Become a Medical Biller and Coder | Harris School of Business
X You may need to Reload the page to make it work correctly.

5 Things to Know about Becoming a Medical Biller and Coder

Going to medical billing and coding school is a big decision in your life

Have you read about medical billing as a career? Are you interested in being a part of the healthcare system? If you are considering enrolling in medical billing and coding school, you may want to learn more about what it’s like to be a medical biller or medical coder.

1. What do medical billers and medical coders do?

When you sign up for medical billing and coding school, you will start to learn the in’s and out’s of this important field in the healthcare system. As you prepare for training, it is helpful to have an understanding of what a medical biller or coder does on a typical day at work. Here are some of the responsibilities that you may have:

As a medical coder you might:

  • Review patient records and assign procedure codes and diagnosis codes. These codes have to be accurate because they are used in the patients’ insurance claims.
  • Use the CPT system, or Current Procedural Terminology, to code the procedures that have been performed.
  • Use the ICD-10 coding system (International Classification of Diseases) for choosing the coding for patient diagnoses.
  • Enter patient data into databases and registries.
  • Interact with other staff members to learn more about patient records to ensure that you are coding the procedures and diagnoses properly.
  • Review claims and other documentation to be sure that the coding was done correctly.
  • Help keep patient files up-to-date, and help maintain patients’ medical histories.

As a medical biller you might:

  • Use special billing software to submit insurance claims to insurers.
  • Be responsible for keeping up-to-date with insurance procedures, to insure that claims are submitted correctly.
  • Interact with patients directly to get their insurance information. You might need to talk with patients about the charges, explain what the billing means, and help patients understand what their benefits cover.
  • Contact insurance companies directly so that you can follow up on claims that are still waiting to be paid.
  • Review payment and receivables records to make sure that your employer is receiving accurate and timely payments for the services it provides.

If these types of responsibilities sound interesting and challenging to you, then going to medical billing and coding school could be a good choice for you.

2. What is the workplace like?

Most medical billers and coders work in hospitals, physician’s offices, insurance companies, nursing care facilities, or other healthcare facilities. One of the reasons some people choose this field is that they prefer office work over clinical work. In this career, your work will most likely take place at a desk, working on a computer most of the day. Depending on our position, you may have the opportunity to interact with patients directly, regarding insurance or payment issues. Most medical billers and coders work full-time. Some work shift-work, if they work in a facility that is always open.

3. Do I have to go to medical billing and coding school?

While there is no formal education requirement for this position, most employers will want to hire candidates who have received training in the field, whether at a community college, career school, or other postsecondary education institution.

The length of time it takes to get trained depends on the program you choose. Some programs, such as those at private career training schools, can be completed in less than one year. Other programs, such as associate’s degree programs, may last up to two years.

Most programs will focus on the key knowledge and skills needed to succeed in this field. Students will learn about medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, classification systems, coding systems, reimbursement methods, and commonly used computer programs.

Some training programs also offer on-the-job experiences, where students are assigned to work in a healthcare facility as an unpaid extern. In the externship position, students gain real-world experience in medical billing and coding before graduating from the training program.

4. How much money will I earn as a medical biller or coder?

Depending on your employer, the region you live in, and your level of experience, the wages for medical billers and coders will vary. One way to get an idea of the type of wage you can expect is to look at the median wage across the country, as shown in the Occupational Outlook Handbook, produced by the U.S. Department of Labor. This handbook shows the median wage for “health information technicians,” which is a broader category under which medical billers and coders would fall. 

You may also want to look at job advertisements in your region to see if they list the hourly wage. This gives you an idea of the wages being offered in your local area, and at the same time, helps you to get more familiar with the local employers who are advertising for this position.

5. Is the employment outlook strong?

The Occupational Outlook Handbook provides a section called “Job Outlook” that helps project how much demand there will be for various careers in the future. For health information technicians, the handbook predicts a strong job outlook:

“Employment of health information technicians is projected to grow 22 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations.” The handbook suggests that the demand for health services will increase as the population ages. “An aging population will need more medical tests, treatments, and procedures. This will mean more claims for reimbursement from insurance companies.”

The handbook goes on to predict, “Additional records, coupled with widespread use of electronic health records (EHRs) by all types of healthcare providers, could lead to an increased need for technicians to organize and manage the associated information in all areas of the healthcare industry.”

After reading this article, we hope you have a better understanding of the field of medical billing and coding, and that this information helps you as you are making a decision about your career education. As you are sorting out what career path to follow, remember to take your time in doing your research. This is an important decision in your life, and you will want to pick a career that is a good fit for you.