faster-than-average career growth (22% from 2012-2022)*
Minimal educational requirements for career entry (48% have just a high school education)**
Generally comfortable office workplaces*
Most specialists work full time*

Cons of Insurance Billing & Coding Specialist Careers
Salary below the national average (median pay of about $36,000 per year in 2014)*
Certification potentially needed for career entry or growth*
Schedules can include night and weekend shifts*
Additional education required for advancement*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*NET OnLine.

Career Information

Job Description

Most insurance billing and coding specialists, also sometimes referred to as medical records or health information technicians, work in hospitals, physicians' offices and other healthcare facilities. However, you won't be responsible for providing any medical care in this position. Instead, you code medical procedures and medications in order to prepare and process insurance claims. Additionally, you might establish and maintain patient records.

In this position, you may handle a high volume of electronic data disseminating, and therefore rely heavily on the use of computer software and keyboarding. You often communicate with patients in person and over the phone. You may also conduct other tasks around the office, such as scheduling appointments and performing patient accounting procedures.

Salary and Career Prospects

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the broad category of medical records and health information technicians, which includes insurance billing and coding specialists, earned a median salary of about $36,000 in 2014. The top 10% of earners made a salary of roughly $59,000 or above, while the lowest 10% earned around $23,000 or less at that same time.

Career opportunities for this entire group are expected to increase by 22% from 2012-2022, according to the BLS. The growing number of aging individuals in the population is predicted to result in an increased need for healthcare, which will in turn result in an increased need for billing and coding specialists. The advances in technology within the field also will bolster growth for this career.

Education Requirements

According to the BLS, a postsecondary education resulting in an associate's degree or certificate is if often needed to gain an entry-level position as an insurance billing and coding specialist. In certificate programs, students receive training in insurance billing and coding and medical terminology. You may complete an insurance billing specialist, medical coding or medical office administration certificate program in less than a year's time. Associate's degree programs take two years to complete and include general education courses in addition to career-specific courses in coding and billing techniques.

What Employers Are Looking for

Many employers seek to hire specialists who have some billing and coding experience. Some prefer to hire candidates with an understanding of specific codes or programs. Many positions combine administrative duties with handling insurance claims. Listed below are some examples of job postings available as of April 2012:

  • In Georgia, an orthopedics center is looking to hire a medical insurance billing specialist. The employer desires applicants with knowledge of ICD-9 and CPT coding systems. At least a year's worth of experience is preferred.
  • In Illinois, a billing and coding associate is needed for an ear nose and throat (ENT) clinic. Duties include handling insurance claims, performing office and surgical coding, and verifying benefits. Employer desires at least two years of medical office experience for this full-time position.
  • A medical insurance billing and coding specialist is desired at a healthcare services business in Texas. Applicants should have one year of experience. This job opportunity will begin part time with the possibility for full-time employment. Job description includes front desk administrative duties as well as billing and coding.
  • A diabetes center in Utah needs a billing insurance specialist. Employer desires candidates with at least six months of experience and an associate's degree.

How to Beat the Competition

Earn a Degree

The best way to stand out in the job market is to differentiate yourself from the competition through additional training or certification. When only a certificate program is necessary for career entry, completing an associate's degree program related to billing and coding or medical office administration can help you stand out in the marketplace. While these programs include additional general education courses, students also complete billing and coding courses and can choose to complete even more coding specialty education. Finishing an associate's degree program can have the potential to make a difference when employers are faced with comparing candidates for open positions.

Certification Possibilities

Insurance billing and coding specialists may need to obtain certification in order to gain employment or advance within the field. Some employers require it, while others seek it as a bonus attribute. Because there are a multitude of professional organizations that certify billing and coding specialists, there are a number of ways to achieve certification.

For example, the Certified Billing and Coding Specialist (CBCS) certification is available through the National Healthcareer Association. Additionally, the Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) designation is offered by the American Health Information Management Association, and the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) certification is offered by the American Academy of Professional Coders. Attempting to achieve any of these certifications may help you out in your career. Keeping whatever certification you choose to achieve valid will likely require completing continuing education units over time.

Other Possible Career Choices

Health Services Manager

Perhaps you would just like the opportunity to earn more money in the healthcare field. You might look into becoming a health or medical services manager. These professionals plan how healthcare will be delivered for medical units or medical facilities. They earned a median salary of about $86,000 per year in 2011, according to the BLS. The field is predicted to grow by 22% from 2010-20, which is faster than average. However, you will have to complete more schooling in order to be considered for a position in this field. Finishing at least a bachelor's degree program is a minimum requirement.

Medical Transcriptionist

Additionally, becoming a medical transcriptionist is a viable alternative to an insurance billing and coding career. These professionals transform oral recordings from physicians into written reports. Employment in the field is expected to grow at the slower-than-average rate of just six percent over the 2010-2020 decade. However, the median annual salary for the profession was $33,000 in 2011, which is on par with the salary for insurance and billing specialists. The educational requirements are also similar, as most medical transcriptionists need just a certificate or associate's degree to get started in the profession.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
      • Master of Science in Health Informatics
  • Campus Locations:
    2. Virginia College

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Diploma Program - Medical Billing and Coding Specialist
  • Campus Locations:
    3. Brightwood College

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Medical Billing and Coding Specialist - Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Health Services Admin
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Medical Administrative Billing and Coding
      • Associate of Arts - Health Services Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration
      • MS - Healthcare Admin and Management
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Healthcare Admin and Management
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Health Administration
      • MS in Health Administration - Informatics
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
    Master's
      • MS - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Science in Management - Healthcare Management
      • MS - Healthcare Management - Informatics
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Health Care Management
      • BS - Business Administration - Health Care Management
      • B.S. - Health Care Management - Health Informatics
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Health Information Management
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Insurance Billing and Coding Specialist
      • Associate: Health Information Management
      • Associate: Healthcare Management
    Certificate
      • Diploma: Medical Office Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Penn Foster Career School

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Career Diploma: Medical Billing and Coding
  • Online Programs Available
    10. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Healthcare Management
      • Master of Business Admin: Healthcare Admin
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Healthcare Management - HSA Mgt.
      • Bachelor of Healthcare Management
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Healthcare Management

Featured Schools

George Mason University

  • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
  • Master of Science in Health Informatics

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Virginia College

  • Diploma Program - Medical Billing and Coding Specialist

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Brightwood College

  • Medical Billing and Coding Specialist - Certificate

What is your highest level of education?

Keiser University

  • B.A. - Health Services Admin
  • Associate of Science - Medical Administrative Billing and Coding
  • Associate of Arts - Health Services Admin

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Colorado State University Global

  • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration
  • MS - Healthcare Admin and Management
  • BS - Healthcare Admin and Management

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Health Administration
  • MS in Health Administration - Informatics

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Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
  • MS - Healthcare Management
  • B.S. - Health Care Management

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Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Technology Management
  • Bachelor: Health Information Management
  • Associate of Science - Insurance Billing and Coding Specialist
  • Diploma: Medical Office Admin

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