Masters Degree in Medical Coding: Program Information
Medical coding professionals are responsible for translating medical procedures into code for the purposes of billing and filling out insurance forms. The most common type of educational degree program available in the area is an Associate of Applied Science in Medical Billing and Coding. Medical billing professionals who wish to pursue an advanced degree and move into managerial positions may consider a Master of Science in Healthcare Management.
Associate of Applied Science in Medical Billing and Coding
An associate's degree program in medical billing and coding should provide students with a basic understanding of the healthcare industry, medical procedures and medical terminology. Students are expected to learn how to transform records of medical procedures into a kind of shorthand code that can be used for record-keeping and billing purposes. Some vocational schools and community colleges offer an externship or work experience credit for students at a hospital, healthcare center or insurance company before graduation.
Students interested in enrolling in an associate's degree program related to medical coding should have a strong command of the English language, basic computer and keyboarding skills. Applicants are recommended to have an interest working in the healthcare field, and a high school diploma or GED is also required.
Many of the courses featured in a medical billing and coding associate's degree program cover the basics of coding techniques and provide students with an introduction to the healthcare industry. Some such courses include:
- Healthcare systems
- Medical terminology
- Basic coding systems
- Diagnosis codes
- Reimbursement techniques
- Law and ethics in healthcare
- Health services computer applications
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in 2010 that there were almost 180,000 medical records and health information technicians working in the United States (www.bls.gov). The majority of these individuals were employed by hospitals, physicians' offices and nursing care facilities. The highest-paying industry for medical records technicians in 2012 was the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, as indicated by the BLS. The BLS further reports that medical records techs earned a median annual wage of $34,160 in 2012.
The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) offers certification for professional medical coders and billers. The credentials are purported to help medical records professionals gain employment or earn higher salaries in their current positions. Some available certifications include the Certified Professional Coder (CPC), the Certified Professional Coder - Outpatient Hospital (CPC-H) and the Certified Professional Coder - Payer (CPC-P).
Master of Science in Health Information Management
While there are no master's degree programs in medical billing and coding, students who are interested in pursuing careers in medical records and management might consider enrolling in a master's degree program in health information management. This program combines elements of healthcare management, business administration and information technology and teaches students how to develop and manage the recording and collecting of healthcare data.
Students must have a baccalaureate degree in a field such as organizational management, business management, information technology or healthcare management before enrolling in a master's degree program. Some professional experience in management or medical record keeping and coding could also be required.
Courses found within a master's degree program in health information management combine the technical aspects of healthcare with management skills. Some examples of such classes are listed below:
- Health informatics
- Electronic health records
- Records management
- Coding and classification systems
- Human resource management
- Management principles
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Medical and health services managers held more than 300,000 jobs in the United States in 2010, according to the BLS. The BLS reports that these individuals earned a median salary of $88,580 a year in 2012. Employment of medical and health services managers was predicted to rise 22% from 2010-2020, which was higher than the average expected employment growth for that time period.
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