Even in a recession, health care remains one of the nation’s largest and most thriving industries. The industry provided 14.3 million jobs in 2008 and is expected to generate 3.2 million new jobs between 2008 and 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Those jobs include support roles, such as medical assistants and professionals providing medical coding and billing services. Skilled and educated individuals will be needed for these high-growth fields, and earning a degree from an accredited college can help those who wish to enter these careers qualify for the best jobs in their area.
Medical billers and coders are considered medical records and health information technicians. Coding specialists must have a thorough knowledge of how to electronically convert patients’ medical records into a code which allows the hospital or other health care provider to be reimbursed by insurance companies, Medicaid, or Medicare, according the BLS. To enter this field, individuals generally must hold an associate degree and also must often be credentialed by an organization such as the American Academy of Professional Coders, the BLS notes. Those who wish to advance to supervisory or management positions within the field of medical billing and coding often move on to pursue a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or at least advanced specialty certification, the BLS explains.
Associate degree programs in medical billing and coding provide comprehensive training for students’ future careers. Students take courses in medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, coding and classification systems in health care settings, reimbursement methods in healthcare settings, database security, and more, the BLS notes. HIPAA laws (laws protecting patient privacy) are also thoroughly emphasized in such programs.
Medical assistants often earn associate degrees before seeking work in the field. While some medical assistants are hired without degrees and trained on the job, many complete one- or two-year degree programs, according to the BLS. Since medical assistants work with patients and assist nurses and physicians, associate degree programs in medical assisting train students in areas such as anatomy and physiology, lab techniques, clinical and diagnostic procedures, and medication administration, the BLS explains. Students also generally take courses in medical terminology, medical law, and medical ethics.
Those seeking out degree programs in medical coding and billing or medical assisting should first make sure that the school offering it is accredited. Those seeking to become medical assistants may also want to verify here that the program itself is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
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