Online Medical Billing and Coding Schools: How To Choose

We walk through how to choose online medical billing and coding schools by comparing some of the best programs

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Online Medical Billing and Coding Schools: How To Choose

Earning an medical billing and coding certificate online can help jumpstart your career. Or, if you're already in health care, it can up-level your skills.

Administrative tasks, like medical coding or billing, are essential for hospital visits and medical procedures. They account for more than 25% of hospital expenditures, which will likely increase. As a result, there will be a strong demand for coders, billers and other medical records professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates medical coding and billing jobs will increase by 9% between 2022 and 2032, faster than the national average (3%).

But can you learn medical billing and coding through an online course? The short answer is yes.

Below, we will delve into a few entry-level online medical billing and coding programs and courses. We'll discuss their pros and cons, including how much they cost and how long they take to complete. By addressing these common concerns and questions, we aim to provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision about your education and career path. This reassurance can help you feel confident in your decision to pursue an online program.

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How to choose an online medical billing and coding program

There are many factors to consider when choosing an online medical billing and coding certificate program. You should consider all of the following factors when selecting a program. 

Total cost

The cost of your medical billing and coding training program is not just the list price you see on their website. You may also be eligible for funding or financial aid, depending on the program. When comparing programs, consider the total cost (tuition plus fees minus funding and assistance). 

Location

Although we’ve only listed online programs below, where you live and plan to work can still be a factor for a few reasons. First, you may be eligible for grants or in-state tuition. For example, the University of Cincinnati has reduced tuition for in-state students. Also, many states have workforce development programs that will pay for some—if not all—of your tuition. 

Program length and schedule

Make sure the program fits your schedule. Many programs are self-paced, meaning you can complete it as quickly as you’d like (they often revoke access after a certain period). Others are offered at specific intervals. The faster you complete your program, the quicker you can get certified and start your medical coding or billing career. You want to ensure you can complete the program on your timeline.

Certification exam preparation

Not all online coding and billing programs prepare you for the same exams. The two most common exams for entry-level coding professionals are AAPC’s CPC and AHIMA’s CCS. The CPC certification suits those aiming to start in outpatient and physician office coding roles. The CCS, however, is ideal for those targeting hospital settings and broader coding responsibilities but may require more experience. Some programs will prepare for neither. While you still may learn the basics of medical coding or billing, having a credential that employers are familiar with can help you stand out when applying for jobs.

Self-guided vs. Instructor-led

Be honest with your learning style. Are you a motivated self-starter? Instructor-led courses can help you keep on task but can be more expensive. If you value flexibility and think you can teach yourself, you can opt for a self-paced course. However, an instructor-led course might be better if you need more structure and external motivation.

Four things to consider when choosing a medical billing and coding program

What are the top online medical billing and coding programs?

When it comes to choosing an online training program, there is no one “best” overall course. We’ve researched some of the most popular online medical coding and billing certification programs to help you choose the right program. 

All the programs we’ve researched will cover essential topics such as basic claims processes, revenue cycle management, procedural coding, and working with insurance companies. However, the programs will differ significantly in cost, financial aid, and certification exam preparation. 

American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) 

In addition to administering the Certified Professional Coding (CPC) and Certified Professional Biling (CPB) exams, the AAPC also offers courses to help prepare for the exam. If you want to break into the industry, getting a CPC or CPB certificate is one of the most widely accepted certifications. CPC is more important. The options can be confusing, so here they are in table form. 

CertificationLearning StyleCost*Length
CPC + CPBSelf-pacedNow $3,345 (an $8,358 value) to Now $3,745 (a $10,245 value)Up to 6 months for each certification
CPC +CPBInstructor-LedNow $5,145 (a $11,635 value)32-weeks
CPCSelf-pacedNow $2,695 (a $5,343 value) Now $2,849 (a $6,341 value)Self-paced: Average time to completion is 4 to 8 months. 6-month access to course materials with options for extensions.
CPCInstructor-LedNow $3,549 (a $7,067 value)16-week instructor-led training course
CPBSelf-paced$1,495 (a $3,304 value) to $1,795 (a $4,183 value)Self-paced: The average time to completion is four months or less. 6-month access to course materials with options for extensions.
CPBInstructor-Led$2,495 (a $4,823 value)16-week instructor-led training course

*Cost as of June 10, 2024

AAPC offers multiple ways to prepare for the exam. You can prepare for the CPC and CPB exams at once or split them up. Depending on your schedule and learning style, you can also decide whether or not you want to take the self-paced or instructor-led version.

The CPC prep course provides a comprehensive understanding of health insurance, legal and regulatory issues, and reimbursement methodologies. It includes instruction using three major coding manuals: CPT, ICD-10-CM, and HCPCS Level II. The course offers hands-on practice with real-world, redacted medical records and prepares students to handle medical billing for physician’s offices, clinics, insurance carriers, and other health care facilities. Students will be ready to take the AAPC’s CPB certification exam upon completion.: 

The CPB course, on the other hand, teaches you about health insurance, legal rules, and different ways to get paid for health care services. You will learn to use three essential coding books: CPT, ICD-10-CM, and HCPCS Level II. The course gives you practice with actual medical records and gets you ready for the AAPC’s CPB certification exam. By the end, you will understand different health insurance types, the legal side of health care payments, how to process insurance claims, use coding books, and follow up on claims.

Deciding which one to take can be the hardest part. Bundling will save you money, but depending on your schedule or career goals, you may only need or want to prepare for one of the two exams. 

Pros

  • 80% pass rate for students who take the AAPC’s prep course, which is higher than the national average
  • Ability to choose your learning style and content focus

Cons 

  • The cost of the certification exams ($499 each) is not included
  • Not for complete beginners. The AAPC recommends those without any health care experience to take Fundamentals of Medicine, a 12-week course that costs $2,622.90
  • The AAPC is not a traditional school or university, so it cannot offer federal financial aid

Learn more

American Health Information Management Association: Medical Coding and Reimbursement Online Course Bundle

The Medical Coding and Reimbursement Online Course Bundle is designed to help you start a career in health information management, focusing on medical coding and reimbursement. This course prepares you for AHIMA certification and offers academic credits and continuing education units. You will learn essential topics like anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, health information management, health care delivery systems, and medical coding basics such as ICD-10 and CPT. Additionally, the course covers reimbursement methods, medical law, and ethics and provides career preparation.

Completing the course gives you a certificate from AHIMA, which can help you stand out to employers and access career resources. The course includes hands-on practice and offers cost savings through academic credits and potential discounts. The bundle covers 13 courses and provides one year of access. While textbooks may be required, previous purchasers of Coding Basics courses can obtain the certificate without repurchasing.

Cost: The entire bundle is $2993.25; however, you can choose a single course, which costs around $299. 

Course Length: Self-paced course which lasts 365 days from the date of purchase. 

Program Structure: It consists of a 13-course program, and you receive a certificate of completion after completion. 

Pros 

  • Education to meet the CCA or CCS exam's recommendations or requirements
  • Transferable to partner institutions

Cons 

  • It costs an extra $299 to take each certification exam
  • Only video course

Learn more

Penn Foster: Medical Billing and Coding 

Penn Foster’s medical billing and coding diploma program is self-paced for those hoping to earn a medical coding and billing certificate. On average, students finish the program in 14 months. The course consists of 37 exams and covers allied health, medical terminology, pathology, pharmacology, electronic medical records, medical billing, health insurance, medical coding, and exam review.

Students taking the program will prepare for the Certified Billing & Coding Specialist (CBCS) exam offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). The tuition covers the CBCS exam fee ($125). Penn Foster also claims the program prepares students for the AAPC’s Certified Professional Coder (CPC) exam. However, they will not cover the cost of the CPC exam or any prep materials.

Cost: $999 at the time of writing ($1,499 list price)

Course Length: As little as ten months

Pros 

  • The cost of the certification exam is included in the program 
  • Active-duty military and spouses are eligible for funding

Cons 

  • No additional guidance from professionals 
  • CBCS certification is not as widely accepted as the CPC or CCS exams

Learn more

University of Cincinnati: Medical Coder

The University of Cincinnati's Online Medical Coder Program helps prepare students for a medical coding and billing career. The curriculum prepares students for the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) and Certified Coding Associate (CCA) exams. Program participants are eligible for either full or partial reimbursement of their exam fees. Since accredited university students offer a program, they qualify for financial aid. 

The course is offered six times a year in either seven or 14-week-long formats. Students will cover topics such as medical coding, pharmacology and physiology during the course. Students can easily transfer credits earned in the medical coder program to other University of Cincinnati programs, such as their associate’s in Health Information Systems. 

Cost: $11,142 for full-time non-resident

Course Length: The course is offered in seven-week and 14-week formats

Pros 

  • It is faster to complete than some other programs
  • Students who complete the program can transfer their credits to an Associate’s degree 
  • Ohio residents can receive funding through WIET

Cons 

  • It is expensive compared to other programs
  • No self-paced learning 

Learn more

MedCerts Medical Coding & Billing Training Online  

MedCerts’s medical billing and training course is a 28-week program that covers various topics, including human anatomy, medical terminology, insurance billing and coding essentials, and medical coding. Additionally, the program is completely online, offering video-based training for added convenience.

The program accepts multiple financial aid options, including MyCAA, Workforce Funding (WIOA), and Department of Defense Credentialing Assistance (COOL) for eligible military members and spouses.

The program prepares students for the MCBC, CPC or CCS-P certification exams and will cover the costs. After completing the program, graduates can access career coaches and MedCerts’s career center for a year. 

Course Length: 28 weeks

Cost: $4,000

Pros: 

  • Covers exam fees
  • Accepts multiple types of funding, including MyCAA

Cons: 

  • Not available in all states (Louisiana, North Dakota, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Wisconsin)
  • Longer than other courses (7 months)

Learn more

Frequently Asked Questions 

Can I teach myself medical billing and coding?

Neither the CPC nor CCS certification exams require takers to take instructor-led courses. However, medical billing and coding can be complex, so it would be easier to pass the exam with some preparation. Whether purchasing the examination materials or taking a full-fledged course depends on your study habits, budget and schedule. 

How long does it take to become a medical coder?

The time it takes to learn coding or billing depends on your program and your schedule. The programs we surveyed took between four months and 14 months. Many of the surveyed programs were self-paced, meaning the completion time will depend on the participant’s schedule. 

Where can I work as a medical billing and coding specialist?

Medical billing and coding specialists can work in various settings, including hospitals (both inpatient and outpatient), medical offices, clinics, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, insurance companies, government agencies, medical software companies, and educational institutions that train medical billers and coders. 

Additionally, many specialists can work remotely from home as full-time employees or independent contractors for hospitals, clinics, insurance companies, clinical documentation improvement services, or educational institutions.

What is the salary for a medical billing and coding role?

The median annual salary for medical records specialists, which includes medical billers and coders, is $48,780, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

More Resources

Medical Billing and Coding Certifications: Which One Should You Get?
Medical billing and coding certifications explained. From CPC to CCS, find out which certification is right for you.
Is Medical Coding Hard? Insights & Tips for Success
Dive into the complexities of medical coding and billing. Learn what makes it challenging and discover practical tips for mastering this crucial healthcare profession.
AAPC vs AHIMA: Which Certification is Best? 
Discover the differences between AAPC and AHIMA. Compare their costs, certifications, and ongoing education to choose the best fit for your health information career goals.
How Long Is Schooling for Medical Billing and Coding?
Explore the various educational paths in medical billing and coding, from swift certificate courses to comprehensive bachelor's degrees. This article provides an in-depth look at the varying durations and requirements of medical billing and coding programs, helping you choose the right educational path for you.
Program outcomes may vary depending on each institution's specific curriculum and employment opportunities are not guranteed.