Getting into Medical Billing & Coding School: An Admissions Guide

Learn about the different requirements for each degree level, find out if you qualify to gain admissions, and gather resources that can help you get accepted.

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Kenya McCullum

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last updated

10/18/2022

Medical billing and coding professionals form the backbone of the accounts payable department, ensuring medical treatments get processed and coded correctly so providers get paid for their services. Roles in this field require a nuanced and in-depth knowledge of both the medical billing process and the actual codes and programs used to keep up with patients and procedures. Whether you’re thinking about testing the waters with a certificate program or ramping up your education with an associate degree, it’s important to understand the admissions requirements and how to get from start to finish.

As with any other educational program, medical billing and coding admission requirements change from school to school. Understanding these early in the application process can help you weed out schools that don’t meet your criteria and provide more time to perfect your applications to the best programs. Keep reading to learn what you can generally expect, how to feel confident throughout the process, and where to find key information about each step.

General Admissions Requirements

As you familiarize yourself with the various admissions processes of various medical billing and coding programs, you’ll soon learn that applying to a school is different than applying to a specific program. Depending on the option you choose, you may find yourself doing one or the other – or even both. Schools with centralized admissions allow you to submit one application for both the school and program, while blended programs require an application to each. If you come across a decentralized option, you’ll apply only to the program itself.

By understanding these different types of admissions approaches, you can better tailor your application based on general and program-specific requirements. We look at the differences below

Certificate in Medical Billing & Coding

Certificate programs, which take about a year to complete, are offered by community colleges and career schools. This section describes what schools usually expect from students when they apply to certificate programs, as well as how much this education costs.

Institutions that Offer Certification & Requirements

To be admitted to a medical billing and coding program on this level, students are expected to have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Some programs may also expect that you earn a good score on the SAT or ACT exams, and have at least a 2.0 GPA.

Lining Up the Finances

The cost of certificate programs vary depending on the specific school you enroll in. On average, however, students are charged around $5,000 total for these programs and may have the option to pay for the entire program in one lump sum, per semester, or through a payment plan with the school. To pay for the certificate, you may be able to take out loans or receive scholarships from your school. To find out your options, be sure to speak to someone at the financial aid office of the programs you’re looking at.

Associate Degree in Medical Billing & Coding

Associate’s degree programs in medical billing and coding are offered by two-year community colleges. The following section includes information to give you a look at what it takes to get into a community college and pay for a degree on this level.

Community College Entry Requirements

To be admitted to a community college program, you are expected to be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or GED. Also, you will be required to submit your scores from the SAT or ACT exam, and if English is not your first language, you will need to submit your score from the TOEFL. A minimum grade point average of 2.0 to 2.50 may also be required.

In order to apply, submit an application with the required fees to the schools you’re interested in, and arrange to have your high school transcripts and standardized test scores sent to those schools. You may also need to submit documentation to prove you’re a resident of the state where the school is located. Some schools may require an admissions interview, but if they don’t, they may encourage you to participate in one if you feel it will help your application.

Lining Up the Finances

The amount that a community college will charge for tuition depends on whether you are an in-state or out-of-state student. On average, resident students are charged $1,865 per semester, or $7,460 for the entire two years of their program. If you’re considering attending a community college out of state, keep in mind that you will be charged significantly more than residents. In fact, out-of-state tuition rates can be two times the amount of in-state tuition, depending on the school.

As you submit the materials for admission to community college, also fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for financial aid. This will help the school determine how much you need and give you options to help defray the cost of your education. You may be able to receive scholarships, grants, and loans through the government, as well as financial aid directly from your school.

Identifying Your Prerequisites

Schools want to know that applicants will be able to handle the rigors of college work, and part of the way they judge that is by looking at your transcripts to review how well you performed in prerequisite classes. The specific classes may differ depending on the college you apply too, but generally, schools expect you to have completed English, composition, mathematics, social science, and natural science classes. Also, you need to have a satisfactory grade in prerequisite classes, which is at least a 2.0 average. As you investigate schools to apply to, check to see what their specific requirements are.

Medical Billing & Coding Program Admissions Requirements

When you apply to a career or community college, the requirements for admission may be different from the requirements to get into a specific program. Although you may be able to get into a school, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be admitted into the program you want to enroll in. It’s important to understand what the requirements are for medical billing and coding programs, so continue reading to find out what you can expect.

Requirements for a Certification Program in Medical Billing & Coding

The admissions requirements for a certificate program in medical billing and coding will be different depending on the school you choose. While each school has different standards, the following provides an overview of what programs usually require from applicants.

Completed Application Form

In order to enroll in a medical billing and coding certificate program, you will usually be required to be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or GED. In some cases, you will need to fill out an application for admission, which can be found on schools’ websites. However, other schools do not require that you submit an application at all and allow you to simply begin taking coursework when sessions begin.

If you are required to fill out an application, the school will ask questions to learn more about your background, such as personal information—where you live and where you attended school—and information on what you studied while you were in school. Be sure to fill out the application in its entirety, because this information helps schools decide whether or not to admit you.

Minimum GPA

Depending on the school, you may be expected to have at least a 2.0 grade point average. Other schools, however, do not have a minimum GPA requirement.

College Entrance Exams

You probably will not be required to take an entrance exam, like the SAT or ACT, to enter this program, but some schools may expect you to successfully take the Career Step Pre-Enrollment Assessment Test.

Requirements for an Associate in Medical Billing & Coding

When you apply for an associate degree in medical billing and coding, chances are programs will have the same requirements as the schools that offer them. This is not always the case, however, so pay close attention to the program requirements because they may differ.

Completed Application Form

An application is required for admission to a program on the associate’s level. When you apply, you should have a high school diploma or its equivalent, so send your official transcripts to the schools you’re interested in. The application will ask for personal information, as well as information about the school you attended and subjects studied.

Minimum GPA

The minimum GPA to be admitted into a medical billing and coding associate’s degree program is generally 2.0, though some schools may require a 2.50.

College Entrance Exams

The college entrance exams that you may need to take are the SAT or ACT. The TOEFL may be required for students whose first language is something other than English. Each school will have its own individual standards for minimum test scores.

Prerequisite Courses

People in the field need to understand concepts related to healthcare, so schools may have some prerequisite requirements in order to be admitted. These requirements can include biology, anatomy, and physiology classes. Also, some schools want to admit students who demonstrate proficiency in English and mathematics, so those classes may also be prerequisites.

There may be a minimum grade requirement for prerequisite classes, which is commonly at least a 2.0 to 2.50 GPA.

Other Things to Think About

When you consider enrolling in a medical billing and coding program, the admissions requirements are important to know. But there are other considerations you should also think about while navigating the process. The following are some of these areas.

Transfer Credits

If you attended a college previously, you should be able to transfer some of the credits you earned into a new program. For a medical billing and coding associate’s degree, if you took general education classes at your previous school, like English composition and biology, you may be able to transfer them to the new one. Also, some credits from your major may also be transferred if they are comparable to the transfer school’s requirements.

When you apply to the new program, the school will conduct course reviews to assess the transferability of your credits, which means the curriculum needs to teach similar concepts and skills. Also, schools will expect you to have earned at least a 2.0 average in these classes to transfer them. Generally, there is a limit of how many transfer credits count towards a degree.

Accreditation

Whether or not a school has been accredited should be top of mind when you consider a program because this will ensure that you’re getting access to the quality education you need to have a successful career. In fact, many employers prefer to hire those who have attended accredited schools because they can bring a candidate on with confidence that they have learned the skills needed to do the job.

There are two levels of accreditation to pay attention to: accreditation for the medical billing and coding program and accreditation for the school itself. Programs are accredited by the American Academy of Professional Coders and the American Health Information Management Association. Schools may be accredited by national or regional organizations. On the national level, accreditation is obtained from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, while regional organizations that accredit schools include the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

The accreditation process is demanding, and schools get approval based on their curriculum, student outcomes, faculty member credentials, and student services provided. If schools meet the standards set forth by accrediting bodies, they get a stamp of approval that shows the program will effectively prepare you for your career. You will not get this kind of guarantee at an unaccredited school.

Resources

The American Medical Association outlines medical coding mistakes professionals should avoid.

This video from Carrington College provides a glimpse of the reality of working as a medical billing and coding professional.

Since 1988, the AAPC has offered training, tools, and certifications for medical coders.

The AMBA provides education and networking opportunities for those in the medical billing industry.

This podcast provides news about medical billing and coding in short episodes that are less than five minutes long.

This podcast from reimbursement industry expert Terry Fletcher offers information about the rules and regulations of the field.

This page describes the nuts and bolts of how medical billing and coding works and the codes professionals are expected to know how to use.

The Healthcare Business Management Association, or HBMA, provides education, networking, and professional development to its members.

Herzing University provides a quiz to help people decide if they should pursue a medical billing and coding career.

This page on Herzing University’s website explains the similarities and differences between medical billing and medical coding.