How To Become a Medical Biller and Coder in 5 Steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated December 29, 2021

Published March 1, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Medical billing and coding professionals are an integral part of the health care industry's day-to-day operations. These individuals work with patients, doctors and nurses to gather diagnostic information, create specific codes related to each patient's medical needs and draft bills to receive payment from insurance companies. If you're detail-oriented, interested in the health care industry or want to explore different ways to use your computer coding skills, the medical billing and coding field may be right for you.

In this article, we explain what medical billing and coding is and how to become a medical biller and coder. Then, we describe the skills and experience needed for success on the job.

What is medical billing and coding?

Medical billing and coding is the process of translating diagnoses and treatment plans into standardized codes that get sent to insurance companies and government agencies. When a patient speaks to a doctor and nurse, all relevant information is being recorded and then translated into a specific alphanumeric code. These codes let insurance companies know what sort of symptoms, tests, diagnoses and treatments were administered so that health care providers are reimbursed accordingly.

Once the correct codes are documented by the medical coder, a medical biller is then responsible for evaluating the codes, drafting and sending bills to insurance companies. Medical billing job duties also may include:

  • Reading and reviewing medical records to create bills

  • Tracking bill payments

  • Gathering patient and insurance information before an appointment

  • Recording payments as they are received

Read more: Learn About Being a Medical Coder

How to become a medical biller and coder

Medical billing and coding professionals are an essential part of the health care industry and are often in high demand due to their knowledge and highly specific technical skills. This field can help individuals without college degrees find high-paying, stable jobs with benefits as only an associate's degree is necessary to meet the job requirements. If you're interested in becoming a medical biller and coder, use these steps to help you get started:

1. Understand job requirements

Medical billing and coding require extensive knowledge of thousands of medical codes, payment policies and government regulations. These individuals help medical professionals determine what to charge for each procedure and communicate with insurance companies about which charges need to be financially covered for a certain patient. It's important to understand these job requirements before exploring the medical billing and coding field because it takes time to develop the specific skills and knowledge necessary for success. If you're detail-oriented, analytical and organized, you may be more likely to excel as a medical biller and coder.

Related: Differences Between Medical Billing and Coding

2. Meet basic prerequisites

To become a medical biller and coder, you first need to obtain a high school diploma or equivalent GED. Though degrees are not required, many medical billing and coders attend college and earn an associate's or bachelor's degree to become more competitive candidates for the job. Before you get the job, you may also have to pass a background check to ensure you do not have a criminal history.

3. Complete medical coding training

Next, complete medical coding training at accredited institutions or universities to learn more about the field and its requirements. You must select a program at a reputable school so you're set up for success in the future. For example, try to look for schools that are accredited by a relevant body such as the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education (ABHES). Training typically takes several months to complete and may include courses such as:

  • Coding foundations

  • Ambulatory care coding

  • Revenue cycle and billing

  • Health care communication

  • Medical law, ethics and records management

  • Medical terminology

  • Diagnostic coding

  • Procedural coding

  • Health care settings, claim cycle and claims processing

  • Billing and coding applications

  • Anatomy and physiology

4. Earn medical coding certifications

After you graduate from your medical billing and coding training program, the next step is to get certified. Getting certified is important because it can show employers you're committed to the field and have demonstrated all the skills required to succeed on the job. It can also put you at a competitive advantage when applying for specific jobs in the medical coding field. To obtain a certification, you need to prepare and pass specific exams. There are several professional certifications offered through the American Acadamy of Professional Coders (AAPC), including the following:

  • Certified Professional Coder (CPC)

  • Certified Coding Associate (CCA)

  • Certified Coding Specialist (CCS)

After gaining experience in the field and obtaining a general coding certification, you may want to consider pursuing a specialty medical coding certification in an area such as family practice, general surgery, ambulatory care or anesthesia to develop and improve your professional career in the future.

5. Update your resume

When you're ready to begin your job search, update your resume to ensure it includes all relevant certifications, training programs and skills needed to be a successful medical billing and coder. Your resume should include your basic contact information, work experience, education and any other information about your experience as a medical billing and coder. Think about referencing original job postings to identify any specific skills or keywords employers may be looking for so you can adjust your resume accordingly each time you apply.

Read more: 10 Steps for Building a Resume

Salary

Salaries for medical billers and coders vary according to geographical location and experience. For example, individuals with extensive training and relevant certifications may be able to find higher-paying jobs in the industry. Below are the national average salaries recorded from Indeed Salaries for medical billing and coding professionals, where these numbers are frequently updated:

  • Average medical billing salary: $16.55 per hour

  • Average medical coding salary: $20.90 per hour

Medical billing and coding skills

Before you start applying for jobs in the medical billing and coding fields, it's helpful to know what specific skills employers are looking for. Here are several examples of important skills for medical billers and coders to develop:

  • Organization: medical coders and billers must develop organizational skills to ensure accuracy and manage their workload.

  • Attention to detail: Medical billing and coding professionals need to be detail-oriented to avoid costly mistakes that may impact patient care.

  • Verbal and written communication: Medical billing and coders should be able to clearly ask questions, discuss patient records and perform other related business communications.

  • Computer literacy: It's essential for medical billing and coding professionals to have computer literacy skills as a large portion of their workload requires interacting with computers and data.

  • Collaboration: Medical billers and coders have to communicate with coworkers, patients and insurance companies regularly, so it's important they can collaborate effectively.

  • Knowledge of basic medical terminology: To be a successful medical billing and coder, it's especially important to have knowledge of basic medical terminology as the job requires constant interaction with these terms and concepts.

  • Analytical skills: Medical billers and coders work with a lot of patient data, so it helps to be trained in data analysis when on the job.

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