The Best Online Medical
Billing & Coding Schools

Browse the best online medical billing and coding schools, learn program and course details, and see how you can move from interested student to well-paid professional.

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Pat-Byrnes

Pat Brynes

Bio

Pat Byrnes began her career as a nurse in the hospital and medical practice sector before going on to create her own company based on the principle of incorporating the clinical knowledge she possessed with the business acumen she achieved in her work experience. Over the years, Pat has expanded her company to fill the need for competent, skilled, proficient, and capable medical billers, consultants, accountants, and credentialing specialists. With degrees in business management and nursing, she holds an active nursing license as well as her certified medical biller and coder credential.

last updated

Last Updated: 09/21/2021
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Medical billers and coders work together to process health insurance claims in hospitals, physicians’ offices, and other medical and health facilities. Specifically, medical coders translate medical procedures to certain pre-set code, and medical billers use that code to generate insurance claims and patient bills. Many medical billers also perform medical coding and vice versa.

In May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that medical records and health information technicians, which includes medical billers and coders, earned a median yearly salary of $44,090. The top 10% in the field brought home $73,370. The BLS also stated that growth in medical billing and coding job openings should be much faster than average from 2019 to 2029, at 8%.

Because medical billing and coding occurs mostly at a desk in front of a computer, online medical billing and coding schools are on the rise. Many online courses can be completed in a few as four weeks, although more robust programs also exist. These classes show students how to “identify diagnoses, medical tests, treatments, and procedures found in clinical documentation” and how to “bill government and commercial payers for physician reimbursement,” according to the AAPC.

Distance learning in medical records continues to grow. See EduMed’s best online medical billing and coding schools for 2021.

or
About the ranking

X

Methodology for EduMed’s 2021 Best Online Programs

1. Create List of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least one program in subject area offered partially or fully online.

2. Assign Weightings

After creating the list of eligible schools, EduMed data scientists assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of affordability, support services, and online program availability metrics. Online program availability and overall affordability metrics received the heaviest weightings.

Online Program Availability

  • Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education.

Affordability

  • Cost – Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Students w/ Institutional Aid – Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

Support Services

  • Academic Counseling – Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Career Placement – Existence of this service on campus or online.

About Our Data

EduMed’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2021

# School Name Type Cost Online Programs More Details School Information Online Students Academic Counseling Career Placement Students w/Institutional Aid Median Earnings 10yrs After Entry Accreditation
1 Northern Essex Community CollegeHaverhill, MA Public $ 2

Whether you want to train for an entry-level medical billing or coding job or go on to earn a health-related associate's or bachelor's degree, Northern Essex Community College has online certificate programs that can help you reach your goals. The medical billing certificate program trains students in the knowledge and procedures employers expect, including the ability to understand medical terminologies, insurance company requirements, billing procedures, and medical records management.

The school’s medical coding certificate program allows students to do most of their work online and come to campus to participate in laboratory sessions and class meetings once a week. The curriculum includes courses on diagnostic and procedural coding systems, medical terminology, and reimbursement issues.

Both programs require that students get hands-on training to graduate. Those in the coding program take a 60-hour practicum on coding and classification to demonstrate their skills in a real-world setting, while the billing program requires a 60-hour internship in which students apply their knowledge of billing and patient account management.

Program Highlights:

Medical Billing Certificate

  • Credits: 23
  • Length: 1 year
  • Cost: $315/credit
  • Mode: Fully Online
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
5%
AccreditationNew England Commission of Higher Education
2 Sinclair Community CollegeDayton, OH Public $ 2

To be admitted into the medical billing and coding certificate program at Sinclair Community College, prospective students are expected to have a high school diploma and at least a 2.0 grade point average in the mathematics, writing, and reading prerequisite courses. They should also undergo a background check, meet the physical and mental requirements, and get the mandatory immunizations.

Those who enroll in this program learn ICD-10-CM, CPT, and HCPCS Level II coding systems; reimbursement methods; anatomy and physiology; and disease processes. To graduate, students are expected to have an overall 2.0 GPA. Career opportunities for graduates can be found in long-term, home health, ambulatory, and agent care centers, as well as physicians’ offices and insurance companies.

Program Highlights:

Medical Coding & Billing Specialist Certificate

  • Credits: 24
  • Length: 1 year
  • Cost: $126.03/credit
  • Mode: Fully Online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
40%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
3 Southeast Technical InstituteSioux Falls, SD Public $ 2

Southeast Technical Institute offers a two-year medical coding associate degree program that is delivered on a hybrid basis. Students must have a laptop that meets the minimum specifications, such as being equipped with Windows 10; a 64-bit, 1.6 GHz processor or greater; 4 GB of RAM memory or greater; and available disk space of at least 10 GB. Students can purchase a laptop through the school’s I.T. Support Center.

As students work through the curriculum, they gain the ability to code medical procedures based on the Official Coding Guidelines for Outpatient and Inpatient reporting; work using the rules and regulations set forth by MS-DRG system, IPPS, and OPPS; and perform revenue cycle management tasks. Also, the coursework is designed to instill the strong communication, problem solving, and critical thinking skills that employers look for.

Southeast Technical Institute also offers medical coding and billing certificate programs.

Program Highlights:

Medical Coding: Professional and Facility Services, AAS

  • Credits: 61
  • Length: 2 years
  • Cost: $255/credit
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
19%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
4 Everett Community CollegeEverett, WA Public $ 2

The Everett Community College billing and coding associate degree program, which takes two years to complete, provides the knowledge and skills professionals need to determine numeric billing codes for procedures and services described in patient medical records. The curriculum covers reimbursement and legal compliance, diagnostic and procedure coding techniques, medical vocabulary, and intercultural communication in healthcare. In addition, students take general education classes in mathematics, English composition, and computer literacy.

Everett Community College also offers medical billing specialist and medical coding certificate programs that take a year to complete. These programs give students a comprehensive look at medical coding and billing, as well as the legal and ethical principles that guide the field.

All of the school’s programs require that students maintain at least a C average to graduate.

Program Highlights:

Associate in Technical Arts Degree in Billing and Coding

  • Credits: 90
  • Length: 2 years
  • Cost: $115.45/credit
  • Mode: Fully Online
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
17%
AccreditationNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
5 West Georgia Technical CollegeWaco, GA Public $ 2

West Georgia Technical College has a medical coding certificate program that prepares students to work as an integral part of a healthcare team and earn the American Academy of Professional Coders’ Certified Professional Coder (CPC) credential. The program provides a comprehensive understanding of medical billing and coding topics, such as the International Classification of Diseases, coding techniques and guidelines, challenges with third-party reimbursement, healthcare ethics, and the Physicians Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) manual. Students also take classes covering medical terminology, human diseases, and document production.

Program Highlights:

Medical Coding Certificate Program

  • Credits: 24
  • Length: 1 year
  • Cost: $100/credit
  • Mode: Fully Online
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
0%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
6 Central Georgia Technical CollegeWarner Robins, GA Public $ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
2%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
7 Ogeechee Technical CollegeStatesboro, GA Public $ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
0%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
8 Northwood Technical CollegeShell Lake, WI Public $ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
16%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
9 Milwaukee Area Technical CollegeMilwaukee, WI Public $ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
3%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
10 Minnesota State Community and Technical CollegeFergus Falls, MN Public $ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
5%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
11 Shawnee Community CollegeUllin, IL Public $$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
44%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
12 Northwest Technical CollegeBemidji, MN Public $$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
7%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
13 Eastern Gateway Community CollegeSteubenville, OH Public $ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
No
Students w/
Institutional Aid
35%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
14 College of Lake CountyGrayslake, IL Public $$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
8%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
15 BridgeValley Community & Technical CollegeSouth Charleston, WV Public $ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
No
Students w/
Institutional Aid
8%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
16 Oakton Community CollegeDes Plaines, IL Public $$$ 2 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
No
Students w/
Institutional Aid
14%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
or
About the ranking

X

Methodology for EduMed’s 2021 Best Online Programs

1. Create List of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least one program in subject area offered partially or fully online.

2. Assign Weightings

After creating the list of eligible schools, EduMed data scientists assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of affordability, support services, and online program availability metrics. Online program availability and overall affordability metrics received the heaviest weightings.

Online Program Availability

  • Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education.

Affordability

  • Cost – Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Students w/ Institutional Aid – Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

Support Services

  • Academic Counseling – Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Career Placement – Existence of this service on campus or online.

About Our Data

EduMed’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2021

# School Name Type Cost Online Programs More Details School Information Online Students Academic Counseling Career Placement Students w/Institutional Aid Median Earnings 10yrs After Entry Accreditation
1 Madison Area Technical CollegeMadison, WI Public $ 2

Madison Area Technical College offers a medical billing diploma that is offered completely online on a part- or full-time basis. Students in this program take coursework covering the principles of written communication, business spreadsheet applications, medical language, and medical administrative procedures. Students go on to work as medical coding specialists, coding technicians, and medical transcriptionists. Also, this diploma prepares graduates to earn certifications such as the Certified Billing & Coding Specialist (CBCS), Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA), and Certified Electronic Health Records Specialist (CEHRS).

In addition, the school offers a part-time medical coding specialist diploma that is offered entirely online. The curriculum prepares students to translate medical information into a numeric code for billing and includes coursework covering medical terminology, healthcare revenue management, and procedures coding. Graduates can earn coding certifications offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC).

Program Highlights:

Medical Billing Diploma

  • Credits: 28
  • Length: 1 year
  • Cost: $4,602.40 for the complete program
  • Mode: Fully Online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission

Medical Coding Specialist

  • Credits: 35
  • Length: 1 year
  • Cost: $5,954.98 for the complete program
  • Mode: Partially Online
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
17%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
2 Arkansas Tech UniversityRussellville, AR Public $$ 2

Arkansas Tech University offers a Certificate of Proficiency in Medical Billing that prepares students to obtain a billing office entry-level job in various healthcare settings, including doctors’ offices, hospitals, and clinics. The curriculum familiarizes students with medical terminology definitions and spellings so they can accurately bill for procedures. In addition, this program, which is offered entirely online, provides training on the information systems professionals are expected to be proficient in, as well as diagnostic codes and revenue cycles.

The school also offers an online Certificate of Proficiency in Medical Coding, which provides an in-depth understanding of the diagnostic and procedural codes professionals use, as well as medical terminology and human anatomy. In addition to providing training for an entry-level job, this certificate can be a stepping stone for an associate’s degree in health information management.

Program Highlights:

Certificate of Proficiency in Medical Billing

  • Credits: 12
  • Length: 6 months
  • Cost: $239 per/credit
  • Mode: Fully Online
  • Accreditation: HLC

Certificate of Proficiency in Medical Coding

  • Credits: 15
  • Length: 6 months
  • Cost: $239/credit
  • Mode: Fully Online
  • Accreditation: HLC
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
45%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
3 University of Alaska FairbanksFairbanks, AK Public $$ 2

The University of Alaska Fairbanks has certificate programs in medical coding and medical billing that are offered entirely online. The medical coding program focuses on the clinical classification systems used by medical coding professionals for outpatient and inpatient procedures, such as the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) and the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT). Students in this program also take coursework in medical office technology, human diseases, and medical terminology.

The medical billing program also familiarizes students with medical terminology, as well as the computing systems that are used by professionals. In addition, students take coursework on outpatient and inpatient healthcare reimbursement, which teaches them how insurance carriers pay out for procedures; the legal and ethical issues that arise in the field; how Medicare and Medicaid work; and HIPAA regulations.

Program Highlights:

Medical Coding Certificate

  • Credits: 15
  • Length: 6 months
  • Cost: $4,485 for the complete program
  • Mode: Fully Online
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Medical Billing Certificate

  • Credits: 12
  • Length: 6 months
  • Cost: $3,588 for the complete program
  • Mode: Fully Online
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
46%
AccreditationNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
4 Weber State UniversityOgden, UT Public $ 1

Weber State University’s healthcare coding and classification certificate, which takes four semesters to complete, prepares students to work in outpatient clinical and inpatient acute care settings by giving them expertise on Common Procedural Terminology (CPT) and International Classification of Diseases, version 10 (ICD-10-CM). The curriculum covers pharmacology, medical terminology, classification systems, and anatomy and physiology. Courses are offered entirely online in an asynchronous format, allowing students to complete them at their own pace.

Program Highlights:

Healthcare Coding and Classification Certificate

  • Credits: 27
  • Length: 2 years
  • Cost: $479.72/credit
  • Mode: Fully Online
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
59%
AccreditationNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
5 Idaho State UniversityPocatello, ID Public $$ 1

Idaho State University has a medical coding technical certificate program that allows students to take coursework completely or partially online on a full- or part-time basis. To be admitted, prospective students should have a high school diploma or its equivalent and demonstrate their proficiency in mathematics and English through high scores on the SAT, ACT, AccuPlacer, or ALEKS examinations.

Students in this program take coursework in medical terminology, coding, and law and ethics, as well as reimbursement practices, anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, and pathobiology. After completing the classes, they are eligible to take the AHIMA Certified Coding Specialist exam and go on to work for doctors’ offices, long-term care facilities, law firms, and insurance companies. Also, graduates go on to enroll in health information technology programs on the associate’s and bachelor’s level.

Program Highlights:

Medical Coding Technical Certificate

  • Credits: 38
  • Length: 1 1/2 years
  • Cost: $14,407 for the complete program
  • Mode: Fully Online or Partially Online
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
69%
AccreditationNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
6 University of Alaska AnchorageAnchorage, AK Public $$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
30%
AccreditationNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
7 Montana State University-BillingsBillings, MT Public $ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
59%
AccreditationNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
8 Great Basin CollegeElko, NV Public $ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
18%
AccreditationNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
9 Renton Technical CollegeRenton, WA Public $ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
10%
AccreditationNorthwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
10 Kent State University at TuscarawasNew Philadelphia, OH Public $$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
38%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
11 Dakota State UniversityMadison, SD Public $$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
62%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
12 Kent State University at SalemSalem, OH Public $$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
19%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission

Profiling an Online Medical Billing & Coding School

School profiles can be a valuable tool to help you narrow down the long list of programs that might fit your needs. We’ve decided to spotlight a single program and dig into how it works, how much it costs, and what you can expect if you apply and enroll. Get the inside scoop on this online medical billing and coding school online.

Southeast Technical Institute

Southeast_Technical_Institute-logo

Those who want to explore the possibilities of an associate degree can opt for the Medical Coding: Professional and Facility Applied Associate Degree. In this hybrid program, students take most courses online but are required to visit the campus once per week. The Bring-Your-Own-Laptop curriculum prepares students to review medical documentation, apply coding guidelines, assign proper codes based on different coding systems and understand reimbursement and reporting, among other duties.

Students will complete a total of 67 credits for graduation, which include general education courses. Those courses lay a strong educational foundation that allows you to move into a bachelor’s degree program at some point, if that’s what you choose to do to further your career. Sample courses found within the major include:

  • Introduction to Health Information Systems
  • Basic ICD Coding
  • Basic CPT Coding
  • Medical Terminology
  • CPC Review
  • Compliance/Regulations
  • Professional Ethics in Healthcare
  • Virtual Practicum

Students can expect to pay tuition, fees, and the cost of books and supplies; during the most recent school year, this came to a total of $18,517. Students can apply for financial aid to cover some of the cost; they can also opt to go with a diploma or certificate program, which can save time and money, but doesn’t provide the educational stepping-stone they would receive through the associate program.

Upon completion, students are prepared to sit for the following exams:

  • Certified Professional Coder (CPC)
  • Certified Inpatient Coder (CIC)
  • Certified Coding Specialist (CCS)

Those seeking the CCS should keep in mind that two years of work experience is recommended, in addition to completing a higher education program, in order to sit for the exam.

Q&A with Laurus College

As you research online medical billing and coding programs, it can be incredibly helpful (and important) to hear directly from the schools who have them. After all, who better to explain the ins and outs of their programs than the schools themselves? We reached out to Laurus College to see what makes its medical billing and coding program stand out from the rest.

University name location School type online programs Get more info Program Description
Laurus College location: San Luis Obispo, CA School type: Private-for-Profit online programs: 1 Get more info
Laurus College Logo

Q&A with Dr. Wayne Neale, President & CEO

Medical Billing and Coding Occupational Associate Degree

Can you describe how online learning works at your college?

Laurus College offers a fully integrated virtual learning environment for both distance education and hybrid students, giving students the opportunity for live, real-time interaction, as well as the ability to review archived sessions. Whether a student chooses to attend their class from a campus or via distance education, all students receive the same live instruction and interactive learning experience. The class lecture delivery uses synchronous instruction, allowing the teacher to see and interact in real-time with students across all four campuses and online at the same time via computer webcams. Students are able to not only see and communicate with their instructors, but can also see and interact with each other.

What makes your online medical billing and coding program stand out from other programs?

Our hybrid learning model gives you greater freedom and flexibility to learn on your own schedule. Students develop the ability to process health insurance claims by learning the many aspects of medical insurance, including plan options, carrier requirements, various regulations, extraction of relevant information from source documents, accurate claim form completion, and diagnosis and procedure coding. Laurus College curricula are kept current with industry trends and health insurance regulations. The Laurus College Advantage includes:
  • Practical, career-focused training that prepares you for an in-demand career.
  • Supportive learning environment where instructors care about your success.
  • Flexible scheduling options that include both day and evening classes.
  • Laptop included – Students attending classes in an occupational associate or bachelor’s degree program are given the opportunity to receive a laptop computer loaded with all of the software needed to complete their program.
  • Job search assistance through our Career Services Department, including resume & portfolio creation, interview preparation, and live workshops.

How does your online program prepare students for successful careers in the field?

Students prepare for today’s medical environment by advancing in the areas of ICD, CPT, medical terminology and understanding of insurance forms and claims. They will also have knowledge of how a medical office runs, including HIPPA guidelines, scheduling, billing cycles, and insurance payments (EOB/RA). We strive to make our classroom a fun and stress-free environment. All of the instructors in the department have years of experience and are happy to share this knowledge with the students.

What support services do you offer students enrolled in your online medical billing and coding program?

Laurus College offers an array of student services all available to the student as part of their tuition. The student services include:
  • Job Placement Assistance
  • Library and Learning Resources
  • Academic Counseling and Tutorial Services.
  • Student Study Groups
  • Textbook(s) for each course
  • Tutoring help through Peer Mentors
  • Success Ambassadors will help on-campus students with non-academic tasks

Any other information you’d like prospective students to know about your program?

Laurus College provides a quality education and quality experience for people who wish to attain their bachelor’s and occupational associate degrees. Our commitment to student success goes above and beyond the typical e-learning experience by using our unique “Laurus Learning” program model. Our program has been refined to accommodate a vast array of learning styles and techniques that will be right for you. At Laurus College, you can complete your degree online through a virtual classroom, or are welcome to attend your classes at any of our campus locations.

Why Medical Billing & Coding Classes Online?

Many people have plenty of obligations, such as a full-time job, a family or community responsibilities that make it tough to take time off to sit in a classroom for several hours each day. Online learning is great for those who need more flexibility while working toward their certificate, diploma, or degree. Plus, there are a ton of helpful online and school resources that medical billing and coding students can take advantage of during their online studies if they need extra support.

Medical billing and coding programs lend themselves well to the online learning world, as most of the courses can be completed entirely through the internet, with no need to set foot in a classroom. Let’s break down the pros:

Convenience

Online learning is inherently flexible in that students can fit in their classwork between their day-to-day obligations. Medical billing and coding programs are especially flexible because they do not require a hands-on component. Since there is little to no patient contact in the course of the medical billing or coding job, students are not subject to the same requirements that some allied health professionals must meet (such as medical assistants and home health aides). This means students can complete their online coursework and be ready to move right into the workforce.

Cost

Since online programs don’t require the overhead of a classroom, they are naturally more affordable. In the case of medical billing and coding programs, the short length is also a factor in affordability – the less time a person spends in a program, the less they will pay to complete it. Affordability does vary depending upon the program itself, as well as the credential earned at the end of it – for instance, a one-year program resulting in a certificate will be much more affordable than a two-year program resulting in an associate degree – but in general, the medical billing and coding programs tend to be some of the more affordable short-term educational opportunities.

Time to graduation

Online students have the advantage of choosing accelerated programs to make the process of getting a credential even faster. For instance, medical billing and coding students might opt for an accelerated program that delivers information over a nine-month period rather than one year. That three months of time saved can allow students a bit of free time to study for the certification exam (if they choose to take it), or simply allows them to get into the workforce and earn a paycheck sooner. Though all online programs require discipline to stay focused and on top of the class schedule, accelerated programs require even more dedication, but can be well worth the money and time saved.

Types of Online Medical Billing & Coding Programs

Aspiring students have several options for their educational pursuit – you can move into a billing and coding position with a certificate, diploma or associate degree. But what are the differences? Is there something that makes one path better than the other? To put it simply, the path you choose depends upon where you want your career path to lead. Here’s what you need to know about each option:

Certificate

By definition, a certificate refers to an academic course of study in a specific subject – so it’s targeted, teaching you only what you need to know for medical billing and coding. And though many post-secondary institutions might use “certificate” or “diploma” interchangeably, in most cases the certificate will turn out to be the shorter of the two, lasting just a few months. The good news is that it gets you into the workforce faster; the bad news is that it may not lead to college credit, which can be disappointing if you choose to further your career later.

Bottom line: Certificate programs are best for individuals looking to start working as a medical biller and coder as fast as possible.

Diploma

Diploma programs typically take a bit longer than a certificate but less time than an associate degree. They are found online and on traditional campuses. Some diploma programs have full-length courses that can translate into college credit if you ever want to continue your education; however, most of them are much like certificates in that the goal is to get into the workforce in the least amount of time.

Bottom line: Diploma programs are best for those who need to start working as soon as possible, but also want the opportunity to acquire additional knowledge and skills compared to their certificate earning counterparts.

Associate degree

Usually taking two years to complete, an associate degree includes general education courses in addition to the major courses for medical billing and coding. This means a well-rounded education that allows for transfer into a bachelor’s degree program, if that’s what you choose. It can also mean better job opportunities, as many employers will prefer to hire those who have a degree. The disadvantage is a matter of time and money: The associate degree is often more expensive than a certificate or diploma, and it lengthens the time it will take before you can enter the workforce.

Bottom line: Associate degree programs are ideal for those who wish to eventually earn a bachelor’s degree. Depending on the school and its transfer rules, students with an associate degree can earn a bachelor’s degree in two years or less.

Medical Billing vs. Medical Coding: What’s the Difference?

Some programs go by the name of “medical billing” while others all themselves “medical coding.” There might be other names, such as “medical coding and insurance billing.” What’s the difference between billing and coding? Let’s take a look:

Medical billing: According to the AAPC, medical billing is “the process of submitting and following up on claims with insurance companies in order to receive payment for services rendered by a healthcare provider.” When a patient receives any sort of service, there is a code attached to that service – the code is then submitted as a claim to the insurance company, who is supposed to pay the claim within a certain period of time. The medical biller helps ensure that this happens, and that as a result, the revenue stream of the facility, office or the like continues to move smoothly. Medical billers stay right on top of the claims, communicate with insurance companies (and sometimes with patients as well), and make changes, update claims, or do whatever else must be done to get the necessary approvals that result in payment.

Medical coding: The AAPC defines medical coding as “the transformation of healthcare diagnosis, procedures, medical services, and equipment into universal medical alphanumeric codes.” The information necessary to create the codes comes from patient records. Medical coders review the patient records for every diagnosis, procedures performed, medical services rendered and the equipment used, among other points, then translates each into a particular code. The codes vary depending upon the classification system used. Those codes are then used by the medical biller to create claims that go to insurance companies.

It’s important to note that medical billers and medical coders serve two distinct functions, but sometimes one person can do both. This is especially true in smaller medical practices, where the patient roster is smaller, the procedures performed are more limited and the billing or coding work is done right there in the office, rather than sent out to a third party.

What You’ll Learn: Medical Billing and Coding Online Courses

Medical billing and coding both require a very specific set of skills and knowledge; it’s something that must be taught through in-depth courses. Though these courses might go by different names, they all focus on the same important aspects of medical billing and coding. Here are some of the courses you can expect to encounter, as well as what skills and knowledge you will have when you complete them.

Medical Insurance 101: Before you can code procedures or file claims, you’ll need to understand how insurance works. This course focuses on the ins and outs of the medical insurance industry. Similar courses concentrate on different types of insurance or coverage, such as Medicaid, CHIP, managed care, military insurance, workers compensation and more.

Anatomy: Landmarks and Divisions: In order to properly code and bill, you must understand the diagnosis, procedures and the like – and that means having a firm understanding of how the human body works. This course will focus on providing that in-depth overview.

Medical Terminology: Healthcare has a unique language all its own, and understanding the terms will help you learn to code and bill for the services rendered. This course and those similar to it will target abbreviations, symbols, special terms, and short-hand terms that combine all of the above.

ICD-10-CM Coding: This will usually be divided up into several modules or courses on different aspects of the complicated ICD-10-CM coding. You’ll learn how to find and use the proper codes for symptoms, complications, diagnosis, abnormal findings and much, much more.

Medical Records: This course will provide an in-depth understanding of how medical records are created, how to understand them, what to look for when finding codes for billing, and how to read both handwritten notes and electronic health records. Similar courses might go more in-depth on electronic health records, including the different types of software you might encounter.

How Much Does Online MB&C School Cost?

The cost for attending a medical billing and coding program varies widely, with much of the differences attributed to the length of the program. Certificates and diplomas, especially those that take only a few months to earn, will likely have the lowest cost. Earning an associate degree tends to be the most expensive option, but it’s also the one that allows for the most career mobility. All that said, the type of school you wish to attend may also impact your cost. Community colleges usually have the most affordable price tags, while for-profit colleges and private institutes may be the biggest burden on the pocketbook. Let’s see the different ways these costs break down.

Finding Low Cost Online Medical Billing & Coding Programs

Remember that low cost or “affordable” can mean something different for everyone. It all depends on the type of payment that makes the most sense for you, as well as the type of program you want to pursue. It also depends on whether you qualify for financial aid or scholarships. Here are a few tips to help you find the most affordable program for you:

Total cost

Tuition for the most affordable MB&C programs and courses can range between $500 and $1,000. This usually depends on the type of school, the type of program, and the end goal of the program or course. For example, Penn Foster Career School has a robust 10-month program for $799, which covers billing AND coding. Of course, those who choose an associate degree program can expect to pay the tuition rate set by the school to earn the two-year degree. When looking for the cheapest online medical billing and/or coding program, always make sure it has the accreditation you need to work toward certification as well as the recognition to make you a solid candidate in your chosen field.

Interest-free payments

Remember that tuition numbers aren’t necessarily what you will actually pay. Some programs may have a higher price tag, but more generous payment options. For example, Ashworth has zero-interest payment plans that may make sense for students on a month-to-month budget. Others might offer generous financial aid to those who qualify. As always, if you find an online MB&C program that fits your cost needs, vet it thoroughly for quality and accreditation.

How to Fund Your Online Medical Billing and Coding Program

Finding the money for the medical billing and coding program might seem like a daunting task, but there are many options out there. Part of the magic of attending an accredited program is that you might be eligible for federal financial aid, including grants and subsidized loans. In some cases, grants will cover the majority of the cost. Scholarships are also an option; though general scholarships are the norm, some scholarships are reserved only for those who enter an allied health profession. There are even scholarships available through the school itself, often based on need or merit. To learn more about payment options, visit our page about online medical billing and coding schools with financial aid.

How Long Does an Online Medical Billing and Coding Program Take?

The short answer: It depends. The type of credential you seek will dictate the time it takes to complete a program. For instance, a certificate or diploma can take anywhere from a few weeks to a full year to complete, while an associate degree program lasts two years (possibly only 18 month with accelerated courses). Some accelerated medical and billing programs have a very strong, narrow focus and can take less than six months to complete. To get a more detailed look at how long programs last, as well as the courses taken during the program and what else to expect, check out the program profiles above.

The 4 Week Online Course for Medical Billing & Coding

Those who want to get into the workforce as fast as possible might look for an accelerated option; these programs condense the necessary information into a very short time-frame, usually a few months. An example is MedicalBillingCourse.com, where you could complete a medical billing certification course in as little as 3-5 weeks. The cost of that particular course is $699.95, with installment plans available. These very short programs teach the basics of what students need to know to move into the workforce as a medical biller, but they do not provide the knowledge necessary to become a medical coder.

If you do choose to go with a low-cost and fast-paced option, remember that it’s important to look at all aspects of the program. Vet it carefully by looking at quality reviews from graduates, job placement numbers, how well the program prepares you to sit for certification examinations (assuming you intend to become certified!) and how the skills and knowledge you earn during the program can help you advance in your future career. And of course, accreditation is the most important factor of all – it pays to attend an accredited school or program.

Does Accreditation Matter?

Accreditation is an incredibly important part of any higher education program. Accreditation essentially means a college or program has been closely examined by an independent body and found to meet the rigorous standards of a high-quality education. In other words, accreditation ensures that the credential you earn means something, and that your hard work doesn’t go to waste.

It also matters for a variety of other reasons. The biggest might be the question of financial aid – federal financial aid is usually only awarded to those who are enrolled in an accredited program. It’s not accredited? Then you usually pay out of pocket, which can be quite expensive. Another reason is keeping a good reputation. Many employers will only hire those who have graduated from an accredited school or program; anything less, and they will see the program as a “diploma mill” and assume you do not have the proper knowledge or skills to do the job.

A school or program might have regional accreditation through one of several accrediting bodies across the nation; a list of those six agencies is available here. Medical billing and coding programs might also be accredited by the Commission on Health Informatics and Information Management.

Career Growth for Medical Billers and Coders

The future is bright for medical billers and coders. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a projected growth rate of 8% from 2019 to 2029, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Much of that growth can be attributed to a boom in healthcare, driven by an aging population, advanced technology that allows for more outpatient procedures, and the more common use of electronic health records. Those who are well-versed in different types of electronic health records can expect to have better job opportunities. Though most medical billers and coders will work in public or private hospitals, opportunities are also available in offices of physicians, outpatient clinics, administrative services or nursing homes. Depending upon the employer’s policies, some medical billing and coding technicians can work from home.

Those who start a career in medical billing and coding aren’t limited to staying in that position. There are many other career options that utilize health information technology, such as medical secretaries or medical transcriptionists. These positions allow medical billing and coding graduates to build upon their skills and knowledge to move into different parts of the medical field, and the work experience can hold them in good stead when they seek other positions, such as those in nursing or home health care.

Do I need to be certified as a medical biller and/or coder?

Technically, certification is not required to begin work as a medical biller or medical coder. However, certification is strongly recommended. Many employers will only hire those who have certification, so it makes you much more marketable. Besides that, it can provide a decent salary boost. To learn more, visit our full page on the importance and options available when it comes to medical billing and coding certification online.

How Much Do Medical Billers and Coders Make

According to the AAPC Annual Salary Survey (which includes all medical billers and coders who are members of the AAPC), the average income of a medical coder is $52,411 per year. Those who have no certification earned $45,035 per year, while those with at least one certification earned almost 15% more, at $51,477. Those who earned specialized certifications could earn over $64,000 per year.