Medical billing and coding specialists are responsible for collecting and documenting patient records. The codes they use represent medical conditions, treatments and medications taken. They in turn use the codes to file for reimbursement through insurance companies. The average salary for this career was $32,350 in 2010, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and most specialists worked in hospitals or doctors' offices.
Earn your high school diploma or GED. Becoming a medical billing and coding specialist requires post-secondary education, meaning you'll need to have your high school education completed before you can apply for registration.
Choose an accredited medical billing and coding course. Accreditation is important because many professional certification organizations, like the American Health Information Management Association, make completion of an accredited course a requirement before certification can take place. The Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education online (cahiim.org) has a listing of all accredited billing and coding courses in the United States.
Graduate with either a certificate of completion or an associate's degree. Bear in mind that receiving a certificate after completing a non-degree course isn't the same thing as applying for professional certification after school. The certificate of completion simply indicates that you passed the educational requirements to become a medical billing and coding specialist. The post-educational certification, which is voluntary, is a symbol of elevated work ethics and high professional standards.
Apply for certification through the organization you choose. There are many of these, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Two, for example, are the American Health Information Management Association and the American Academy of Professional Coders. Each organization has a set of standards you must meet before you can apply and they vary depending upon which one you apply through. In many cases, you must have completed an accredited training course and pass an examination with the organization. Exam fees differ. The American Academy of Professional Coders charges $245 per exam as of 2013, which includes one free re-take exam.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Medical Records and Health Information Technicians
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Medical Records and Health Information Technician
- American Health Information Management Association: Types of Credentials
- American Academy of Professional Coders: Exam Certification FAQ
- Medical billing and codes change every year, says the American Academy of Professional Coders, so it's essential that you're up-to-date on code sets before you take the exam.
Brooke Julia has been a writer since 2009. Her work has been featured in regional magazines, including "She" and "Hagerstown Magazine," as well as national magazines, including "Pregnancy & Newborn" and "Fit Pregnancy."