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How Do I Learn Medical Coding?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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There are several ways to learn medical coding. People who are interested in careers in medical coding and billing can approach the career from many angles, and it is easy to adjust the learning experience to meet the needs of the individual student. Many of the ways to learn coding are highly flexible and under the control of the student, allowing people to work to support themselves while they are learning medical coding, or to care for children, run a home business, and engage in other opportunities while they study.

One way to learn medical coding is to work in a medical office and gain knowledge of medical coding through experience. People who work in medical offices can start out with basic filing while they familiarize themselves, and gradually take on more responsibilities. Once someone has enough work experience, he or she can take a certification exam to demonstrate medical coding skills, and pursue employment as a medical coder.

Another option is to take a home-study course. Numerous firms offer home-study courses, which are usually conducted at the student's own pace. Students may correspond through mail, or use an Internet-based system in which they can take quizzes, interact with teachers and students, and access study materials. Home medical coding courses vary in depth, duration, and cost; students may want to ask around for graduates of such programs to see how successful these programs are, and if former students have specific recommendations.

Vocational schools, technical colleges, and some community colleges also offer medical coding courses. With these programs, the student goes to school, attending regular classes and doing homework, to learn medical coding. Graduates of such programs sometimes have an edge when it comes to seeking employment, as they can usually take a certification exam as soon as they graduate, and they may also be offered work experience opportunities while in school to get familiar with the practice of medical coding.

A medical coding specialist needs to be prepared for continuing education after he or she has learned medical coding. Medical codes change periodically, and it is also important to keep up with ethics guidelines and industry issues. Some medical coders like to join a professional organization after they learn medical coding so that they have access to educational materials, conferences, trade journals, and fellow medical coders. Many of these organizations offer admittance only to certified coders, administering exams to candidates who would like to join.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Practical Adult Insights researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By Charred — On Nov 13, 2011

@seag47 - I think you do well to beware of scams in this arena. A lot of times you see ads for medical coding home study courses in the newspaper, promising you the ability to earn bucket loads of money in this business while you learn medical coding at home. Most of those are scams in my opinion.

I do know a lady who does medical coding at home on the side, but she started in a doctor’s office. That’s how most legitimate coding opportunities work; they are standard office jobs at first and then the doctor lets you work at home. That makes sense in my opinion.

Think about it: why would a doctor let a complete outsider do medical coding for him? So unless you’re willing to spend some time in a doctor’s office, I would avoid pursuing this as a work at home business from the start.

By seag47 — On Nov 13, 2011

I am looking into getting medical coding training online, but I want to make sure I don't fall for a scam. I have a question for those of you who are either enrolled in classes at a school or are currently working in the field.

How long does it take for you to complete the program? A website that I am considering receiving training from says that I can do it in only three months. This sounds too good to be true. Can you really learn all you need to know and receive certification in this short amount of time?

By StarJo — On Nov 12, 2011

@Monika – To me, 30K sounds like a good salary! I have never made over 22K in my lifetime, and if I suddenly made 8K more, I would feel so rich!

I know that I will probably never be truly wealthy, and that's okay with me. I don't have the patience to go to medical school for all those years to be a doctor, so I will settle for the lesser salary of a medical coding specialist.

I am currently in training, and I look forward to being able to work from home and set my own schedule. This is far more valuable to me than any amount of money.

By Perdido — On Nov 11, 2011

A lady at my church works from home doing medical coding. She started out working in a doctor's office. While she was there, she learned all about it, and she gained valuable experience that would help her down the road.

Eventually, the doctor hired her to do medical coding on the side. As his practice grew, so did her workload. She quit her job as a file clerk and started working from home doing medical coding for that same doctor.

Years later, she decided to go ahead and get certified, just in case she ever needed to find employment with some other doctor. It's a good thing that she did, because within the year, that doctor decided to move his practice to another state. If she hadn't been certified, she would have had a hard time convincing someone to hire her.

By orangey03 — On Nov 11, 2011

Medical coding training has been advertised for years. When it first became a fad, there were tons of jobs available in the field.

I have a friend who got into medical coding years ago. She recently told me that she has lost a lot of work, because many doctors are doing it themselves to save money. If it weren't for one company that she has permanent ties to, she would be out of work totally.

It is a competitive field. It seems that everyone's dream is to work at home, and since medical coding allows that, the market is overrun with qualified individuals.

By myharley — On Nov 10, 2011

@Mykol - I know there are credible online medical coding classes, but if you have access to a local course, I would encourage you to look in to that first.

By doing this, you have access to people who already work in this area, and I think your prospects of getting a job when you are done would be much easier.

Some of the courses might even be offered online, so you might not have to complete all of the classes at the school.

Once you have completed the program, then you should be able to find work to do from home. You will be able to do some networking and come in contact with possible job opportunities if you sign up through your local college.

I think this would be harder to do if you went with an online course with no local affiliation.

You are fortunate that you live close to a college that offers this type of program, as many do not have this option and must rely on a home-study course.

By Mykol — On Nov 10, 2011

I am always interested in finding ways I can work from home, and I have seen medical billing coding jobs for home workers.

Does anyone have any recommendations for any of the home training programs?

I have often wondered if completing a program like this would be as beneficial as completing a course through a college.

There is a community college close to where I live that offers this program, and I have looked into it, but wanted to be able to complete the course from home.

It would be a lot more beneficial for me to learn medical coding online, but I don't want to invest my time and money in a course only to find out that it wasn't adequate for getting a job in that field.

By jennythelib — On Nov 09, 2011

@Monika - I think part of the appeal of learning medical billing and coding is that sometimes it can be done as a home business. I think, though, that it's hard to get into doing it from home unless you have experience doing it in an office setting.

And I make nearly as much per hour working from home (just for a few hours in the evenings, but it can be done nearly full-time) doing search engine evaluation, which required no special training and has very flexible hours. There are other work-at-home options.

By Monika — On Nov 09, 2011

I know medical coding is a fairly in demand job. However, I have to say that the average medical coding salary isn't very appealing. I looked it up, and it's only about 30K per year.

I could see if that were an entry-level salary or something, but the average salary? I think I would probably aim higher if I wanted to enter the medical field.

Medical coding seems like a lot of work, especially considering all the continuing education. 30K a year doesn't seem like enough to me!

But anyway, I guess if someone still wants to learn medical coding, I wouldn't recommend spending too much money to do it. And definitely don't take out a loan. Your salary after training isn't going to be enough to justify the cost!

By sunnySkys — On Nov 08, 2011

@KaBoom - Community colleges are great, but I wouldn't totally discount medical coding schools. I don't think it would be fair to make a blanket statement that a community college is always better than technical schools. I really think you need to look at it on a case by case basis.

I know my local community college doesn't offer medical coding online, only in person. So if you want to take medical coding courses and work full time, you're out of luck.

But, a lot of medical coding schools seem to offer online classes. So in that instance, a medical coding school would be a way better fit than a community college.

By KaBoom — On Nov 08, 2011

I'm a bit advocate of taking advantage of community colleges for career training. They're usually much cheaper than a career training school and fairly well respected in the local community.

So my opinion isn't going to be any different for medical coding. If you want to train for medical coding certification, the community college is your best bet.

My local community college offers a medical coding certificate program that costs around $1200. The career training places around here cost a lot more than that....almost double!

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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