Becoming a Medical Billing Specialist: Salary & Job Description

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A medical billing specialist's annual salary is around $30,000. Is it worth the training requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a medical billing specialist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Medical Billing Specialist

Medical billing specialists, sometimes called billing clerks, prepare bills for services rendered at physicians' offices, medical clinics, hospitals or long-term care facilities. Consider The pros and cons of pursuing such a career.

Pros of a Career as a Medical Billing Specialist
Much faster than average job growth field (29% for medical assistants from 2012-2022)*
Can work practically anywhere*
Minimal formal training required (high school diploma or vocational school certificate)*
Pleasant work environment (climate-controlled, well-lit offices)*

Cons for a Career as a Medical Billing Specialist
Work can be monotonous*
May work night or evening shifts or on weekends*
On-the-job training may be required*
Limited opportunity for advancement (additional training required for promotions)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description, Career Prospects and Salary Information

Job Description

Medical billing specialists calculate patients' charges for services and send out itemized invoices. As a billing specialist, you must be familiar with the codes and practices used by insurance companies and government medical programs such as Medicaid and Medicare. In small practices, you may be responsible for other clerical tasks such as setting appointments and greeting patients. In larger practices or in health care facilities, billing is your sole task. You must also be proficient in using medical billing software and well-versed in medical privacy regulations. The job may also require you to correspond with insurance companies or talk with patients about their bills.

Career Prospects

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that jobs for all medical assistants, including billing specialists, are expected to increase by 29% from 2012-2022. The BLS attributes this growth to advances in medical technology and an aging population that requires more health care services. The BLS noted that medical assistants with formal training are predicted to have the most opportunities in this growing field.

Salary Information

According to Salary.com, the median salary for a medical billing clerk was about $35,000 as of May 2015. While the BLS does not maintain salary statistics specifically for medical billing specialists, it reported the median salary for all medical assistants, administrative and clinical, was about $30,000 in May 2014.

What Are the Requirements?

Many medical billing specialists begin work with only a high school diploma; however, the BLS suggests that high school courses in bookkeeping, keyboarding, biology and office skills are helpful in this career. As medical billing becomes more complex, employers are looking for specialists who hold certificates or degrees from vocational schools or community colleges. Professional associations, such as the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), also offer billing and coding training.

Medical billing specialists must be organized and have excellent computer skills. Additional skills include:

  • Ability to multi-task
  • Good communications skills
  • Ability to work as part of a team
  • Understanding importance of deadlines
  • Strong work ethic

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers of medical billing specialists include physicians, hospitals, home health agencies, long-term care facilities and temporary agencies. Many employers specify special requirements in their advertisements. Here are some examples of what real employers sought in online job postings from March 2012:

  • A Texas temporary agency was looking for medical billing clerks who were familiar with state Medicaid regulations and managed care plans. The ad called for clerks who understood federal medical privacy laws as they relate to billing.
  • In Florida, a medical billing service company was seeking experienced clerks to post payments and speak with patients and insurance companies. The employer mandated a proficiency test before hiring.
  • A California company that provides billing services to surgical practices was looking for a clerk familiar with several types of billing procedures. The ad requested skills in navigating various websites.
  • A gastrointestinal practice in Tennessee was seeking a billing specialist to prepare bills and compute discounts and rates for services rendered. Since the job involved dealing with patients, the ad noted that a pleasant personality was a requirement.

How to Stand Out

Pursue Formal Training

While you can get a job right out of high school, you may be more likely to impress employers if you complete a formal education program; the BLS indicates some employers may even prefer candidates who do this. Your options include earning a certificate in medical billing from a community college, vocational school or professional association. Coursework in these programs cover various types of insurance coding, medical office computer software, insurance fraud and privacy regulations. A certificate program usually takes one year to complete.

Professional Certifications

Certification of your skills will make you stand out to an employer according to the BLS. Professional associations, such as the AAPC and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), offer various levels of credentials to billers who are proficient at insurance coding. At some levels of credentialing, formal training is required, while other levels substitute experience in lieu of training. All levels require that you pass a written test to demonstrate your knowledge.

Alternate Career Paths

Insurance Coder

If you are interested in this field but are looking for a job with a little more responsibility and variance in duties, you may consider working in insurance or medical coding. Medical coders use special software to classify diagnoses and procedures to submit to insurance companies for payment. They may need to be familiar with several types of coding systems, each serving a different purpose. Medical coders generally hold associate's degrees from community colleges or technical schools.

The BLS projected that employment for medical records and health information technicians, including insurance coders, will grow by 21% from 2010-2020, which is much faster than average. The median salary for this group was approximately $33,000 in May 2011, according to the BLS.

Medical Transcriptionist

As a medical transcriptionist, you'll use your clerical skills as you listen to recordings and transcribe information from physicians and other health care professionals in patients' medical records, letters or other documents. This job requires the ability to understand medical terms and abbreviations. Transcriptionists usually hold a 2-year associate's degree or a 1-year certificate in medical transcription. The BLS expected job growth for medical transcriptionists to be about six percent from 2010-2020, which is slower than average. The median salary for a transcriptionist was also about $33,000 in 2011, according to the BLS.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Health Informatics
      • Master of Health Information Management
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Healthcare Admin
      • BS in Health Information Management
      • Bachelor: Health Science
    Certificate
      • Medical Billing and Coding Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    2. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    3. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSHS Clinical Operations & Healthcare Management
      • MSHS in Biomedical Informatics
    Bachelor's
      • Dual Degree: BSHS in Clinical Research Administration/MSHS in Regulatory Affairs
      • BSHS in Clinical Operations and Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Penn Foster

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Career Diploma - Medical Billing and Coding
  • Campus Locations:
    5. American National University

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Medical Billing and Coding - Diploma
  • Online Programs Available
    6. The University of Scranton

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Health Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Regent University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Public Administration - Healthcare Policy and Ethics
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Organizational Leadership: Health Care Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    9. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
      • Master of Science in Health Informatics
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Colorado Christian University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Health Care Administration, B.S.
    Associate's
      • Health Care Administration, A.S.

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master of Health Informatics
  • Bachelor: Healthcare Admin
  • Medical Billing and Coding Certificate

Which subject are you interested in?

American University

  • Master of Science in Healthcare Management

What is your highest level of education?

The George Washington University

  • MSHS Clinical Operations & Healthcare Management
  • MSHS in Biomedical Informatics
  • Dual Degree: BSHS in Clinical Research Administration/MSHS in Regulatory Affairs
  • BSHS in Clinical Operations and Healthcare Management

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster

  • Career Diploma - Medical Billing and Coding

What is your highest level of education?

American National University

  • Medical Billing and Coding - Diploma

What is your education level?

The University of Scranton

  • MBA - Healthcare Management
  • Master of Health Administration

What is your highest level of education?

Regent University

  • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
  • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Healthcare Management
  • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management

What is your highest level of education completed?

Northcentral University

  • MS - Organizational Leadership: Health Care Administration

What is your highest level of education?