Career Guide to Medical Billing and Coding

Reviewed by AIMS Education Staff  

March 30, 2021

The allied health sector is growing by leaps and bounds, and it offers something for everyone looking for a highly-rewarding career. Whether you are just joining the field or looking for a new job path, medical billing and coding is an exciting and reliable prospect. 

Medical billers and coders are valued members of the allied healthcare team and an integral part of the functioning of healthcare facilities across the US. 

Pursuing medical billing and coding training offers quick entry into the healthcare field, lucrative wages, and flexible work options. Here’s everything you need to know before getting started. 

What Is Medical Billing and Coding

In the simplest of terms, medical billing and coding involves reviewing and entering medical information, submitting insurance claims, and ensuring accurate information transfer to other health professionals. 

Healthcare is ever-evolving, and the field of medical billing and coding has changed tremendously over the years to adapt to the rapidly growing technological and patient care environment. In turn, this has eliminated the previous reliance on paper, making medical records and claims management easier and faster.

What Does a Medical Biller and Coder Do?

It is worth noting that medical billing and coding are actually two different processes. In a nutshell, medical coders translate medical information into codes, while medical billers ensure that insurance companies and other organizations are properly billed. 

Some employers may have one person performing both tasks, while others may hire separate billing and coding specialists. Keep in mind that because these two processes are so interconnected, many medical facilities prefer hiring specialists with the training to perform both roles. 

In most cases, medical billers and coders should be able to perform tasks such as:

  • Coding medical services and procedures 
  • Preparing and submitting invoices and insurance claims
  • Tracking payments
  • Handling rejected claims
  • Following up with patients and health insurance companies in regards to billing

To perform these tasks more efficiently and streamline the communication with insurance companies, the medical billing and coding field has adopted the ICD-10 coding system. The system has approximately 150,000 codes for various conditions, injuries, and diseases, helping both health workers and insurance companies navigate the reimbursement process more easily. 

Where Do Medical Billers and Coders Work?

Medical billers and coders can find employment in a variety of settings. Most commonly, those include hospitals, doctors’ offices, and nursing care facilities. The majority of these allied health professionals work full-time. If employed by always-open health facilities (such as hospitals), they may be required to work overnight or evening shifts, as well. 

Overall, a medical biller and coder will have the same sort of duties regardless of the type of facility they are employed in.

Is Medical Billing and Coding Right for You?

Medical billing and coding is an ever-growing, fast-paced field that is continuously providing exciting opportunities for those looking to enter healthcare quickly. The profession, however, requires a worker who is self-motivated and has an eye for detail to ensure that patient records are accurate and up-to-date. 

If you are passionate about the allied health field and have the necessary dedication, there are plenty of great reasons to start a medical billing and coding career

The Skills You Need for a Career in Medical Billing and Coding

Pursuing a career as a medical biller and coder will first and foremost require you to have a working knowledge of computer systems and some basic math skills. In addition, having a basic understanding of medical terms and good communication skills is important for increasing your professional growth chances. 

Accuracy and attention to detail are another set of valuable skills that will help you avoid common medical billing errors, such as entering incorrect information, duplicating billing, and mismatching diagnosis and treatment codes. 

Medical Billing and Coding Job Outlook

The job outlook for medical billers and coders is very strong. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for medical billing and coding professionals is set to grow much faster than the average – 8% from 2019 to 2029

With a rising number of job openings for medical billers and coders in the US, there has never been a better time to enter the allied healthcare sector. 

Medical Billing and Coding Salary

As of 2019, the average medical billing and coding wage in the US was $42.630. Do keep in mind, though, that along with your experience and employer, the annual salary can vary based on your location, as well. 

The state of New Jersey, for instance, is known to have the highest medical billing and coding salary in the country. In fact, the Garden State offers medical coders and billers the opportunity to earn an average of over $54,000 per year. 

Medical Billing and Coding Jobs From Home

Since most of the daily tasks are done on the computer, the medical billing and coding career path could be an excellent opportunity for those looking for remote healthcare jobs

Working as a medical biller and coder from home requires close partnerships with health care facilities that provide the information needed to code patient records and/or bill health insurance companies.

Photo by olia danilevich from Pexels

How to Become a Medical Biller and Coder?

The first thing you will need to enter this profession is a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent. Next to that, you will likely need to have relevant training from a medical billing and coding school, too.

An allied health certificate program is a good option for those looking to kick-start their healthcare career quickly. Typically, earning a certificate takes under a year and prepares you to apply for medical billing and coding certification. 

Research Accredited Medical Billing and Coding Schools

Because medical facilities rely on billers and coders to receive reimbursement, they are often looking to hire someone with an education from an accredited school. 

Choosing a healthcare school is a big decision. The school’s location, tuition fees, and program structure often play a significant role in the decision-making process. 

As you research your options, however, remember that the most important factor should be the quality of the program; consider the school’s reputation, official college rankings, and campus life. 

Meet the Medical Billing and Coding Requirements

Along with a filled-out application, some medical billing and coding schools may require future students to take an entrance exam, such as Wonderlic or Accuplacer. The exam is designed to help the school determine the student’s ability to complete coursework and excel in the program. Additionally, you may also need to complete an interview before being able to enroll.

Do note that – depending on how popular the program is – you may encounter selective acceptance. In such cases, schools will often look at your highest level of completed education, exam scores, and your performance during the interview. 

See if Financial Aid Options Apply

Most full-time students receive some form of financial assistance (grants, loans, or scholarships) while pursuing their medical billing and coding education. Financial aid is generally available through the government, private organizations, or your school of choice. 

Your eligibility for a grant or a loan will typically depend on the program, its funding source, and your financial needs. Scholarships are awarded based on academic merit and financial needs. 

Before you enroll in a program, contact your school to learn more about available financial help. Along with offering an academic excellence scholarship, the Financial Aid Department at AIMS helps current and future students plan for and meet the financial obligations associated with attending school. 

Enroll in a Medical Billing and Coding Program

Once you’ve chosen a school and have sorted out your financing, it’s time to apply to your medical billing and coding training program. 

Some schools offer rolling admissions, meaning that you can apply as soon as starting dates have been announced. Other schools may ask you to turn in your application materials in-person. To do so, you will likely need to schedule an appointment with a school representative. 

After completing the enrollment process you’ll have to wait for a decision. The duration of the decision-making process will vary per school. Once you’re accepted, you can get ready to attend your orientation and start your medical billing and coding training. 

Attend Orientation

Orientation is scheduled either just before or on the first day of school. Attending orientation is the best way to learn more about school policies, procedures, and expectations. In addition, it is an excellent time to ask staff any questions that you may still have. 

Complete Your Internship

Next to classroom training, medical billing and coding programs require students to complete a clinical internship led by an experienced mentor. This is a wonderful opportunity for aspiring allied health workers to get practical, hands-on experience in a real-world setting. 

Having completed an internship will also increase your chances of quickly landing a medical billing and coding job after graduation. 

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Medical Billing and Coding Certification

After you complete a reputable medical billing and coding certificate program you may choose to become certified. While it’s not a requirement, obtaining a professional certification is one of the ways to enhance your career and find better job opportunities. 

To attain medical billing and coding certification, graduates are required to take a separate exam issued by a certifying body, achieve a passing score, and meet any other eligibility requirements. 

There are a variety of certifications you can choose to pursue, including: 

Medical Billing and Coding Careers

Once you have graduated from your certificate program and obtained certification (if you chose to), you can start applying for medical billing and coding jobs at different healthcare facilities. 

Working as a medical coding specialist, for example, is a fulfilling career that is the front line in healthcare data analytics. Other exciting career paths within medical coding and billing include:

  • Medical Records and Health Information Technician
  • Billing Specialist
  • Insurance Claims Specialist 
  • Medical Biller Collections Specialist 
  • Coding Professional
  • Medical Records Analyst
  • Medical Billing Manager
  • Medical Records Director

Photo by: Ivan Samkov from Pexel

Medical Billing and Coding FAQ

Wondering about the difference between a medical biller and a medical coder? Below, find answers to that and some other commonly asked questions. 

What is the difference between medical coding and billing?

Although often referred to as the same occupation, medical billers and coders have different responsibilities

Coding specialists work with the technical and financial aspects of the healthcare field. They check medical documents such as doctors’ notes and medical records and translate them into codes. 

Medical billing experts audit and submit claims based on patients’ diagnoses and treatments. They use special medical billing software to communicate with doctors, patients, and health insurance companies.

Is medical billing and coding hard?

Healthcare is a very dynamic industry and, along the way, medical billers and coders may face certain challenges, such as being able to fully understand legal matters concerning their work and prevent errors when extracting data from medical records. 

How long does it take to become a medical billing and coding specialist?

Whether you are a recent graduate or are looking for a midlife career change, you can start a career as a medical biller and coder in just a few months. In fact, the majority of medical billing and coding certificate programs can be completed in about a year. 

How much does a medical biller and coder make on average?

Salary is often an important aspect when choosing an occupation. According to the BLS, medical coders and billers earn approximately $20.50 an hour. Experienced, certified specialists have the potential to earn as much as $71,150 annually. 

What classes are required for medical billing and coding?

Medical billing and coding specialists must be able to understand how to best translate medical procedures and diagnoses into insurance codes. During the classroom training, students will learn to interpret billing, coding, insurance, and electronic health records, as well as use medical billing software.

How much does a medical coder make starting out?

Entry-level medical coders can expect to earn about $27,820 a year. This number, however, varies across different states and work environments. Medical billing and coding experts working in hospitals, for example, report the highest median annual wages. 

How to become a medical biller from home?

Medical billing and coding offers great work flexibility and a rising number of employers are offering the option to work remotely. 

Regardless of whether you want to work as a medical biller from home or at a healthcare facility, however, most employers will expect you to have completed a relevant training program. 

Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

Start Your Career in Medical Billing and Coding

Medical billing and coding is an exciting field with a promising job outlook, competitive salary, and great prospects.

Ready to start a rewarding career in allied healthcare? Be sure to check our medical billing and coding training program today!