FAQs about medical billing and coding certification

You count on your health insurance company to pay your medical bills, but in order to do that, companies rely on the work of medical billing and coding professionals. These individuals have extensive knowledge of both medical procedures and insurance billing practices. Using that knowledge, they work on behalf of health care professionals and facilities to assign the right code to the care provided and then bill the health insurance company appropriately. It's a steady career with good job growth, and medical billing salaries can run above the national average, depending on a coder's experience, employer and location.

While the American Academy of Professional Coders, known as AAPC, says a degree isn't necessary to do this work, individuals who are pursuing a career in the field should go through a training program. If you're interested in learning more about medical billing and coding certification and training, check out the answers to these frequently asked questions.

1. What type of medical billing and coding programs are available?

Medical billing and coding schools may offer one or more of the following education options.

  • Certificate:Often the fastest way to enter the field is through a certificate program. These provide the basic knowledge entry-level billers and coders need.
  • Diploma:A medical billing and coding diploma program may also offer instruction in other areas of medical office administration and prepare students for expanded responsibilities upon graduation.
  • Advanced certificate:Some schools may offer an advanced certificate for those who already have medical office experience or a medical billing and coding certificate or diploma. An advanced certificate may be appropriate for those who want to enhance their knowledge or update their skills.
  • Associate degree:Finally, some medical billing and coding schools offer associate degrees. These programs may be specific to billing and coding or encompass the larger field of the health information management.

2. How long does it take to finish a medical billing and coding program?

Program lengths can vary widely by school and the level of degree you're pursuing. However, certificates may often be earned in anywhere from three months to a year. Meanwhile, diploma programs can run between 12 and 18 months, and associate degrees typically take at least two years to complete, or longer if students are attending part time.

3. What do you learn when you study medical billing and coding?

Facts about medical billing careers

*Medical billing & coding jobs should increase 22 percent nationally between 2012 and 2022, faster than the national average for all jobs.

*Health information technicians in the U.S. had average annual wages of $34,970 in 2013, per the BLS.

*AHIMA says their coding credentials are the only ones accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.

*According to the AAPC, certified coders earn 21 percent more than their non-credentialed counterparts.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, American Health Information Management Association, American Academy of Professional Coders

As with completion times, program curriculums can vary. According to the AAPC, medical billers and coders need to have a strong understanding of all the following.

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Medical terminology
  • Types of health insurance plans
  • Government regulations

Currently, medical coders are using ICD-9 codes, but that system is transitioning to ICD-10, which means students may want to ensure their chosen program will provide the instruction needed for the new system.

Medical billing and coding schools may also help students hone the skills needed to be successful in the field. Because of the precise nature of their work, as well as their access to confidential information, billers and coders must be detail-oriented, ethical and tech-savvy.

4. How can I choose the right program?

Unlike some other fields of study, there is no specific accrediting body for medical billing and coding schools although institutions may be accredited by other regional or national accrediting bodies.

Students planning to pursue a professional certification in the field may want to look for a program approved by an organization such as the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Approved programs are most likely to provide students with the knowledge and preparation needed to pass certification exams.

Beyond looking for an approved program, students should consider the length of time needed to complete a program and its expected career outcomes. For example, students hoping to fill office roles behind simply billing and coding may be best served by earning an associate degree. Meanwhile, those looking to enter the workforce quickly may want to consider a certificate program.

Start by comparing medical billing schools to see what on-campus and online opportunities might suit you best.

5. Can you learn medical billing and coding online?

Yes. Because medical billing and coding work relies heavily on technology, it is a field particularly well-suited to online learning.

Students may be able to choose from self-paced programs, which can be completed on any schedule, or more traditional programs that have set deadlines for course completion. In some cases, schools may offer online students the opportunity to participate in classroom activities or labs which provide in-person experience after the online coursework has been completed.

To find the right online medical billing and coding school, students may want to ask the following questions.

  • Does the program prepare students for professional certification?
  • Is the curriculum the same as that offered through on-campus programs?
  • Do students need to log-in at certain times or can they access course materials at any time?
  • What student support services are offered?
  • Is there an opportunity for an externship, internship or other real-world experience?
  • What are the expected career outcomes from this program?

6. What types of medical billing and coding certification are available?

Medical billers and coders do not need to be licensed, nor do they have any mandatory certification requirements. However, the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) are two organizations offering voluntary medical billing and coding certifications.

Through the AAPC, individuals can earn the following credentials.

  • Certified Professional Coder
  • Certified Professional Coder - Hospital Outpatient
  • Certified Professional Coder - Payer
  • Certified Inpatient Coder
  • Certified Professional Biller

The AAPC also offers 22 specialty coder certifications for experienced professionals who have expertise in certain areas such as dermatology or cardiology.

At the AHIMA, billers and coders can earn the following designations.

  • Certified Coding Associate
  • Certified Coding Specialist
  • Certified Coding Specialist - Physician-based

Although professional certification is voluntary, individuals may find having recognized credentials enhances their career opportunities and income potential.

1. Medical Coding Certification, American Academy of Professional Coders, https://www.aapc.com/certification/medical-coding-certification.aspx
2. "What is Medical Coding?", American Academy of Professional Coders, https://www.aapc.com/medical-coding/medical-coding.aspx
3. Certificate vs. Degree, American Health Information Management Association, http://www.ahima.org/careers/plan?tabid=cert
4. Types of Certification, American Health Information Management Association, http://www.ahima.org/certification/exams?tabid=coding
5. Medical Coding and Billing Certificate vs. Diploma, Penn Foster Student Community, http://community.pennfoster.edu/thread/4565
6. Medical Records and Health Information Technicians, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm


  • All
  • Dental Office Assisting
  • Health & Medical Claims
  • Healthcare Informatics
  • Medical Billing & Coding
  • Medical Office Assisting
  • Medical Practice Management
  • Medical Records: Health Mgmt
  • Medical Transcription

Degree/Diploma Offered

  • All
  • Associate
  • Bachelor
  • Master
  • Doctoral
  • Diploma
  • Certificate
  • Coursework

Location Type

  • Campus and Online
  • Campus
  • Online

Zip/Postal Code

Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.

Searching Searching ...

Prefer exploring options talking to our staff?
Call toll free now: 1.855.330.6938
Matching School Ads
2 Program(s) Found
  • Provides students the opportunity to train at home in their spare time to get their high school diploma, train for a new career, or enhance current skills.
  • Member of the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE), and the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE).
  • Features a fully flexible schedule with no classes to attend, leaving the study pace up to the student.
Show more [+]
  • Online Courses
1 Program(s) Found
  • Its career-focused online and hybrid programs are designed to address the skills gap in America.
  • Founded in 1890 in Scranton, Pennsylvania    
  • Offers over 150 self-paced, career-relevant programs that are connected to a supportive 24/7 online community of students and faculty.
  • Profiled in many publications such as The Boston Globe, Fox Business, and  Inside Higher Ed.
  • Founding member of the National Home Study Council in 1926 (now DETC).
  • Nearly 25,000 graduates each year.
Show more [+]
  • Online Courses
1 Program(s) Found
  • Offers training in various types of massage therapy, physical therapy/sports rehab, and personal fitness training & wellness.
  • Teaches in an environment that promotes learning and encourages empathetic and compassionate therapists.
  • Career service professionals work directly with students from the start of their program, and help them pursue employment in day spas, luxury hotels, cruise ships, and other locations.
  • Students can work in the SOCHI Massage Clinic to gain experience and build their career skills.
  • Financial aid representatives help students develop a personalized financial plan to finance their tuition.
Show more [+]
  • Financial Aid
1 Program(s) Found
  • Founded in 1951 by World War II veteran Donald Grantham to provide affordable, higher education for service members and their families.
  • Approved by all branches of the United States Armed Forces for Tuition Assistance (TA), and for benefits payments by the Department of Veteran Affairs benefits (VA).
  • Reviews applicants’ military and professional training for possible transfer credits, and honors credit earned through successful completion of Defense Acquisition University (DAU) courses.
  • Participates in GoArmyEd, Marine Corps Academic Explorer, The Air University Associate to Baccalaureate Cooperative (CCAF), and many other virtual gateways.
Show more [+]
  • Online Courses
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
2 Program(s) Found
University of Phoenix , Online (campus option available)
  • Phoenix Career Services™ help students find careers that match their interests & map out a personalized career plan.
  • Mentorships & networking opportunities available through Alumni Association of 800,000+ graduates.
  • Flexible start date and class schedules.
  • 100+ locations and online options.
  • Offers special military rates and special advisors who have a military background.
  • Students can earn credits for applicable military training and education.
Good for Working Adults
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
2 Program(s) Found
  • Lets undergrad students try classes before paying any tuition.
  • In a 2013 survey, 83% of students said they would recommend the university to others.
  • Most degree-seeking online and campus-based students are adult learners with families and students who work while pursuing higher education.
  • Average class sizes is 18 for undergraduate and 13 for graduate-level courses.
  • Founded in 1937 in Davenport, Iowa as the American Institute of Commerce (AIC).
Show more [+]
  • Online Courses
  • Financial Aid
1 Program(s) Found
  • With 100,000+ students, it's the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation.
  • Since 1971, its mission has been to develop Christ-centered men and women with the values, knowledge, and skills essential for impacting tomorrow’s world.
  • Offers over 230 programs online, from the certificate to the doctoral level.
  • The student-faculty ratio is 25:1, and 42.3% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
  • The average freshman retention rate, an indicator of student satisfaction, is 76.5%.
Show more [+]
  • Accredited
  • Online Courses
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits