Before pursuing a career in medical billing and coding, many people have a few important questions. Below are some of the most common questions asked by interested students and professionals.

Q: Is it necessary to attend school to enter the field?

A: Generally speaking, employers do prefer that employees have received training in medical coding and/or medical billing. This is because employees must understand medical terminology and billing codes to perform their job duties. Unless an applicant has prior experience, it will be very difficult to get a job without having received training in billing and coding.

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

A: There are hundreds of medical billing and coding training programs for students to choose from. Many colleges, vocational schools, and online schools offer programs specifically designed to help medical billers and coders succeed in the field. These programs range in length from a few weeks to two years. Students that choose a two year program will graduate with an associates degree.

Q: How important is it to be certified in billing and coding?

A: After completing an accredited training program, students may choose to take a certification examination. It is not necessary for professionals to be certified. However, many employers prefer applicants that have received their certification. Getting certified may increase a professional’s earning potential, as well as enhance their resume.

Q: What certifications are available in medical billing and coding?

A: There are a number of different certifications recognized by employers. Professionals may choose to become certified through:

  • The American Academy of Professional Coders;
  • The Professional Association of Healthcare Coding Specialists;
  • The Certifying Board of the American Medical Billing Association;
  • The National Healthcareer Association; or
  • The Board of Medical Specialty Coding.

Students that obtain a two-year associates degree may also choose to become a Registered Health Information Technician through the American Health Information Management Association.

Q: What skills do medical coding and billing specialists need?

A: Medical coding and billing requires very specific skills. These professionals must have a firm grasp on medical terminology, medical billing codes, billing practices, reimbursement procedures, and basic math. They must also know how to read patient charts, use billing software, read invoices, and communicate with insurance companies. Most billers and coders are also computer proficient and can perform a variety of administrative tasks, including bookkeeping and payroll.

Q: What is the average salary for those working in medical billing and coding?

A: According to theBureau of Labor Statistics, the average billing and coding professional earned an hourly wage of $16.83 in 2010. Full time workers earned an average of $35,010 a year.

The top 10% earned $25.69 an hour or $53,430 a year. Earnings vary due to experience, skill, industry, and location. Medical billing and coding can be a very profitable field as long as a professional is dedicated to their success.

Q: Where do medical billers and coders work?

A: Medical billers and coders work in many different settings. These professionals find employment in private doctors’ offices, hospitals, nursing care facilities, outpatient centers, insurance offices, and speciality health centers, like rehabilitation centers.

Some professionals even work from home. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 3% of all medical billers work from home. Home workers are usually those that have acquired a loyal client base after gaining experience in the field.

Q: What is the average medical billing and coding job like?

A: Medical billers and coders may work part-time or full-time, depending on their schedule and the employment opportunities available. Most professionals work in an office setting, either located in a hospital, agency, or another healthcare facility.

Many billing and coding positions require employees to work with insurance agencies, patients, and other medical professionals. These professionals are responsible for billing patients and insurance companies, as well as making sure that these bills are paid. Workers must be organized, detail oriented, self-motivated, and possess excellent communication skills.

It’s also important to understand that medical billing and medical coding are actually two different jobs. In large hospitals and facilities, professionals may be responsible for either billing or coding. However, in smaller practices, employees may be required to perform both jobs.

Q: Are there opportunities for advancement?

A: Reliable, dedicated workers may advance in the field. For instance, a billing and coding specialist may be promoted into a managerial position after gaining enough experience. Professionals that have earned their associates degree may also decide to further their education in order to qualify for a more advanced position. Medical billing and coding is a field that offers many opportunities to motivated individuals.