This article talks about alternatives to master’s degree programs in medical coding and their education requirements, coursework, job and wage outlook, and certification options.
Master Programs in Medical Coding
The healthcare industry needs medical coding professionals to translate medical procedures into code to fill out billing insurance forms. Schools most commonly offer an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Medical Billing and Coding program. Medical billing professionals seeking an advanced degree that could lead to a managerial position would benefit from enrolling in a Master of Science (M.S.) in Healthcare Management.
Program coursework includes the basics of medical coding and terminology; admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a high school diploma. The focus of master’s degree programs in healthcare management is mainly on records management and business administration principles and applicants for admission must hold a bachelor’s degree. Certification offered by the American Academy of Professional Coders may be available to medical coders and billing specialists.
Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) Programs in Medical Billing and Coding
Students in an associate’s degree program in medical billing and coding gain a basic grasp of medical procedures, the healthcare industry, and medical terminology. They learn ways of transforming records of medical procedures into a form of shorthand code for use in billing and record-keeping. A work experience credit or an externship is available through some community colleges and vocational schools for students at a healthcare center, hospital or insurance company before they graduate.
Applicants for admission to an associate’s degree program related to medical coding would benefit from having basic computer skills, a strong command of the English language, and keyboarding skills. Schools recommend that applicants be interested in working in the healthcare field, and hold a GED or high school diploma.
Program coursework covers the fundamentals of coding techniques and introduces students to the healthcare industry. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:
•Health services computer applications
•Basic coding systems
•Law and ethics in healthcare
Job and Wage Outlook
In 2017, nearly 206,300 individuals in the United States were employed as records and health information technicians (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Most found employment through physicians’ offices, hospitals, and nursing care facilities. In 2017, the highest-paid professionals worked in the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry; medical records techs brought in an average annual wage of $39,180.
Certification credentials for professional medical coders and billers are offered by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). Armed with the credentials, medical records professionals can seek employment or higher wages if already employed. The Certified Professional Coder – Payer (CPC-P), the Certified Professional Coder – Outpatient Hospital (CPC-H) and the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) are some examples of certifications offered.
Master of Science (M.S.) Programs in Health Information Management
Few schools, if any, offer master’s degree programs in medical billing and coding; students keen on careers in medical records and management would benefit by earning a master’s degree in health information management. Elements of business administration, healthcare management, and information technology are all in the program where students learn about ways of developing and managing the recording and collection of healthcare data.
Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a baccalaureate degree in a field such as business management, organizational management, healthcare management or information technology before they can enroll in a master’s degree program. Schools may also require some professional experience in medical record-keeping and coding or management.
Program coursework combines management skills with the technical aspects of healthcare. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:
•Coding and classification system
•Electronic health records
•Human resource management
Job and Wage Outlook
In 2017, over 352,200 individuals in the United States were employed as medical and health services managers (BLS). Medical and health services managers are expected to see a higher-than-average job growth of 20%, over the 2017-2027 decade. In 2017, these professionals brought in an average annual wage of $98,350 (BLS).