What Can You Do With a Medical Billing and Coding Certificate?

Daniel Bal
Updated April 18, 2023
Explore a career in medical billing and coding and check out the certifications you need to be successful in this career.
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A young female medical receptionist sitting at her desk while talking with a client. Two doctors are standing while chatting in the background.Credit: David Sacks / The Image Bank / Getty Images

As COVID-19 continues to strain the healthcare system, the demand for trained medical professionals remains high. Along with doctors and nurses, the industry seeks support workers to fill a variety of positions.

Many individuals work behind the scenes to ensure that the healthcare system runs smoothly. Medical billers and coders provide patients and physicians alike with crucial services.

Read on to learn what medical billers and coders do and which credentials they need to succeed in the job market.

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Medical Billing and Medical Coding Certificate Programs

While medical billers and medical coders earn different certifications, many programs combine both into one curriculum. Individuals who complete a medical billing and/or medical coding program can choose from a variety of certifications that reflect their work setting and responsibilities.

Medical Billing Curriculum

There are many online programs that help prospective medical billers prepare for certification exams. Commonly offered courses address:

Medical Billing Certification

Prospective medical billers can pursue multiple certifications, including:

  • Certified Professional Biller (CPB): The CPB exam covers types of insurance, billing regulations, HIPAA, and reimbursement and collection protocols. Test-takers must understand industry rules and regulations and how to process medical billing claims.

    The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) offers this credential, which qualifies candidates to work as billers in almost any medical setting.

  • Certified Medical Reimbursement Specialist (CMRS): The CMRS exam comprises 694 questions divided into 16 sections. Test-takers receive 45 days to complete the open book exam. The CMRS credential allows billers to facilitate the entire claims process, which ends once a patient pays their balance in full.

    The American Medical Billing Association’s certifying board administers this credential. While the certification is not required for employment, it highlights the holder’s competency and proficiency.

  • Certified Medical Billing Specialist (CMBS): The CMBS certification is intended for individuals who work at a provider’s office, health insurance company, or independent billing center.

Medical Coding Certificate Program Overview

Medical Coding Curriculum

The AAPC offers an online program to help candidates prepare for certification exams. The program surveys the following subjects:

Medical Coding Certification

Medical coding certifications let recipients focus on certain settings and specializations. These credentials include:

  • Certified Personal Coder (CPC): The CPC exam contains multiple choice questions that present various coding scenarios. Administered through the AAPC, the exam can be completed online or in person.

    Those who earn their CPC certification can work in almost any medical setting that uses general practice coding, from large hospitals to private practices.

  • Certified Outpatient Coder (COC): Questions on the COC exam pertain to current procedural terminology, procedure and supply codes, and diagnosis codes used for coding and billing outpatient services to insurance companies. The certification is issued through the American Medical Association.

    Most coders with a COC certification work at outpatient facilities, in ambulatory surgical centers, or billing and coding departments.

  • Certified Inpatient Coder (CIC): The AAPC issues this certification. The exam itself focuses on the test-taker’s understanding of coding for acute care facilities and outpatient and inpatient reimbursement concepts. Coders with this credential are knowledgeable in medicare severity diagnosis related groups and inpatient prospective payment systems.

    Individuals with a CIC certification can work in any type of inpatient hospital or medical facility.

  • Certified Risk Adjustment Coder (CRC): This exam tests coders’ knowledge of diagnosis codes used in clinical cases, the chronic illness and disability payment system, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ risk adjustment program.

    Individuals with the CRC credential often work in physicians’ offices or inpatient facilities.

What Does a Medical Billing and Coding Specialist Do?

Similar to medical and coding academic programs, companies tend to combine both specializations into one category. Both specialists organize, manage, and code patient information for use by medical facilities and insurance companies.

While billers and coders can take on specific positions, such as medical information clerk and medical records analysts, many of their responsibilities overlap. Both roles typically include the following responsibilities:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical records and health information specialists earn a median annual salary of $45,240. The job outlook for both positions also appears positive, with a projected job growth rate of 9% from 2020-2030.

Where Do They Work?

Medical billers and coders work in many settings. According to BLS data, the largest employers include:

General Medical and Surgical Hospitals (State, Local, and Private)

Physician’s Offices

Educational Services (State, Local, and Private)

Federal Government

Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services

The AAPC finds that medical billers and coders most often work in the following settings:

Medical Billing and Coding Frequently Asked Questions

How long do you have to go to school to be a medical coder?

Medical coders must usually hold a high school diploma or GED, although there is no formal education requirement needed to become a coder. Most employers seek candidates with a medical coding certificate. Certification programs take approximately 9-12 months to complete.

Is medical coding and billing hard?

The difficulty of working as a medical coder or biller depends upon the individual. Technologically savvy individuals who like analyzing data and mastering new software tend to find the position easier than those who are more interested in the bigger picture, rather than small details. Ultimately, medical coding and billing is a great career choice for individuals seeking a job in the medical field who want to avoid clinical positions.

How much do medical coders make a year?

According to the BLS, health information technologists, medical registrars, and similar professionals make a median annual salary of $51,840. Medical records and information technologists make the highest salaries in the federal government, where their median annual wage is $99,750.

What is the best medical coding certification?

The best medical coding certification can vary depending on an individual’s desired salary, setting, and responsibilities.

According to the AAPC, annual medical coding and billing salaries are broken down as follows:

Work setting can also help those interested in the field determine the best certification:

When deciding which certification to earn, billers and coders should determine their professional goals to select the most useful credential.

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