Allied Health
November 20, 2023

How to Become A Medical Coder or Biller: Requirements and Salary

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How to Become A Medical Coder or Biller: Requirements and Salary

If you're considering a career path in the healthcare industry but prefer administrative roles, you can consider medical billing and coding jobs.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 7% job outlook growth for health information and medical records professionals from 2021-2031. This is because of an increase in the aging population who require health services.

What is The Job Role of a Medical Coder and Medical Biller?

Medical coding and billing specialists are professionals in charge of working with healthcare providers and patients to organize, manage, and code informational data. These include the patient's medical history, symptoms, laboratory exams and test results, treatments, and more.

They help healthcare professionals update medical records and handle payments for healthcare providers, patients, and insurance companies.

Their specific job duties, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook, include:

  • Organize and update data in clinical registries or databases
  • Review the patient records to ensure accuracy, completeness, and timeliness
  • Record the data into the Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems for efficient collection, storage, reporting, analysis, and retrieval purposes
  • Use effective classification systems to code, categorize, and assign information for easy medical billing or reimbursements from insurance companies.
  • Maintain the records' confidentiality to protect patients

While medical coders are responsible for assigning codes for diagnoses, interventions, or medical procedures for population health statistics, patient care, and billing, medical billers send the paperwork to insurance companies.

Typical Medical Billing & Coding Program Requirements

Becoming a medical biller or coder is easier and less expensive than other healthcare occupations, such as doctors or nurses.

The job entails specialized technical skills and detail-oriented methodology, which you can get through post-secondary education in a medical coding school. Another excellent option is to apply for an education program specially designed for medical billers and coders.

Some employers provide on-the-job training, though many prefer to hire candidates who have completed a certificate or degree program.

The basic school requirements to enroll in the programs are almost similar. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most medical records specialist jobs require interested candidates to submit the following:

  • A postsecondary certificate or a high school diploma
  • 2-year Associate Degree Programs include a GED or high school diploma and a minimum GPA of 2.0 and above. The courses include Procedural Coding, Billing and Coding, Medical Terminology, Information Technology, Ethics, Anatomy, and Physiology.
  • Bachelor's Degree Programs include Healthcare Delivery Systems, Health Information Management, Medical Terminology, Anatomy, Physiology, Personnel Management, Healthcare Reimbursement, Project Management, Ethical Issues in Healthcare, Human Resources, and Healthcare Policy.

The prerequisites to earn an associate's or bachelor's degree are GED or high school diploma and minimum scores on SAT or ACT. 

You'll also be required to answer essay questions, provide recommendations, and pass the interviews during the application process.

Typical Medical Billing & Coding Certifications Needed

In a nutshell, medical coding refers to tracking information with the help of Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) standards. Then, the billing clerk uses the coder's data to generate invoices, allowing the health insurance firms to process patient claims.

Practicing both requires certifications that will vouch that you are a certified professional medical biller and coder.

Two primary organizations grant medical billing and coding certifications – the AAPC (American Academy of Professional Coders) and the AHIMA (American Health Information Management Association).

The standard certifications include the following:

  • Certified Coding Associate (CCA)
  • Certified Professional Coder (CPC)
  • Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT)
  • Certified Professional Biller (CPB)
  • Certified Coding Specialist (CCS)
  • Certified Billing and Coding Specialist (CBCS)

Joining professional organizations can also help your career. Most provide certification programs, ongoing education, student training, resources, credentialing examinations, member support, and financial aid for qualified students.

As a member, you also get access to exclusive educational events, connections to other coders and billers, and professional development opportunities.

How Do You Get a Medical Billing and Coding Certification?

Some certificate programs require course completion, while others offer certification exams.

According to Accredited Schools Online, AAPC allows qualifying students to take exams that cost $300 - $400. Members of AHIMA can take their certification exam at a discounted rate from $199 - $299, while non-members need to pay between $299 - $399 for the exam.

Moreover, some coding certificate programs include on-the-job coding experience. There are also medical billing programs with 40 to 80 hours of coursework that the student should complete within 6-8 weeks.

Potential Careers & Salaries for Medical Billing & Coding Graduates

The salary of a medical billing and coding job varies, depending on their level of education, experience, certifications, medical setting, and location of care facilities. However, the average annual salary is more than $46,660 or $22.43/hour.

About 10% of certified professional coders and medical billers earn over $74,200, while the lowest 10% has take-home pay of $29,430.

Top industries hire medical coders and billing professionals for the following positions:

  • Management position (companies and business enterprises) - The average compensation is $53,898.
  • Medical Billing & Coding staff (state, private, and local hospitals) - Basic salary is $47,000
  • Administrative and Support Services – Basic pay is $46,900
  • Scientific, Technical, and Professional Services – Basic income is $47,000
  • Nursing and Residential Care Services – Basic pay is $37,740
  • Physician's Office staff – Basic salary is $37,330

After gaining some experience, you could move to a higher position, like a medical or health services manager or a billing or coding supervisor.

How Long Does it Take to Earn a Medical Billing & Coding Degree or Certification?

Students can complete a medical billing certification program in three to six weeks.

An associate's degree in a related field will typically take two years, while a bachelor's degree takes four years. During this period, students are taught to be adept in medical codes, standard procedure coding systems in healthcare, procedure codes, and more.

The best part is that you can even complete all your training with online medical billing and coding programs.

Medical Office Occupations

When you're ready to begin a job search, there are office career options for medical billing and coding graduates.

  • Medical biller- responsible for medical documentation and mastery of reimbursement methodologies.
  • Certified professional coder (CPC) – oversees the healthcare facility's medical coding.
  • Certified coding associate – works under the CPC and manages electronic health records.
  • Medical billing and coding specialist – works both as a biller and a coder using medical software for more efficient recording, storage, and other tasks.
  • Medical Insurance Billing and Coding (MIBC) – specializes in receiving, coding, analyzing, and processing insurance claims.

Common job titles include health information technician, medical records specialist, or coding specialist.

Should I Get an Associate's Degree or a Medical Billing and Coding Certificate?

It really depends on your career goals. An associate degree is a perfect option for medical coders who want an official degree. However, it is also a prerequisite if you're going to pursue a bachelor's degree and other advanced studies.

If you want a quicker way to get employed, the best option is a certificate program that you can finish in less than one year. The focused program of study is designed for those who want to take credentialing exams.


Is medical billing and coding for you? It's high time to do your research and determine if you are cut out for this profession.

For those wondering, 'How to start a medical billing or coding career?', the route to becoming one is easy. First, you must pursue a degree or certification to become a medical billing and coding specialist. This field has enormous growth potential for job opportunities, compensation, and challenges.

Health care is a thriving industry that continuously adapts to innovations, systems, and regulations. As time passes, it will need more efficient and skilled medical coders and billers.

Program outcomes may vary depending on each institution's specific curriculum and employment opportunities are not guranteed.