Becoming a Certified Billing and Coding Specialist

The field of medical records and health information is one of the faster growing employment fields in the country.  According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs like medical billing and coding specialist are growing much faster than average; there are supposed to be tens of thousands of new openings between now and the year 2020.  If you’ve been searching for a field which has a positive job outlook and which might provide you with some security in an uncertain time, then billing and coding are worth a look.

Why Become a Certified Billing and Coding Specialist?

Firstly, let’s clear up a little confusion around the term “billing and coding specialist.”  Technically a certified coding specialist and a certified billing specialist are two different things.  They are regularly confused however, and the terms are often paired up as if they refer to a single occupation.  Sometimes billers are also coders and vice versa, but on the whole they are two separate positions, usually filled by separate people.  Sometimes small clinics with limited staffing will have one person take care of both jobs.  Sometimes professionals will also go out on their own as contractors and offer both services.

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This site is mostly focused on coding specialists as opposed to billing specialists.  Billing specialists are the healthcare workers who are responsible for sending out bills to patients, insurance companies and government agencies, just as you’d guess from the name.  Coding specialists fill a role which comes before that of the billers.  Part of creating bills which make sense to everyone is using a language everyone can understand.  Alphanumeric medical codes are that language.  They are applied to the many treatments, tests, procedures, and conditions which arise in medical settings.  They help insurance companies and others to make sense of what’s been going on so that they can be billed properly.  This is why medical billers need to know something about coding and coders need to know a little about billing, though the codes are also used for other purposes including communication between doctors and members of a hospital staff.

If you enjoy working in supportive roles and you don’t mind being behind the scenes, not directly interacting with customers, medical coding could be a good job for you.  You have to have attention to detail and enjoy relatively repetitious work in order to succeed at this job.  If you become a coder, you will have some security and reassurance in the fact that you are going to be needed.  The medical industry is continuing to grow, even while other industries are suffering job cuts during the economic recession.  This is because sickness and injury are always going to be there, and with an aging population, there are increasing amounts of both.

As a medical coder, you’re likely to find more opportunities becoming available and not less in the coming years.  With tens of thousands of jobs predicted to open up in the coming years, you may well find that by the time you’ve become certified, it’s easier to find a job than it would be right now.  Your education and skills will make you competitive in the medical information job market and will help you to find a job which you can make a living wage with.  Keep in mind that since it isn’t the highest wage, it’s more ideally suited to a family with multiple earners or a single person who does not need to support someone else.

How to Become a Certified Billing and Coding Specialist

To become a certified billing or coding specialist, you’re going to need to earn your certification by taking the national certification exam which is administered by the American Medical Billing Association (AMBA), the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), or the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).  While you’re looking up schools and training programs and planning your career path, make sure you remember that these are currently the only organizations which are qualified to administer the national exam.  If another organization tells you it can do so, you should steer clear.  A school may only provide you with this exam if the school is run by one of the three organizations.

There are many schools however that are run by other organizations which can prepare you for the exam.  Before you choose a school, drop by one of the websites above for some detailed advice for planning your education and certification process.  This is how you can figure out exactly what you need to learn to pass the exam and even get some recommendations for training programs.  As mentioned before, these organizations also offer training programs of their own, so that is always a good option.

There are a lot of variations between the programs available to train you to become a certified billing and coding specialist in the medical field.  In general however you’ll find most courses are 1-2 years long (longer courses aren’t a good choice, and semester long courses are probably only appropriate if you have lots of time to study and are simply managing to squeeze in a longer program in a shorter duration).  Once you take the appropriate classes, you’ll have the knowledge which you need in order to pass the exam and get your national certification.

With this certification you can apply for jobs across the country and even online.  Jobs for medical billers and coders exist in hospitals, clinics, outpatient surgical centers, government agencies, insurance companies and other locations, as well as on the internet.  Work at home opportunities are excellent in this field.  When you work at home you can enjoy more freedom with your time and how you spend it, work in comfort and privacy, and spend more time with family.  You also can keep more of your salary since you’ll spend less time and money on your commute; you won’t have a commute.  If you feel like you’re ready to get started, begin by reading the step-by-step resources on the websites of the professional organizations above or peruse the rest of the resources on our website.