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Medical Coding and Billing Program FAQs
Get answers to the most common and important questions about enrolling in an ICD-10 medical billing and coding program at Career Step. Our FAQs section provides answers to help you make an informed decision about your education.
- What is medical coding and billing?
Medical coding and billing is the process of translating information from patient records—treatments, tests, procedures, and diagnoses—into the standardized codes used to bill patients and third-party payers such as insurance companies and Medicare.
- What is the job market for medical coders and billers?
The U.S. Department of Labor's 2012-2013 report on the medical records and health information technology field, which encompasses both medical coders and medical billers. The report predicts:
- A growing job market as industry employment is projected to grow by 22% from 2012 to 2022. In addition to these new jobs, there will also be open positions as people retire or leave the profession.
- A high demand for coding services, sustained by an aging population and the increasing number of tests, treatments, and procedures.
In addition to this growth, there is also already an existing shortage of medical coding professionals. This shortage is estimated to be about 30% and is expected to increase to at least 53% with the industry’s shift to ICD-10.
- What is ICD-10 and how will it affect the medical coding industry?
Medical coders use a number of standardized code sets. One of these, ICD-9, will be transitioning to ICD-10 on October 1, 2014. All healthcare and insurance facilities must transition to the new code set on that date, and this is a huge undertaking as the number of codes is increasing (from about 17,000 ICD-9 codes to over 155,000 ICD-10 codes), the specificity of the codes is increasing, and there are thousands of personnel that need to be trained on the new code set in addition to updating all of the systems that are in place.
As a new student, it’s important for you to start learning the ICD-10 code set now. This will allow you to earn your credential (the CCA exam will switch to ICD-10 on April 1, 2014 and the CPC exam will switch on January 1, 2015) and jump right into your first job ready to code in ICD-10.
- How much can I earn as a medical coding and billing professional?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report—encompassing both inpatient and outpatient medical coders and billers—states that the middle 50% of professionals in the field earn between $25,570 and $42,170 a year. However, it is important to remember that as you gain credentials and experience, your earning capacity increases. Industry organizations have published the following average salary information.
American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)
This recent survey reports the average coder salaries by credentials offered by AHIMA. Career Step graduates are eligible to sit for the CCA credential directly after graduation. CCA certified coders have a reported annual salary of $40,196.
American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC)
This recent survey is more focused on outpatient coding and reports that entry-level, certified coders earn $34,551 annually, while those who have earned the CPC credential (which Career Step graduates are eligible to sit for directly after graduation) earn an average of $45,347 annually.
- Do I have to be certified?
The Career Step courses are specifically designed to prepare students for national, entry-level coding certification exams, even though certification is not always a prerequisite for employment. The exams most commonly taken directly after graduation by Career Step graduates are the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) exam offered by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) and the Certified Coding Associate (CCA) exam offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).
Although graduating from a Career Step medical coding and billing training program does not automatically award you a coding credential, the courses are specifically designed to help you gain the foundation and skills you need to earn the appropriate credentials, and you will receive a voucher to take the exam of your choice upon graduation (a $300 value). In a recent Career Step survey, over 81% of respondents who had taken a certification exam after graduation reported passing the exam and earning their credential—which is nearly 20 percentage points higher than the national average!
- What are the advantages of training with Career Step?
Career Step has been providing quality healthcare education for over 20 years, and we’ve trained over 13,000 medical coding students since 2004. Our online training format allows you to study at your own pace and on a schedule that fits your busy lifestyle. Our Professional Medical Coding and Billing course is:
- AHIMA approved – One of the only online certificate programs approved by AHIMA, this approval assures you that Career Step’s program has been evaluated by the largest professional association in the industry and they determined that program graduates are well prepared to earn their credentials and start working at entry-level medical coders.
- Expert-designed – Our program was built by AHIMA-Approved ICD-10-CM/PCS Trainers as well as a number of other experts who have decades of experience working in and teaching medical coding to ensure you gain the skills you need to excel in this field.
- Employer trusted – Some of the largest and more respected healthcare employers in the nation (including the leading provider of healthcare services in the U.S. and one of the nation's largest managed healthcare companies) are using Career Step’s curriculum to train their employees! Choose training that even employers are using!
- What kind of skills and experience do I need to enter the Career Step program?
In order to be admitted, you must be at least 18 years of age and have a high school diploma or a General Education Development Certificate (GED). There are no specific skills or experience that are considered prerequisites for entry into the Career Step training program.
- Is Career Step accredited?
Career Step is registered under the Utah Post-Secondary Proprietary School Act but is not nationally or regionally accredited. However, our career-focused training programs are approved by a number of industry specific organizations and are designed with employer feedback to ensure students are gaining exactly the skills needed to get a job and succeed in the workforce.
The Career Step training programs prepare students for career fields where employers are looking for skilled applicants. Career Step works closely with employers when developing a training program to ensure students graduate with the skills employers are looking for. We've also developed close ties to industry associations, aligning our programs with their recommendations. Career Step programs boast the following recognitions:
- Career Step’s Medical Transcription curriculum is approved by the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI), the leading medical transcription industry association.
- The Professional Medical Coding and Billing program is approved by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), one of the largest and most prestigious health information organizations in the country.
- The Career Step Pharmacy Technician program has been reviewed and approved by the State Boards of Pharmacy in Indiana, Utah, and Virginia. (Many states don't have any regulations on the education of pharmacy technicians, and very few require board approval. For more information on each state's pharmacy technician education regulations, view our State Requirements pdf.) Walgreens and CVS Pharmacy also offer Career Step Pharmacy Technician students the opportunity to participate in a hands-on externship in their stores nationwide.
- The Medical Administrative Assistant with EHR and Medical Administrative Assistant programs are approved by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA), a leading organization focused on increasing the quality of health career education.
Career Step programs are also designed to prepare you for certifications that greatly improve your employment opportunities. Employers are often more familiar with various credentials than with the quality of education provided by different schools. To help your resume stand out from other applicants, various Career Step programs help prepare students to earn the following third-party credentials:
- Certified Coding Associate (CCA) and Certified Professional Coder (CPC)
- Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA)
- Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT)
- CompTIA A+ Certification
- Microsoft Office Specialist – Master (MOS-Master)
This focus on helping you gain the skills needed to succeed in the workforce has made our students successful in the job market—over 83% of Career Step graduates are employed in their field of study, 90% of employed Medical Transcription graduates work from home in their first job, Medical Coding and Billing graduates report a certification exam pass rate that’s a full 15 percentage points higher than the national average, and Pharmacy Technician students can take advantage of externship opportunities with Walgreens and CVS Pharmacy.
- How is the Career Step program structured?
The Career Step program is offered entirely online, providing 24/7 access to all material and allowing you to progress through the curriculum on your own schedule and at your own pace. The program is broken into modules, or course subjects, and has been designed by AHIMA-Approved ICD-10-CM/PCS Trainers as well as a number of other experts with decades of experience working in and teaching medical coding. This experience has led us to a 3-part program design:
- Foundations – This first section of the program will teach you things like computer fundamentals, the health information management process, and reimbursement methodologies to ensure you thoroughly understand how medical coding fits within healthcare and have the basics down.
- Biomedical sciences – In order to correctly assign codes, you’ll need a good understanding of medical terminology, anatomy, pathophysiology, and pharmacology, and this section of the course teaches all of that from a coding perspective.
- Code training – This final section introduces you to all of the different code sets and teaches you how to use them. You’ll practice coding actual medical records and reports (provided by our employer partners) and use the 3M encoding software so you have lots of hands-on experience and graduate ready to earn your credential and start working.
We’ve specifically designed the Professional Medical Coding and Billing course to ensure you gain exactly the skills you need to start working as a medical coder.
- What type of student support does Career Step offer?
Career Step student support includes access to:
- Student Support Instructors and Advisors have professional experience in the industry and are uniquely qualified to answer questions about both the curriculum and the industry. They provide timely answers to questions about the program material and offer a number of personal consultations throughout the training to help students master important concepts.
- Technical Support Advisors are knowledgeable, experienced, and available six days a week to help you work through any technical or computer issues encountered within the training program.
- Graduate Support Advisors help you transition to the workforce after graduation. Your Graduate Advisors will help prepare the best resume, develop solid interview skills, and teach you valuable job search techniques.
Though the course is entirely online, you'll never be on your own. Career Step's student support team is available to offer personal, ongoing support all the way through the training program.
- How long does it take to finish the course?
The AHIMA-approved Professional Medical Coding and Billing program includes 635 hours of curriculum. Since the program is completely self-paced and the online training format allows you the flexibility to study as much or as little as your schedule allows, the time it takes you to complete the course will vary from other students. Some students are able to complete their training program in as little as 4 months (working on the course full-time, 8 hours a day 5 days a week) and others, who are more limited in the time they can devote to the course, take longer (for example, students who can devote about 20 hours a week may finish in about 8 months).
Every student who enrolls in Career Step’s Professional Medical Coding and Billing program receives an initial 12-month period of enrollment. Though the programs are designed to be completed in 4 months of full-time study, you'll have a full year to complete your training. If you need extra time to complete the course after your initial one-year enrollment, we have 4-month extensions available for purchase.
- How do I find work after graduation?
Career Step offers personalized, post-graduation resources for your job search, including:
- Personal consultation with a Graduate Advisor
- New job opening notifications
- Personalized interview tutorials and training
- Individual resume and cover letter review, tips, and advice
- A CCA or CPC certification exam voucher upon graduation (a $300 value)
- Access to Career Step's help hotline for a full year after graduation
These resources offer the personalized help you need after graduation to transition to the workplace. With this individualized help and attention, the majority of our graduates are hired within a few months of graduation.
- What materials and computer specifications are required to complete the course?
Your enrollment includes everything you will need to train for a successful career in medical coding and billing. Your enrollment includes:
- Access to expert-created curriculum
- 4 printed textbooks
- Complete library of industry standard codebooks
- Access to 3M encoding software
- Online access to the 3M reference library (includes over $1500 worth of references)
- One-on-one help from student and technical support
- A CCA or CPC certification exam voucher upon graduation (a $300 value)
- Valuable graduate resources
Since the course is completely online, your computer will play an important role in your learning experience. We recommend the following minimum computer system specifications:
- Active internet connection (High speed/Broadband connection recommended)
- 800 X 600 minimum resolution (1024 X 768 or higher recommended)
- Sound card and speakers (Earphones recommended)
- Available USB port
- Adobe Flash Player (ver. 10 or higher)
- Windows Media Player (ver. 10 or higher) or Quicktime Player (ver. 7 or higher)
- PDF reader
- Internet Explorer 7.x/8.x/9.x
- Microsoft Windows (XP®, Vista®, 7 with latest service pack)
Note: Mobile browsing devices are not currently supported. However, Career Step is investigating the implementation of mobile device support, and these specifications will be updated once a decision has been reached.
- What payment options does Career Step offer?
We realize that one of the most important questions tied to education is how it will be paid for. Because this is such a big part of the decision of whether or not to go back to school, Career Step has designed several tuition assistance and payment options. Please visit our Tuition Assistance page for more information.
- How soon will I receive my materials?
It takes 2-3 business days to process the application, depending on method of payment. Once the payment is processed you will be emailed your course login and password and can start training immediately. Additional course materials are shipped UPS Ground after the payment is processed. The average wait is about 7-10 days. Your coding reference materials will be sent after you reach a certain point in the training program to ensure that you receive the most up-to-date materials.
A certificate program is a quick, affordable way to learn job skills that can make the difference between wishing you could get a new job and starting a rewarding new career.
Why Career Step? »
- Why You Should Consider A Medical Coding Career»
Career Step student Katherine describes her experience with the online school as she studies to be a medical coding and billing professional. Watch Video »
- "We have had great success, particularly with the Inpatient and Outpatient Medical Coding and Billing course. We have a 96% pass rate for students taking the AHIMA or AAPC tests upon completion of their program. The national pass rate is around 67%—so I think that speaks to the quality of the course Career Step offers." Read More Reviews »
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- "Overall, I was very pleased with everything that Career Step had to offer. I was attracted to Career Step because I am a military spouse, and I was looking for a new career that would be easy to transfer, as my family transfers from one base to another. . . . As a new graduate, I look forward to all the new opportunities that Career Step has opened up to me." Read More Reviews »
- "I just have to say that Career Step has TRULY changed my life!! You work so hard for a 2- or 4-year college degree and then are left with no on-the-job experience and no employment when you've graduated. Yet with Career Step, I was able to complete the course in less than a year, had training that left me fully prepared and equipped, and was contacted by a recruiter a few days after graduating!" Read More Reviews »
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- "I was able to get a job within 3 weeks of graduating, which was largely related to the Career Step name on my resume. I have talked to people and read that many new grads from other schools are looking for work for 4 to 6 months. I love my job and, while I am still learning the details of the job, I was well prepared for the work!" Read More Reviews »
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- "I currently work for a national healthcare consulting company and thanks to the Career Step program my career is advancing very rapidly. ... Without Career Step I never would have been ready for the national exam. The setup of the program was very user friendly and if I ever had a question it was answered in a very prompt manner. I have referred others to the program and my co-workers have also mentioned the program to others looking to prepare for the certification exam. THANK YOU CAREER STEP!!!!" Read More Reviews »
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- "We've hired a number of Career Step graduates, and we've been very happy with the quality of the work that they've done at our organization. We love the way that the program tests and evaluates them along the process, and it's really helped us select those who are really shining stars." Read More Reviews »
"The Career Step program is well-designed . . . Step by step, it leads the student through learning . . ." See More Reasons »
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- "I made it through the course in a little less than a year, and I got hired less than 48 hours after I took the final!! . . . I have many friends who have gone to other schools and are still unemployed. Thankfully, I chose the right school that has a great reputation of producing top-notch students. Career Step really prepared me for employee testing and, ultimately, employment." Read More Reviews »
- "I was very fortunate to find a job . . . within the first month. While I found the course to be exactly what it was advertised to be and I was very pleased with the training I received, I cannot say enough about Graduate Support! I was not expecting the level of involvement with my job search that Career Step provided. In my opinion, Career Step does not consider you to have completed the course until you have found employment!" Read More Reviews »