How to Become a Medical Biller
Reviewed by Brandy Gleason
When people think about healthcare careers, they often think about doctors, surgeons, and nurses —all of whom are important professionals in the medical field.
Medical billers and coders play crucial jobs in the healthcare industry, as well. These professionals make sure that insurance companies cover their share of the cost of care so patients pay less, doctors get paid, and the healthcare institution's revenue system continues to run smoothly.
While coders translate medical procedures into universal codes, medical billers use those codes to effectively communicate with insurance companies when submitting claims. In fact, these professionals file trillions of dollars worth of medical claims each year.
This guide explains how to become a medical biller and answers frequently asked questions about the profession.
What Is the Process to Earn a Medical Billing Certification?
Medical billing is a specialized field, and professionals need a unique set of skills before they can start working. Because of that, medical billing training is a good option for anyone hoping to enter the industry.
When searching for medical billing certification programs, consider what type of program matches your career goals. Many colleges offer medical billing certification programs that last 1-2 academic years. Some schools offer associate degrees in medical billing and coding, as well.
If a leadership role appeals to you, then you might consider a bachelor's degree in health information management. Bachelor's degrees typically last at least four years, but they prepare students for higher-earning positions.
Candidates can also earn medical billing certification from professional organizations. These credentials do not require additional training, but they do evaluate medical billers to ensure that they hold expertise in their field. Professional certification can help boost employment opportunities and serve as a negotiation tool for salaries. These certifications do not require training, but candidates must pass an exam.
If professional certification interests you, consider the certified professional biller credential from AAPC or the certified medical reimbursement specialist credential from the American Medical Billing Association.
What Does Medical Billing Training Look Like?
Every medical billing training program includes a different curriculum, and it's important that the program be accredited. However, they teach the same technical concepts to prepare students to process insurance claims. Students need to understand how the complicated healthcare and health insurance systems work, and they learn their role as medical billers within these systems.
Usually these training programs consist of 18-30 credits and last 1-2 years, although part-time students take longer to work through the curriculum. Common courses include:
Courses can include lectures, assigned reading, class discussions, hands-on exercises, and exams. Much of the material requires memorizing information about medical and anatomical terminology. Usually these programs do not include internships or supervised work experience.
Students may attend these courses in person, or they can enroll in online training. Distance learning programs can be synchronous (requiring students to log in at specific times), asynchronous (allowing students to review content at any time during the week), or a combination of the two.
Online programs tend to be a more flexible and accessible option for people who work or take care of family members. However, online programs also require self-discipline and motivation to complete assignments and readings outside of a traditional college environment.
Sometimes medical billing training integrates job search training into the curriculum, which can help students get their foot in the industry before they graduate.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Medical Biller?
The time it takes to become a medical biller varies, depending on a person's path. College certificate programs typically last 2-4 academic semesters, or about 9-21 months. Associate degrees last two years, and bachelor's degrees last four years.
Most aspiring medical billers do not choose to pursue a bachelor's degree, so they typically become medical billers in two years or less. Enrolling part-time usually elongates the time it takes to complete an academic program.
Some accelerated program options may last a few months or even a few weeks. After finishing a program and obtaining certification, medical billers can jump straight into the job search. The timeline for this also varies for every job seeker.
Frequently Asked Questions About Become a Medical Biller
For analytical and detail-oriented people, medical billing can be a great career. Medical records and health information specialists earned a median salary of $44,090 in 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and the top 10% of earners in this field made over $73,370 that year. In addition, the medical billing profession has an optimistic job outlook. The BLS projects that the field could grow by 8% from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average growth rate.
Generally speaking, the medical coding field pays more than medical billing. According to data gathered by PayScale in June, 2021, medical coders earn a mean annual salary of nearly $43,260, while medical billers make average annual earnings of about $40,340. That said, salaries vary due to factors like location, education, and industry. In some cases, medical billers may earn more than their medical coding coworkers. Individuals with a higher level of education and professional certification may also use their more advanced training to negotiate for a heftier salary.
Technically speaking, medical billers do not need to meet any educational requirements to work in the profession. However, employers often prefer job candidates with some form of training. Medical billers can earn certification from a vocational medical billing program. Some earn associate degrees as well, although these professionals don't necessarily need a degree to land a job.
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As an assistant professor of nursing and entrepreneur with nearly twenty years of varied nursing experience, Brandy Gleason teaches within a prelicensure nursing program and coaches students. Brandy brings additional expertise as a bedside nurse and leader, having held roles at the managerial and senior leadership levels. Her passion and area of research centers around coaching nurses and nursing students to build resilience and avoid burnout. Brandy is an avid change agent when it comes to creating environments that contribute to the wellbeing of students.
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