How do I get a Medical Coding Degree?

Lily Ruha

A medical coding degree may be obtained by enrolling in a college offering an associate’s degree in medical billing and coding. The curriculum typically covers standard billing practices, reimbursement processes, data management, record maintenance, and computerized health care applications. Students with a medical coding degree can work in a variety of medical offices, clinics, hospitals, and other health care and business settings. Some medical coders work from home for employers or are self-employed.

Pharmacies are one of the businesses that hire medical coders.
Pharmacies are one of the businesses that hire medical coders.

Many colleges offer associate’s degrees in medical coding. The degree is usually part of a larger program addressing all aspects of medical insurance billing. In some cases, medical coding is one aspect of associate’s degrees in health care administration or health information technology. A medical coding degree is often a requirement set by agencies who certify medical coders, particularly for individuals who have never worked as a coder before.

A medical billing coder may work in a hospital.
A medical billing coder may work in a hospital.

Medical coding training typically involves a study of both theoretical and practical content. Programs may require courses in medical terminology and ethics, anatomy and physiology, computerized billing applications, and medical software utilization. Students typically take courses that focus specifically on the detailed work of coding medical documents and the administrative aspects of maintaining health care paperwork. Courses related to office communications, such as business English, may also be required. Many medical coding programs also require a clinical internship at a medical facility.

A medical coding degree increases the likelihood of securing employment in the field. Employers often look for a combination of an associate’s degree, certification, and/or minimum years of experience as a medical coder. Selecting a school with nationally certified instructors with extensive experience in the medical coding field provides a firm foundation. Degree programs that prepare students for medical coding certification exams are also preferable.

Successful completion of a medical coding degree prepares students for a variety of medical and business settings. Medical coders work in hospitals, nursing homes, doctor’s offices, and pharmacies. Insurance companies, accounting offices, government agencies, and legal firms may also require the services of a medical coder. Coding is often a needed skill for medical receptionists, medical billing clerks, billing analysts, and medical assistants. Some medical coders are self-employed, contracting with local doctor’s offices and health care centers to code documents from home.

Medical coding training lends itself well to online training programs. These programs offer content using Web-conferencing tools with video, audio, forum, and chat features. Class materials are sometimes mailed to students or are available online. Successful completion of an online medical coding program sometimes involves a supervised medical coding internship in a medical center or doctor’s office.

Coding is a skill often used by medical receptionists and medical assistants.
Coding is a skill often used by medical receptionists and medical assistants.

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