People rely on health insurance to cover the cost of their care, but payments can only be made after an insurer is properly billed. It's up to medical billers and coders to review a patient's medical records, assign the correct codes and then bill the insurance company.
While medical billers and coders don't need a bachelor's degree, they do need some postsecondary training. Medical billing and coding programs may result in a certificate, diploma or associate degree. They typically cover topics such as electronic health records, ethics and medical terminology. Most importantly, they teach students the coding systems used to conduct insurance billing.
Advanced technology is making the use of computer assisted coding more common, and some coding and billing practices are becoming automated. What's more, many medical facilities are outsourcing their medical coding and billing which could mean new and more flexible working arrangements for billers and coders. These innovations in the industry mean it's more important than ever to have the proper education. Employers may pass over applicants who need on-the-job training and look for those with medical billing and coding degrees instead.
Fortunately, there are plenty of educational options for this field. More than 500 colleges and schools offer medical billing and coding degree programs, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Of those, more than 160 have an online medical billing and coding program.
Best Colleges for Medical Billing and Coding Degree Programs
To find the best medical billing and coding schools in the country, we looked at factors such as tuition, graduation rates and the median debt of graduates. We also considered which schools offer flexibility in scheduling and student support services. Based on our methodology, these ten schools are the best of the best when it comes to medical billing and coding programs.
The Norcross campus of Altierus Career College features renovated labs and offers programs in more than a half dozen healthcare, trades and technology fields. The school has a campus lounge, ride-share options and tutoring for those who need a little academic support.
Medical billing and coding programs at Altierus: A diploma in medical billing and coding can be earned at Alterius in eight months. To promote a healthy balance between life and school, students only have to be on campus three days a week. The remainder of the program coursework can be finished online and at home. Another perk of Alterius is its all-inclusive tuition that includes an iPad, books and the exam preparation and fee needed to earn the Certified Professional Coder credential.
Serving a 25-county area in central Nebraska, Central Community College has six campus locations and offers more than 150 degrees and awards. More than a third of its classes are delivered online, and three-quarters of students study on a part-time basis. Central Community College was among the top 150 schools for the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.
Medical billing and coding programs at CCC: Within its health information management services program, CCC offers a medical coding diploma and a reimbursement specialist diploma. The diplomas require 41 and 38 credits respectively and are offered entirely online. Those who graduate with a medical coding diploma are eligible to take the qualifying exam to become a Certified Coding Associate.
Georgia Northwestern Technical College is focused on providing services that foster student success while also keeping its tuition affordable. Dozens of programs are offered 100% online, and its Student Help Centers provide technical assistance and guidance to both prospective and current students.
Medical billing and coding programs at GNTC: GNTC offers several programs that teach the skills needed to work in medical billing and coding. These include a healthcare billing and coding specialist certificate, health information management coding diploma and a medical coding certificate. These programs are offered on-campus as well as 100% online. Some programs may be eligible for the Hope Career Grant which can provide as much as $500 per semester for tuition.
Open since 1900, Rasmussen College operates campuses in six states. It also offers a number of fully online programs. The school seeks to offer career-focused degrees at an affordable price. At the St. Cloud campus in Minnesota, students can select from more than 50 programs across seven areas of study.
Medical billing and coding programs at Rasmussen: You can earn a medical billing and coding certificate from Rasmussen in as little as nine months. The program can be earned online, making it a convenient option for adult learners. Included in the curriculum is preparation for the Certified Coding Associate exam, and the exam fee is rolled into the total program cost. Graduates may also be eligible to earn a Certified Coding Specialist credential.
The Dallas campus of Remington College has been preparing students for new careers since 1997. The school offers diplomas, associate degrees and a bachelor's degree program. Remington College also offers a number of online degree options. It has a low student-to-instructor ratio, and students learn using industry-standard equipment.
Medical billing and coding programs at Remington College: Students studying full-time at Remington College-Dallas can earn a medical billing and coding diploma in nine months. The curriculum includes hands-on experience with the software programs Medisoft and SpringCharts as well as the chance to complete an externship. Instructors are professionals with real-world experience in the field. Graduates are qualified to earn the Certified Coding Associate and Certified Medical Reimbursement Specialist credentials.
Lakeshore Technical College offers an affordable education through its more than 100 career programs. The average age of students at the college is 25, and the vast majority of those enrolled - 86% -- study on a part-time basis. Service learning, credit for prior learning and apprenticeships are all options at Lakeshore Technical College. The college was named a top 150 finalist for the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.
Medical billing and coding programs at LTC: LTC offers a medical coding specialist technical diploma. The program takes two terms to complete, and financial aid is available. LTC offers flexible learning options which include evening, online, blended and accelerated classes. The curriculum prepares students to work with ICD and CPT codes, and graduates should be qualified for entry-level positions as coding specialists.
Established in 1912, Moraine Park Technical College offers classes at five locations as well as online. It focuses on career readiness, and students can choose from more than 100 education options. In 2015, the school was named the first Fair Trade technical college in the nation in recognition of its efforts to support farmers and artisans in developing countries.
Medical billing and coding programs at MPTC: The medical coding specialist technical diploma at MPTC is an online program that can be completed in one year. The program is intended to provide the skills and knowledge needed for entry-level jobs in the field. Graduates can also sit for the Clinical Coding Associate and Clinical Coding Specialist certification exams. Those who want to continue their education may transfer credits toward the MPTC health information technology associate degree.
For more than 50 years, Atlanta Technical College has been preparing students for careers with leading employers and industries. The school offers more than 150 programs of study, including more than a dozen tuition-free career focused options. Graduates are often met with success, and Atlanta Technical College says it has a 98% job placement rating.
Medical billing and coding programs at ATC: Within its health information management technology program, ATC offers a diploma in health information management coding. The program takes four semesters to complete and covers both basic and advanced ICD coding as well as the CPT/HCPCS systems. The program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education.
Hawaii Medical College specializes in training students for positions within the health care field. It notes it is the largest locally-owned career college in the state. School perks include a free Microsoft Surface Go computer and tablet combination, tuition discounts to qualifying students and online learning options.
Medical billing and coding programs at HWC: The medical billing and coding programs at HWC are available both on-campus and online. Students can choose from either a diploma program or an associate degree in medical billing and coding. Both programs offer real-world training that can be used in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Graduates may be eligible to sit for certification exams for professional credentials such as that of a Certified Billing and Coding Specialist and Certified Professional Coder.
Created as a unit of the Technical College System of Georgia in 1986, Ogeechee Technical College has its roots in the health care field. Its first educational program was in practical nursing, and it has since expanded its options to dozens of fields of study. The school offers a wide range of support services, and online degrees, diplomas and certificates are available in ten different subject areas.
Medical billing and coding at OTC: Students earning the medical coding certificate at OTC may be eligible for free tuition thanks to the Hope Career Grant. The program typically takes two semesters to complete, and graduates may sit for the Certified Coding Associate, Certified Coding Specialist and Certified Coding Specialist, Physician Based certification exams.
Medical Billing and Coding Degrees and Careers
Medical billers and coders need specialized knowledge to complete their jobs. However, you won't need a four-year degree to work in the field. Instead, most medical billing and coding programs result in a certificate, diploma or associate degree. Online medical billing and coding programs are offered at many schools as well.
- Medical terminology
- Anatomy and physiology
- Office billing procedures
- ICD, CPT and HCPCS coding systems
- HIPAA and health care ethics
Programs often include real-world practice using industry-standard software. Some schools may also arrange for students to complete externships so they can gain experience in a medical setting prior to graduation. Credits from some programs may be transferred toward a higher degree for those who want to pursue a career in health information technology or administration.
Medical Billing and Coding Program Accreditation
There isn't an agency that specifically provides medical billing and coding program accreditation. However, these degrees are often found within college health information management or technology departments, and these may be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM).
Medical Billing and Coding Certification and Licensure
Medical billers and coders aren't required to be licensed by states, but they may want to seek a voluntary professional credential. Medical billing and coding certifications may help job applicants stand out from other candidates and earn higher incomes.
Professional credentials are available from several industry organizations. The following are a few of the most widely known:
- Certified Professional Coder from the AAPC, also known as the American Association of Professional Coders
- Certified Coding Associate from the American Health Information Management Association
- Certified Coding Specialist from the American Health Information Management Association
- Certified Medical Reimbursement Specialist from the American Medical Billing Association
More information about preparing for medical billing and coding certification and careers can be found on our medical coder career profile
Financial Aid and Scholarships for Medical Billing and Coding
Don't assume you can't afford to earn a medical billing and coding degree. Financial aid is available through a number of sources. By completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you may find you are eligible for government loans and grants. Plus, there is aid available from other sources as well. Here are two examples:
- Hope Career Grant: Georgia students who study medical coding may be eligible for a Hope Career Grant which awards up to $500 per semester, depending on the number of hours enrolled.
- AHIMA Merit Scholarship: Associate degree students may be eligible to apply for a $1,000 scholarship from the American Health Information Management Association.
To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific subject being ranked:
- Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor's) in that subject.
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in the most recent year of IPEDS data available.
Based on those criteria, we ranked all 2-year and 4-year schools in IPEDS that reported data for all of the following points. Ratings are calculated on a 10-point scale:
- In-state undergraduate tuition & fees
- Median debt
- 3 year loan repayment rate
- Graduation rate
- Retention rate
- Institutional spending
- Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student
- Instructional and academic support spending as a percentage of all expenses
- Percent of students enrolled in DE
- Evening and weekend programs
- Academic and career counseling
- Total number of degrees conferred for particular CIP codes
- The Future of Medical Billing in 2019: 5 Trends You Should Consider Now, Imagine Software, Accessed September 2019, https://www.imagineteam.com/blog/the-future-of-medical-billing-in-2019-5-trends-you-should-consider-now
- College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed September 2019, https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Medical Records and Health Information Technicians, Accessed September 2019, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-records-and-health-information-technicians.htm
- Medical Billing & Coding Course Details, Penn Foster Career School, Accessed September 2019, https://www.pennfoster.edu/programs-and-degrees/medical-billing-and-coding/medical-billing-and-coding-career-diploma/program-details
- Norcross Campus, Alterius Career College, Accessed September 2019, https://www.altierus.edu/campus/norcross
- Fast Facts, Central Community College, Accessed September 2019, https://www.cccneb.edu/about-ccc/fast-facts/
- Hope Career Grant, Georgia Northwestern Technical College, Accessed September 2019, http://www.gntc.edu/fullpanel/uploads/files/hopecareergrantflyer.pdf
- Welcome to the St. Cloud Campus, Rasmussen College, Accessed September 2019, https://www.rasmussen.edu/locations/minnesota/st-cloud/
- Remington College Dallas, Remington College, Accessed September 2019, https://www.remingtoncollege.edu/locations/dallas/
- Getting to Know Lakeshore Technical College, Lakeshore Technical College, Accessed September 2019, https://www.remingtoncollege.edu/locations/dallas/
- About MPTC, Moraine Park Technical College, Accessed September 2019, https://www.morainepark.edu/about-mptc/#
- Atlanta Technical College, Accessed September 2019, https://atlantatech.edu/
- Why Hawaii Medical College, Hawaii Medical College, Accessed September 2019, https://www.hmi.edu/why-hawaii-medical-college/
- A Brief History, Ogeechee Technical College, Accessed September 2019, http://www.ogeecheetech.edu/about-otc/a-brief-history
- Medical Coding Certificate, Ogeechee Technical College, Accessed September 2019, http://www.ogeecheetech.edu/docs/d_Programs/HIT/Medical%20Coding%20Certificate.pdf
- Certified Professional Coder Certification Exam, AAPC, Accessed September 2019, https://www.aapc.com/certification/cpc
- CMRS Information for medical billing certification, American Medical Billing Association, Accessed September 2019, https://www.americanmedicalbillingassociation.com/cmrs-information
- Certified Coding Specialist, American Health Information Management Association, Accessed September 2019, https://www.ahima.org/certification/CCS
- Merit Scholarships, American Health Information Management Association Foundation, Accessed September 2019, http://www.ahimafoundation.org/education/MeritScholarships.aspx