To some people, medical billing and coding may sound like an obscure career path. But if you are at all interested in this profession, you know that people who work in medical billing and coding are an indispensable part of the healthcare system. While their responsibilities may seem mysterious to people unfamiliar with the field, you’re likely well aware that they function as intermediaries between patients and insurance companies and ensure that healthcare providers receive appropriate and timely compensation for their services.
You probably wouldn’t be considering beginning a career in medical billing or coding if you weren’t also aware of its many perks—independence, a good salary, and the chance to truly help patients. What you might not know is what it takes to get started in the field. If you’re feeling confused or a little overwhelmed when it comes to choosing the best program and earning the appropriate certification, or concerned about whether your skills align with the demands of the job, do not despair! We have carefully crafted the following guide to medical billing and coding schools, classes, and careers in Georgia to address these concerns—and many more—so you can take your first step down the path to a bright, new career with confidence.
Popular Medical Billing and Coding Schools in Georgia
As with any academic pursuit, the most important part is finding the right school. You need to look for an institution that offers a well-rounded, affordable program that will prepare you to succeed in your future career. To help you get started, we’ve spotlighted three examples of popular medical billing and coding schools in Georgia. Check them out below to get an idea of what the state has to offer and what you should look for during your own program search.
Georgia Southern University
There are no prerequisites for the Medical Billing and Coding program at Georgia Southern University. However, since a high school diploma or equivalent is required to sit for national exams, the school recommends that applicants to the program have this before enrolling. Over the course of the program, students learn the main coding manuals; the phases of the revenue cycle; legal, ethical, and regulatory concepts; medical coding terminology; the medical disorders and procedures associated with each body system; and more.
GSU offers open enrollment for this 370-course-hour program, meaning students can register for and begin the program when they are ready. Students have 12 months from registration to complete the course, however, since the program is self-paced and asynchronous, it is possible to finish in less time. The program costs a total of $3,095 and includes the most recent coding manuals, access to instructors and a student advising team, and an exam-specific voucher and study guide package. Financing and military tuition assistance options are available to defray the cost of tuition.
Middle Georgia State University
Middle Georgia State University’s Online Medical Billing and Coding training program teaches students everything they need to be successful in the field. The curriculum includes classes on the Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS); the functions of the CPT Category II and ICD-10 codes; and medical terminology, among others. Students also gain hands-on experience with coding and billing software through an externship, which prepares them for real-world situations. By the end of the program, students are prepared to pass the certification exam of their choice (for which Middle Georgia State University offers a voucher). For students interested exclusively in billing, there is an option to complete a standalone Medical Billing certificate.
Because the program offers open enrollment, students can begin the course at any time. On average, the program takes one year to complete. Online classes at Middle Georgia State University cost $150 per credit hour, but students have the option of enrolling in a payment plan to help finance their studies.
University of Georgia
The Medical Billing and Coding course offered at the University of Georgia covers topics like legal, ethical, and regulatory concepts, including HIPAA compliance; medical terminology; and the structures and functions of the human body. Students also learn other essential skills, including how to code diagnoses, services, and procedures, and how to file insurance claims according to third-party guidelines. When students finish the course, they can choose the study guide and voucher combination package that best suits their interests and career goals.
The program’s open enrollment allows students to access their online studies at any time for 12 months after their enrollment. The 37-credit program requires 370 hours of study. The school’s wide array of financial assistance, financing plans, and military tuition benefits help students cover the cost of the $2,995 program. The university’s robust student resources ensure that online students never have to go it alone.
Skills of Successful Medical Billing and Coding Students
Although many different types of people pursue careers in medical billing and coding, the most successful tend to possess many of the same qualities. Let’s talk about some of the skills that will help you excel in the classroom and in the field.
Attention to Detail
Students who are successful in the classroom and beyond are extremely detail-oriented. This characteristic allows students not only to fully absorb the finer points of course content, but to apply them to complex tasks they encounter in the field. Medical coding professionals, for example, must carefully choose and enter the correct codes to reflect patient records. Inaccuracies can lead to claim denials, unnecessary charges to the patient, or even denial of critical medical services.
Adaptability to Technology
Your medical billing and coding school will give you hands-on experience with the latest software being used in the field. It’s crucial that you understand this technology because it allows you to quickly and accurately access and handle patient data. These applications and operating systems are constantly changing and improving, though, and medical billing and coding professionals must be able to keep up by learning and adapting to the latest versions of programs and other technology.
Commitment to Confidentiality
One of the most important concepts that medical billing and coding professionals learn is patient confidentiality as set out by HIPAA. This legislation was enacted to protect patients from having their private medical information disclosed without their permission. Obviously, medical billing and coding professionals have access to patients’ sensitive medical records and must be able to handle them with discretion in order to safeguard patients’ privacy and help their employers avoid liability.
Strong Communication Skills
In the context of a professional training program, the ability to communicate clearly and effectively is important when completing assignments, asking questions, and requesting feedback. At work, this skill serves medical billing and coding professionals well every time they are required to communicate detailed information to physicians, insurance companies, patients, and other parties.
Considerations When Choosing a Medical Billing & Coding School
When you are looking at different options for school, there are several important considerations that should factor into your ultimate decision. For example, is the program being offered by a reputable institution? Is it affordable? Will it prepare you for the niche coding and billing role that interests you? In the section below, we’ll address these and other considerations to give you an idea of the most important factors to consider when weighing your options.
Put simply, accreditation guarantees that a program or institution has been reviewed by an accrediting body that determined it met certain standards of academic quality. Attending an accredited institution ensures that you are receiving the education you need to pass certification tests and succeed in your career. It also means that your education will be accepted as valid by potential employers. The most prestigious type of accreditation a school can hold is regional, but individual programs can also hold other accreditations that demonstrate high standards and excellent outcomes. For medical billing and coding programs, look for accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM)or the American Academy of Professional Coders(AAPC).
Cost & Financial Aid
Obviously, finding a quality program doesn’t mean much if you can’t afford it. The average cost of an online medical billing and coding school in Georgia is around $3,000, but there may be programs that fall above or below this amount. To help students afford the price of their programs, many schools offer installment plans that allow you to make monthly payments. Other forms of financial aid, such as military tuition assistance, are also common. For programs that do not offer traditional college credit, traditional federal student loans are not an option, but private loans may be available to you through your school or a lending institution.
Curriculum & Certificate Preparation
There are many certification options that you can work toward in your medical billing and coding classes, so it is important to consider whether the program you are considering will prepare you for the examination of your choice. For example, many programs specify that they include a voucher and study packet for one of the following exams: certified professional coder (CPC), certified coding associate (CCA), and certified billing and coding specialist (CBCS). If this is not specified, it’s a good idea to verify with your potential school that the program will prepare you for the test you are interested in.
The instructional format of your potential program will determine when and how you complete your studies. Most programs follow one of the following formats: online/asynchronous, online/synchronous, in-person, and hybrid. A fully online, asynchronous program will offer you significant flexibility because it is entirely self-paced—you never have to report to a physical campus, and you are also required to arrange your schedule around virtual meetings. In contrast, online programs that are offered synchronously are completely virtually, but require you to attend scheduled online meetings with your instructor and classmates. Hybrid and in-person programs both require on-campus attendance, but to different degrees. Consider which format you might prefer as you research medical billing and coding schools in GA.
The Pros and Cons of Becoming a Medical Billing & Coding Professional
Before you embark on your educational journey, it is wise to try to develop an understanding of the day-to-day realities of the job you’re studying for to ensure that you will enjoy it. In the section below, we’ll outline some of the main pros and cons that come along with the profession of medical billing and coding. Keep your eyes peeled for any dealbreakers—or clinchers.
FAQs About Georgia Medical Billing and Coding Programs
If you have come this far, you have already learned many of the ins and outs of medical billing and coding schools and classes in Georgia. However, you may still have a few questions. If so, check out the section below to find the answers to prospective students most common queries.
Are there any prerequisites for medical billing and coding programs?
Most medical billing and coding schools in Georgia do not have any prerequisites for entry. However, since a high school diploma or equivalent is required to take certification exams, this is generally something schools recommend completing before enrollment. That said, a few schools, like Albany State University, do have formal admissions requirements and prerequisites, including a minimum GPA of 2.5 and completion of specific courses in anatomy and physiology, computer applications, and medical terminology.
Do medical billing and coding programs offer online or part-time options?
The vast majority of medical billing and coding schools in Georgia offer online options. And because most of these online offerings are asynchronous and self-paced, students can complete their studies at their convenience. Part-time options aren’t common because medical billing and coding programs are already relatively short in length and do not require a significant time investment. For example, Kennesaw State University’s in-person, 13-week program is taught on Monday and Wednesday nights.
How much do medical billing and coding professionals make in Georgia?
According to wage estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the statewide mean annual wage for medical billing and coding professionals in Georgia is $44,720. With some exceptions, this is in line with the state’s top metropolitan areas. For example, billing and coding professionals in the Atlanta area earn roughly $49,260 per year, and those in the Augusta-Richmond County area earn about $46,030 per year. In other metropolitan areas, such as Columbus, individuals in the profession earn a slightly lower average annual wage of $39,610.
What certification exam(s) do I need to take before I can start working?
Technically, there are no certification requirements to begin working as a medical billing/coding professional in Georgia. However, holding a certification relevant to the specific niche you are interested in will make you much more attractive to employers because it shows that you have proven yourself to be competent in the relevant skills necessary for the job. There are many different certification exams that you can consider. Some of the most common are the certified professional coder (CPC), certified coding associate (CCA), and certified billing and coding specialist (CBCS). Other, more specialized certifications include the certified outpatient coder (COC), certified inpatient coder (CIC), and certified professional coder + certified professional biller (CPC+CPB).
What is the process for applying to a medical billing and coding program?
The application process/admission requirements are slightly different for each medical billing and coding school/class. Many of the schools that do not have formal prerequisites have a simple online checkout process. You can gain entry by clicking “enroll” or “register” and following the checkout procedure. However, other schools maintain formal entry requirements, such as gaining acceptance to the university or college, submitting proof of GPA and test scores, and completing prerequisite courses.