As you decide what school you want to attend, you can’t forget about considerations such as degree options, school and program accreditation, financial aid, and the best ways to stay on top of your studies. Choosing an unaccredited program locks you out of federal financial aid, the ability to transfer to another school, and even a position with a higher salary.
Here, we’ve gathered a plethora of resources to help you through school and on into your career. Feel free to bookmark this page, or bookmark specific resources that you find useful. No matter your optimal price point, discounted or just plain free, there’s something for everyone here.
Resources for Medical Coding and Billing Students
How do you learn whether a desired medical coding and billing degree program is accredited? Ask the admissions office about program accreditation. If they have it, it means that the program itself has received special recognition due to its high value academics and faculty. Programs are required to meet high standards in order to earn any form of accepted accreditation. An accredited medical coding and billing program will also be more likely to continue making improvements consistent with industry changes.
Why is this useful? Because your future employers will check to see is your degree program held accreditation. If you graduated from an institution without accreditation, prospective employers may refuse to hire you, or lowball you on salary.
What you should be looking for in accreditation is either regional or programmatic. Regional agencies are approved by the DoE to offer entire schools accreditation who meet a strict standard.
These agencies include:
- Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) Western Association of Schools and Colleges
- WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
Programmatic accreditation for medical billing and coding is most often provided by the Commission of Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM) and the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC).
Questions About Financial Aid
College is expensive enough to cause families and students to reconsider a post-secondary education. However, most students move past this obstacle by making use of financial aid. As you consider how you will pay for college, remember, you can use grants, scholarships, work study, student loans, or all of the above.
Both scholarships and grants are sometimes referred to as free money because it’s money that students don’t have to repay after graduation. A typical family finds that about 31% of the bill for their college-age student is covered by a pell grant and scholarships. It isn’t easy to go through the effort of applying for each scholarship or grant, but if you’re willing to take the necessary time and make the effort, you’ll find that the final bill your family pays can be significantly lowered.
Financial aid is used to cover tuition, fees, books, supplies, transportation, and room and board. Along with grants and scholarships, you can also apply for work-study, if you can prove you have need, which means you will work a set number of hours on campus each week, for pay. The work-study program offers part-time work (usually, but not always) on campus. The money you earn can help you pay for expenses related to your schooling, put directly toward your loans, or pulled out for secondary costs. You’ll earn the federal minimum wage no matter where you end up working.
You can also access federal financial aid (or state aid) by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You’ll need to fill out a new application for each academic year you’re in school. Your eligibility is determined from your family’s expected family contribution (EFC). If your family’s EFC is $0, you will receive the maximum amount of the Pell Grant along with access to other scholarship and grant opportunities that require the FAFSA to prove financial need.
Federal and private student loans are also an option, but you should consider these last, because you do have to repay them, with interest.
Associations for Students
Whether your professors want to you to join associations for medical coding and billing or not, you should consider it as an option. As busy as you are with your classes, you may wonder how one more activity could make a difference. Partially, it’s because it allows you to learn about your future profession outside classroom walls. Also, it will provide you insight that your classmates might not have, prepare you for changes you will face once you are out of school, and give you a view of the profession you’ll be entering once you graduate. While associations are usually considered the purview of professionals only, many offer discounts for students and provide access to educational opportunities you won’t find in your usual classroom.
- American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)
Founded in 1928, the AHIMA’s mission is to raise the standards of clinical records “in hospitals and other medical institutions”. With the advent of electronic health records, AHIMA has modified its mission.
- American Association of Professional Coders (AAPC)
This association was founded in 1988; its goal is to educate and certify medical coders. By doing so, skill levels can be increased. AAPC also provides certification through exams which build off standards which have been developed by professional medical coders.
- American Medical Billing Association (AMBA)
This association is newer than others, founded in 1998; AMBA provides medical billing certification. It also offers a high degree of support to small businesses focusing in medical billing.
- Association of Registered Health Care Professionals (ARHCP)
This professional organization focuses mainly on providing training to future professionals. ARHCP also provides independent study programs which may lead to certifications, which it issues. These programs offer access to a live instructor.
- Healthcare Billing and Management Association (HBMA)
HBMA, which was established in 1992, offers a discussion forum and other resources. Its overarching goal is to transform medical billing into a professional healthcare field. HBMA offers four annual professional conventions.
- American Association of Clinical Coders & Auditors (AACCA)
This association focuses on the interactions between professionals involved with medical coding and billing and registered nurses. It offers a nursing certification for both coding and auditing (ensuring coded data entries are correct).
Student or Open Access Journals
As a medical coder and biller, you’ll find yourself reading these journals when you want to learn about a new development, process, or billing/coding software. If you’re willing to put more effort into keeping up to date while you’re in school, it will make it even easier to land a job when you graduate. You’ll be prepared for any changes in coding and have a broad outlook on issues within the field.
College students majoring in medical coding and billing benefit from apps that help them to manage their time or keep from being distracted while they complete their schoolwork. Apple actually has several apps that help students specifically learning medical coding and billing. The apps can be used on iPads, iPhone, or iPod Touch. iTunes carries specifications for each app.
- ICD-9 Consult 2014 Free
Available only for iPhone and iPad. This app offers both search and browse capabilities. Use this app to browse codes or make use of the search feature. Pulling up a full code results in a popup window, offering additional details.
- ICD-10 Consult
This app allows students and professionals to access the most recent codes. The app has flexible search functions in various languages and also offers fast ICD-9 to ICD-10 conversion.
- ICD-10 2020
This new app contains a visual tag, helping coders to quickly identify new 2020 codes. Its capabilities help professionals with study, analysis, and the ability to quickly choose the right code.
- AAPC CPS Exam Prep
This exam guide app offers the highest quality medical coding prep for students and professional coders. Certified professionals offer their expertise in ensuring compliance in the medical field.
This app gives students ability to take notes anywhere, at any time. Evernote also allows sharing, so other students can keep up with class notes as well as access to saved web pages and to-do lists.
- iStudiez Pro Legend
This iOS app contains an hour-by-hour view of a student’s daily class schedule. It can be color-coded, allowing students to easily keep up with what they have to be doing. On the iWatch, the display shows the upcoming class, along with how many assignments and exams are upcoming.
An internship as a student coder and biller in a healthcare practice helps you to put your theory and courses into action. It will allow you to obtain experience you’ll need when you step into your first official position as a biller and coder. Your supervisor can help you learn and put your coursework into action during your internship. This experience should be a real-life experience, where you are able to work, coding and billing actual patient accounts.
Your career counselor at school should be able to tell you what programs are available for internships in your area. Whether you are in community college or a four-year program, they may have an agreement with local medical offices or hospitals, or you may need to step outside your comfort zone and find a position for yourself.
When you begin thinking of an internship, you’ll likely have the option of working in one of the following environments:
- Government medical facilities
- Outpatient facilities
- Doctor office
- Red Cross
- Physical therapy provider
- Drug rehab facilities
- Nursing homes
- Mental health providers
- Chiropractor’s office
Here are a few places you can start if your school does not provide you with an internship option:
Resources for Students and Professionals
Medical Billing and Coding Certification Options
Whether you are a student or a professional code and biller, earning a certificate in a coding and billing course gives you the opportunity to show that you have the knowledge and skills to take on more responsibility, including a supervisory position. By earning a certification, you show that you have met a high standard for both ethical and professionalism. The healthcare industry is growing rapidly - hospitals, government medical facilities, and private doctor’s practices need experienced and knowledgeable coders and billers.
You’ll derive several benefits from spending your time earning a certificate:
- Ability to network with peers
- Develop a significant understanding of a new facet of coding/billing
- Reach short- and long-term goals
- Increasing available job openings
- Earn a competitive edge when looking for a position
- More career advancement opportunities
- Increased earning potential
Here are just some of the options you can choose between:
Certification Study Resources
When you choose the certification you want, you’ll need to find some study materials to help you ace it on your first try. These study materials are often readily available through online sources. While some of them are free, others do charge a nominal fee. However, the fee often means they are more thorough or have been evaluated by experts. Be sure to find out why you’re paying more before you do so. You wouldn’t want to pay for a study guide that can’t offer you more than a free version does elsewhere. Here are some study options that may help.
- CPC Preparation Course
This study resource helps you to learn outpatient coding.
- Certified Professional Coder
This study resource gives you access to study materials for 6 months.
- Official CPC Certification Study Guide
This study guide helps students to prepare for their upcoming exam.
- Online Medical Terminology/Online Anatomy Course
Two-month courses help you focus on learning medical terminology , along with anatomy.
For those who are ready to step out onto the work force, it’s important that you have plenty of places to look for jobs in your specialty. Here are a couple job boards meant for professionals just like you; you might also want to check on your association’s website and on some more general job board sites where you can search for specific positions or upload a resume.
Temp agencies hire employees to help client companies fill out their workforce as needed. For instance, a medical coder and biller may be out on family leave or on temporary disability. In this case, their employer contacts a temp agency with which it has a contract or a general temp agency in the area. It makes its needs known and the agency scans through its available workers to find someone with coding and billing experience. These companies are ideal for a new graduate, someone who is looking for only part-time work, or someone looking to get experience in a larger facility than they have worked with in the past. These positions may also lead to long-term work if the employee you replace does not come back, or if a hospital is expanding and decides it needs to increase its number of billers/coders permanently.
Resources for Medical Billing and Coding Professionals
Even once you’ve graduated, your learning is nowhere near complete. Ideally, you should continue learning throughout your life. For this reason, you may choose to join a professional association for medical coders and billers. You’ll benefit by making connections with other professionals, having easy access to professional journals, and learning about new developments in your field quickly.
Professional associations promote continuing education, including access to certification study courses and exams. You will have to pay an annual membership fee which allows you to access these member benefits.
As you continue on your lifelong journey of learning, you’ll appreciate having access to professional journals in your field. Subscribing to a professional medical billing and coding journal, either independently or through your professional association, will allow you to keep up with what other professionals are discussing and changes being made.
In journals you can read peer-reviewed articles that inform you about the current best practices in your field and trade news, which you can discuss with other members of your profession. If you are looking to enter an administrative position, you’ll be able to educate yourself about recurring and current issues that professionals confront.
- Journal of Allied Health
Offered by Association of Schools Advancing Health Professions
- For the Record
Offered by Great Valley Publishing Company
- The Internet Journal of Allied health Sciences and Practice
Offered by College of Health Care Sciences
- Cutting Edge
Offered by American Association of Professional Coders
Popular Industry Conferences
Don’t forget about industry conferences and medical billing seminars. At these events, you’ll be able to find out about new techniques and skills, as well as upcoming guidelines that will help you to keep your work current.
These seminars are vital because, each year the government sets new regulations in place for professionals such as you. While these regulations are meant to make working within the healthcare field simpler, you need to keep up to date with what they are and how they affect you and the patients your employer serves. Some of these changes mean that new codes substitute for old ones and medical coding and billing guidelines are often tweaked.
- Digital Health Summit
Digital health has only been a part of allied healthcare for a few decades. Yet it continues to impact the work you do. As billing and coding moves further into the digital world, you need to be able to learn about, understand, and use new technology.
- Health Datapalooza
This popular conference takes place in Washington, DC. Attendees discuss the opportunities and ideas that will help them to get through new policy and their inevitable hurdles.
- TedMed 2020
This conference strives for a healthy society. You’ll listen to thought leaders who come from all areas of society. They may come from a non-medical field or a healthcare field. This exciting conference is about more than just speeches.
- South by Southwest (SXSW)
At SXSW, you will learn about technology, including how it impacts medical coding and billing. Tech has long interacted with healthcare. Topics such as “MedTech: Separating Reality from Hype” show you how the technical field can help you to keep things in perspective when it comes to the use of software and apps.