When it comes to schools and programs, medical billing is a bit of a unique field. This is because there are several types of schools that offer medical billing programs and as a student you need to do your research to ensure that the school you choose will prepare you for the career you want to enter. Here are the main types of institutions that offer programs and credentials in medical billing.
Colleges and Universities
Many public and private colleges and universities offer programs in medical billing. These may be offered as two-year associate’s degrees or as certificate programs through the schools’ continuing education departments. In general, medical billing programs offered through colleges and universities take longer to complete than those from other types of schools. For example, it usually takes about two years to earn an associate’s degree. However, these programs are usually of very high quality and include various types of practical experience, so it is often worth the time and effort to complete one of these longer programs.
Professional organizations, such as the American Medical Billing Association and the American Health Information Management Association, also offer medical billing programs. Often, the goal of these courses and programs is to prepare you to take the organization’s certification exam, so it may not be appropriate for students just looking to get their feet wet in the medical billing field. They are, however, excellent for students who are ready to become certified.
This is the category that can sometimes be tricky. Although there are many excellent medical billing schools out there, there are also some disreputable institutions that claim to be medical billing schools, but are really just diploma mills. The problem with these institutions is that they will happily take your money and issue you a certificate or diploma, but they won’t actually teach you very much, so in the end you might not be able to use your credential to get a job.
This doesn’t mean that all for-profit institutions are diploma mills—they aren’t. In fact, there are many reputable for-profit institutions that run medical billing schools. Here are two top things you should look for to make sure that an institution is credible:
- Program length. Basic medical billing programs usually take about nine to twelve months to complete. Some may be shorter, but if an institution claims you can get your diploma in just a couple of months, it is probably a scam.
- Practical experience. Good medical billing programs have internships or externships as part of their graduation requirements. If a school does not offer a practicum, you should probably look elsewhere.
Enrolling in a medical billing school is an investment of time and money. Before making that commitment, make sure the credential you will earn will help you meet your career goals.