If you want to start working in the medical billing and coding field in California, you’re in luck. The state employs the highest number of medical records specialists in the country.
Whether you’re just starting out in your career or looking to change careers, pursuing a medical billing and coding certificate is an excellent step for anyone interested in a healthcare position that offers them independence, structure, a good salary, and the chance to help patients—all without having to get a college degree.
Medical billing and coding professionals play a crucial role in the healthcare system by maintaining accurate patient records and ensuring timely reimbursement for services. These positions are ideal for people who wants to work in administrative roles while helping others.
Our guide will help you explore some of the top programs in the state, the skills you’ll need to succeed, the pros and cons of a medical billing and coding career, and some frequently asked questions. Let’s dive in!
Popular Online Medical Billing and Coding Schools in California
Not sure where to begin your search? A good place to start is our curated list of three top-tier programs in California that offer online medical billing and coding courses. While this list isn’t a ranking, it will serve as an introduction to some of the highest quality programs in the state, which should help you get an idea of what to look for in other programs.
Cal State East Bay
If you’re eager to get your start in the healthcare industry, Cal State East Bay’s 12-month Medical Billing and Coding Certificate program is a great option. This nationally recognized, accredited program covers a wide range of legal, ethical, regulatory, and financial concepts central to the medical billing and coding field. Completion of this certificate will qualify you to sit for professional certification exams.
You can take the course, which is delivered online through a partnership with ed2go, at your own pace.
California State University Chico
California State University Chico’s Medical Billing and Coding Certificate program is another great, fully online option. The certification course will equip you to start your career as a medical records specialist, or any number of other positions available to program graduates. Over the course of the program, you’ll learn how to use the Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) and the CPT Category II and ICD-10 codes. You’ll also gain hands-on practice using medical billing and coding software.
Once you complete the course, you’ll receive a voucher for the certification exam of your choice: Certified Professional Coder (CPC), Certified Coding Associate (CCA), or Certified Billing and Coding Specialist (CBCS). According to a report sponsored by the workforce analytics company Burning Glass, the demand for medical billing and coding professionals is growing, in fact the Chico Metropolitan Area has one of the greatest needs for medical billing and coding specialists within the state of California, a strong indicator of future job opportunities in the area.
You can complete this program in one to three years, depending on your choice of either a certificate or an associate degree.
San Joaquin Valley College
San Joaquin Valley College’s online Medical Billing and Coding program offers both certificate and associate degree tracks. The certificate can be completed in as few as 7 months and the associate degree in as few as 15 months. In both tracks you can expect to learn about insurance reimbursement, EHR/EMR systems, the process of reviewing, documenting, and maintaining patient records, and much more. The school is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
SJVC conveniently offers a net price calculator so you can get an accurate estimate of the cost of the program.
Skills of Successful Medical Billing and Coding Students
In the medical billing and coding field, technical skills and analytical acumen are crucial to your success, but they are just the tip of the iceberg. In this section, we’ve highlighted a handful of other relevant skills and qualities you’ll need to be an effective medical billing and coding professional. If you feel confident in these skills, you’re likely well-suited for a career in medical billing and coding.
Adaptability to Technology
The medical field is constantly changing. To succeed as a medical billing and coding professional, you need to change with it by quickly learning, adapting to, and implementing new technologies. By keeping a receptive mindset and remaining agile, you can play a pivotal role in keeping your work environment plugged into the latest developments.
Attention to Detail
A high level of accuracy is critical when handling medical records. To succeed in this field, you need to be able to pay meticulous attention to details to maintain that level of accuracy. You’ll be required to complete tasks like inputting complex medical codes and submitting detailed insurance claims. Both providers and patients rely on accurate records to deliver and receive the best care possible.
Commitment to Confidentiality
Maintaining confidentiality is central to working ethically in any healthcare profession. Over the course of your medical billing and coding career, you’ll be privy to a vast amount of sensitive patient information, from patients’ medical diagnoses and treatment history to their billing information. You’ll need to be able to handle information with discretion to protect patients from violations of privacy (and your employers from liability).
Strong Communication Skills
Strong communication skills are helpful in most professions, but are absolutely necessary in this field. As a medical records specialist, for example, you’ll be responsible for communicating with healthcare providers, insurance companies, and patients, among other parties. It’s important that you can communicate complex information clearly to everyone involved in order to ensure accurate billing and minimize errors.
Considerations When Choosing a Medical Billing & Coding School
Selecting the right medical billing and coding school plays a significant role in your educational journey and future career. To navigate this choice effectively, you should weigh several factors, including those we’ve outlined below.
Accreditation is a critical component of any quality program and serves as a benchmark for the school’s legitimacy. By choosing an accredited school, you can ensure that you’ll receive an excellent education that will prepare you for your chosen career. In the medical billing and coding field, the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) and the Commission of Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM) are two nationally-recognized accreditation organizations. When researching programs, be sure to look for one of these accreditations.
Completing a certificate from an accredited program also ensures that you’ll be eligible for the professional certification exam.
Cost & Financial Aid
Finances play a crucial role in any education decision. You should always look for schools that have transparent cost structures so you have a clear understanding of the full cost.
You can also look for schools that have financial aid options for aspiring medical billing and coding professionals, like WGU’s Leavitt School of Health. Websites like Coding Clarified can help you to find medical coding scholarships specific to your area. By creating a financial plan, you can focus on your studies and prepare for the next step in your career.
Curriculum & Certificate Preparation
If you’d like to work toward a specific role within the medical billing and coding field, you should look for a school that offers role or subject area-specific courses. It’s also important, however, to make sure you get a broad foundation of industry basics, like coding systems, medical terminology, and insurance practices.
You have several options when it comes to the format of programs like medical billing and coding certificates. Ask yourself if you prefer online, in-person, or hybrid lessons. If you like to study online, do you prefer synchronous or asynchronous classes? Think about what type of education suits your learning style best and fits into your schedule.
The Pros and Cons of Becoming a Medical Biller & Coder
Becoming a medical billing and coding professional can be the start of an engaging and fulfilling career in healthcare informatics. While the path has many perks, it’s not for everyone. In this section, we’ll highlight some of the pros and cons of working in medical billing and coding so you can make an informed decision about your future.
FAQs About California Medical Billing and Coding Schools
Think of this guide as a starting point for your journey. We’ve covered the basics of medical billing and coding programs so far, but you likely still have questions. We’ve gathered some of the most frequently asked questions from prospective medical billing/coding students and addressed them below.
Are there required prerequisites for medical billing and coding programs?
Generally, there are no prerequisites for medical billing and coding programs. Take a look at medical billing and coding course from Borough of Manhattan Community College to learn more about the structure of a typical online program.
Do medical billing and coding schools offer online or part-time options?
Yes, most medical and coding schools are offered online and have part-time options. The AAPC, for example, offers a range of learning methods, including live instructor-led online courses and self-paced instruction. Visit our guide to find the best online medical billing and coding schools so you can find the best fit for you.
How much do medical billing and coding professionals make in California?
The mean annual wage for medical billing and coding professionals, namely medical records specialists, in California is $65,850, according to the BLS. Areas around Los Angeles and San Francisco have higher average salaries of $67,880 and $73,800, respectively. Given that the state employs the highest number of medical records specialists in the country, you should have a wide array of opportunities to choose from.
Check out SJVC’s career guide on working in medical billing and coding in California to learn more.
What certification exam(s) do I need to take before I can start working?
A medical coding certification shows you’ve learned a specific medical coding system, or systems, along with the basics of how to translate patient medical data into codes. You can choose between a certification in general coding or a specialty medical coding. Some of the specialized certifications include Certified Professional Biller (CPB), Certified Risk Adjustment Coder (CRC), and Certified Professional Practice Manager (CPPM).
Getting certified will also help you earn more: a study conducted by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) found that certified medical coders earned 27 percent more than those without a certification
What is the process for applying to a medical billing and coding school?
Once you find the program that fits you best, the application process is straightforward. Though specific requirements will vary by program and school, there are some general admissions requirements: a high school diploma and a GPA of 2.0 or higher. You will typically need to submit your scores from the SAT or ACT exam as well.
To learn more about the process, read our admissions guide to getting into medical billing and coding school here.