Medical Billing Degrees: Associate, Diploma & Online Course Info

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What kind of job can you get with a diploma or associate's degree in medical billing? Find out degree program requirements, online options and info on courses and medical billing training programs.
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Studying Medical Billing: Programs at a Glance

Medical billing specialists use their knowledge of human anatomy, diseases and conditions to process insurance and billing claims. Many medical billing personnel use standard coding procedures to identify services rendered for specific conditions during the reimbursement process. Professionals in the industry work at hospitals, doctors' offices or nursing facilities. Employers want candidates who possess interpersonal, technical and strong communication skills.

The medical billing diploma program provides the foundation required to pursue a career in claims processing. The associate's degree program further emphasizes healthcare systems and technology. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected strong job growth for careers in the industry. Medical records and health information technicians could expect a 21% increase in jobs over the 2010-2020 decade (www.bls.gov). Medical assistants could expect a much-faster-than-average increase of 31%.

Diploma Associate's
Who is this Degree for? People interested in entry-level medical billing and coding positions Individuals who want to work in medical records and health information
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Medical assistant ($29,000)*
- Billing, cost and rate clerk ($33,000)*
- Healthcare collections specialist ($35,000)**
- Medical records and health information technician ($33,000)*
- Claims adjuster, examiner or investigator ($59,000)*
Time to Completion Up to one year full time Two years full time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 28 credits
- Externship
Roughly 60 credits
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Yes Yes

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), **Salary.com (August 2012 figures).

Diploma in Medical Billing and Coding

The diploma program offers a basic education in medical technology, reimbursement procedures and health terminology. You learn the fundamentals of medical office procedures and gain an understanding of the legal aspects of healthcare delivery systems. The program prepares students for entry-level medical assistant, medical billing or insurance claims positions by providing insurance-related training. Some schools recommend a strong foundation in health, computer technology and biology to ease the program admission process.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Strong job growth was projected for some positions; medical assistants could expect a 31% increase and billing, cost and rate clerks would see an increase between 20 and 28%*
  • Medical assistant opportunities usually require a high school diploma; your specialized diploma might increase your marketability
  • Some schools design diploma programs that transfer to an associate's degree program

Cons

  • Salaries for some positions were relatively low; medical assistants earned a median annual salary of $29,000**
  • Competition against associate's degree holders may present a challenge for medical records and health information technician positions
  • Pursuing industry-standard certification will increase your training time and require additional financial resources

Source: *O*NET OnLine (2010-2020 projections), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Common Courses and Requirements

The diploma program develops billing and coding skills through roughly 28 credits of coursework in healthcare systems, insurance claims and medical office procedures. You learn to use the standard forms associated with medical billing and demonstrate knowledge of the benefits offered by insurance companies. Following are some common courses offered by many programs:

  • Medical terminology
  • Claims reimbursement
  • Medical billing and technology
  • Basic anatomy
  • Insurance principles
  • Keyboarding
  • Coding procedures

Online Program Info

Some schools offer the medical billing diploma in a distance-education format. The online program provides coursework in office procedures, ethical issues and insurance compliance, similar to campus-based training. You may find that schools design online programs in an asynchronous format and require substantial interaction with peers and instructors. Some programs deliver coursework that prepares students for the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) designation conferred by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). Keep in mind that the AAPC recommends an associate's degree for the CPC credential.

Stand Out with This Degree

Medical facilities continue to adopt the electronic health records (EHR) system, which manages patient information electronically. If you pursue a career in administrative medical assistance, taking EHR courses might improve your marketability. In addition, many employers prefer candidates with some form of certification. The Certified Medical Assistant credential, conferred by the Certifying Board of the American Association of Medical Assistants, validates your understanding of medical assisting procedures. Keep in mind that CMA certification requires graduation from a program accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools or the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.

Associate's in Medical Billing and Coding

The associate's degree program in medical billing and coding takes a clinical and administrative training approach to the reimbursement process. Some programs offer coursework designed to prepare students for several certifications. You become proficient in interpreting the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act and acquire knowledge of the Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System, International Classification of Diseases and Current Procedural Terminology coding systems. Programs emphasize critical thinking skills in the application of billing and coding methodologies to complex reimbursement situations.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Medical records and health information technicians could expect a 21% increase in job growth from 2010-2020*
  • Employers prefer candidates with higher education for some positions
  • Programs accredited by the appropriate organizations provide the foundation to pursue industry-standard certifications

Cons

  • Salaries for medical records and health information technicians were comparable to those earned by billing, cost and rate clerks and less than healthcare collections specialists
  • Claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators could expect a three percent increase in job growth, although growth in the healthcare industry will be best
  • Competition against bachelor's degree holders may present a challenge for claims adjuster, appraiser, examiner or investigator positions

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2010-2020 projections).

Common Courses and Requirements

The associate's degree program delivers a curriculum structured to provide data collection, registrar and legal training for medical settings. Schools design programs that stress health information management, advanced coding techniques and co-operative education experiences. You gain a well-rounded education through subject matter coursework supplemented by general education and elective classes. You develop an understanding of reimbursement practices through courses in human biology, diagnostic coding, hospital billing procedures, coding and classification systems, healthcare computer applications, patient interaction and medical terminology.

Online Program Info

The online associate's degree program offers an administrative approach to medical office technologies and billing procedures. Schools provide coursework similar to campus-based programs and emphasize the technologies used in medical office settings. You take courses in word processing, coding and billing practices. Keep in mind that an online program's accreditation plays a significant role in pursuing industry-standard certifications.

Stand Out with This Degree

Similar to the diploma program, pursuing certification might improve your marketability. Employers may prefer candidates with certification in health information. If you plan to pursue a medical records and health information technician career, the American Health Information Management Association confers the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) credential. The eligibility requirements for the RHIT include graduation from a health information management program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education. You might also consider pursuing a specialty certification offered by the AAPC, which provides certification options in family practice, gastroenterology or dermatology, to name a few.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • A.S. General Studies - Life Sciences
      • A.S. General Studies - Life Sciences
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Insurance Billing and Coding Specialist
      • Associate: Health Information Management
      • Associate: Healthcare Management
  • Warren, OH

    Trumbull Business College

  • Fremont, OH

    Terra State Community College

  • Springfield, MA

    Springfield Technical Community College

  • El Paso, TX

    Southwest University at El Paso

  • CHESTER, VA

    Richmond School of Health and Technology

  • Renton, WA

    Renton Technical College

  • Yakima, WA

    Yakima Valley Community College

  • La Jolla, CA

    National University

Featured Schools

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • A.S. General Studies - Life Sciences

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • Associate of Science - Insurance Billing and Coding Specialist
  • Associate: Health Information Management
  • Associate: Healthcare Management

What is your highest level of education?

Trumbull Business College

Terra State Community College

Springfield Technical Community College

Southwest University at El Paso

Richmond School of Health and Technology

Renton Technical College