Lots of people want to work in the healthcare industry, but not everyone wants to become a nurse or a doctor. And that’s okay!
Some folks like the stability of the healthcare industry or want to do some good with their careers. But they don’t have the degree necessary to become a healthcare provider. Lots of moms might feel like they’re in this category. Hey, that’s me!
I’ve got some good news for anyone like me, too.
A medical billing certificate might be the perfect credential to pursue. Medical billing certificates qualify you to do medical billing and coding tasks in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare situations.
Like more technical secretaries, medical billing professionals help ensure that medical clinics and care centers run smoothly, that patients are billed correctly, and that all medical procedures are organized and filed the right way within computer systems.
Take it from me – medical billers are important members of any healthcare institution. But what exactly can you do with a medical billing certificate? Let me break down this question in a little more detail.
What is Medical Billing?
In a nutshell, medical billing (which can also be called medical coding) means you use technology to help healthcare professionals keep up-to-date medical records for their patients. Medical billers also ensure that payments for services rendered are accurate.
A medical biller:
- assigns standard codes for every diagnosis or medical procedure
- enters codes into patient health records
- forwards information to insurance companies
- double checks payment requests and amounts
- and more
Sounds cool, right? Plus, it’s a great career for professionals who need to balance their careers and home lives. I’ve had some great experience in this field myself.
Plus, the medical billing field is currently booming since it’s a relatively stable industry that doesn’t need years of higher education for someone to enter.
Instead, almost anyone can become a medical biller if they have the right work experience and get certification from one of several institutions.
What is a Medical Billing Certificate?
A medical billing certificate is an official credential that shows that you have the skills and expertise needed to accurately enter medical billing and coding information into a computer system. While many medical billing and coding positions don’t technically require a medical billing certificate, your odds of getting hired by a clinic or hospital are much higher if you have one.
Medical billing certificates are usually pursued:
- so that individuals can improve their medical billing knowledge
- to learn new skills to maximize medical reimbursement
- to advance careers and improve hiring likelihood
I was that last category and it worked out for me!
But when I was starting out, I found that there are two primary types of medical billing certification and had to choose one:
- The first is a Certified Medical Reimbursement Specialist, or CMRS. This is acquired through the American Medical Billing Association (AMBA) and costs $325.
- The second is a Certified Medical Billing Specialist, or CMBS. This is acquired through the Medical Association of Billers (MAD) and costs $199.
Both types of medical billing certificate are valuable and might lead to higher chances of getting hired as a medical biller at a healthcare organization.
I also found another, third avenue to medical billing certification called Certified Professional Biller.
This newer version of medical billing certification is just as valid as the other two, but it isn’t as medically focused as the other two certification types. It’s still a good certificate to choose if you want to be employed as a medical biller at a competitive healthcare location. It costs $350.
Some healthcare organizations will request or prefer one type of certification or another based on what’s included in each certificate’s test. So it’s a good idea to check and see if a clinic, for instance, wants a specific certificate before taking any exams, which is how I made my choice.
Regardless of the certificate you pick, each will need you to take an in-depth examination that covers a lot of medical subject matter, including:
- medical codes
- terms for anatomy and physiology
- medical terminology
- private insurance and Medicare claim processing rules and guidelines
- how to handle appeals and denials
- how to maintain regulatory compliance to ensure that healthcare providers can avoid accusations of abuse or fraud
What Can You Do with a Medical Billing Certificate?
Anyone with a medical billing certificate is qualified to work as a medical secretary, biller, or coder in a hospital, clinic, or other healthcare location.
Job Titles and Positions
There are lots of these positions since any healthcare institution or location needs multiple medical billers or secretarial professionals per each doctor or medical practitioner.
Your job’s exact title can vary from place to place and is based on the exact duties of your role. For example, job titles might include:
- medical billing or coding specialist
- patient account representative
- medical billing coordinator
- insurance reimbursement specialist
- and more
Medical billers and similar professionals need to have problem-solving skills and be able to accurately enter information into computer systems repeatedly over the course of a workday. But I’ve found it to be a good job since it offers a good salary and stability, at least in my experience.
I did some digging and found that the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that medical secretaries and similar positions have a mean annual wage of about $38,090. However, your salary might be much higher depending on your job location and responsibilities.
For instance, some scientific research and development services might employ medical secretaries, billers, and coders who earn higher average annual salaries of $40,000 or more.
State government employees usually make more as well, and the top 10% of medical billers earn over $50,000 per year. Salaries usually increase as you gain seniority and experience, and if you acquire additional professional coding or billing credentials.
All in all, a medical billing credential lets you work in the healthcare industry without having to go through years of school or become a nurse.
How to Get a Medical Billing Certificate
Getting a medical billing certificate is pretty straightforward. Plus, it doesn’t take nearly as long to acquire a certificate compared to attaining any type of medical degree.
Choose Your Credential
First, you’ll need to choose the credential you want. You can pursue more than one credential at once or over the course of your career. But I found that it’s smart to pick just one and focus on passing that credential’s test at first so you don’t stretch yourself too thin.
The CMRS and CMBS are good choices for folks who know they want to focus on being hired in the healthcare industry specifically.
Prepare for the Exam
You may need to join either the American Medical Billing Association or the Medical Association of Billers depending on which credential you pursue. This involves applying and paying any relevant membership fees. Both organizations also require that you have a high school diploma or equivalent.
Then, you’ll receive a study guide on the Association’s website. This includes all the stuff you’ll need to study in order to pass the certificate.
Most websites give you a time limit to complete the exam of between 30 and 45 days. You can use each day up until that deadline to study the material to do your best.
To make sure that pass the exam, your chosen Association organization will usually recommend that you study current and up-to-date medical coding publications. It sounds technical, but don’t worry!
These normally include coding manuals like the CPT, HCPCS, and ICD-10-CM. However, the included study guides usually have the most relevant information for your chosen exam.
Take the Exam
Once you feel prepared for the exam, you’ll take it online via secure learning portals. The exams are usually graded instantly by the computer, so your final score will be available as soon as you finish.
If you pass the exam, you’ll receive confirmation in 3 to 5 business days, after which point you’ll be officially licensed and certified as a medical biller or coder. And let me tell you, it’s a great feeling!
What’s On the Exam?
Again, this depends on which organization you sign up for.
For example, the CMRS exam is one of the oldest in the industry and it’s been active for over a decade. It’s a huge exam that is meant to test individuals on all parts of a medical billing process. The exam has 16 sections in total, but collectively covers topics like:
- CPT coding
- web and information technology
- medical terminology
- anatomy and physiology
- insurance and topics about insurance carriers
- claim forms and formats
- case studies
- compliance and HIPPA
- terms and healthcare use
- coding terms and formats
- and more
These exams are no breeze to pass – the CMRS exam has over 800 questions in total. If you want to pass, you’ll need to earn 85% or higher. It’s a good thing that the Association gives you up to 45 days to sign up and then complete the exam!
What happens if you fail? The Association gives you two free retakes before you need to pay the $325 fee. However, you’ll need to wait for at least 30 days and no more than 60 days between every retake. If you fail the test three times, you’ll need to pay another $325 fee and start over.
Some certificates require you to complete additional tasks in order to achieve certification. For instance, CMBS certification needs you to complete six online courses at whatever pace is comfortable to you. Plus, you also have to enroll in a condensed online course that finishes with you taking the certification exam.
This pathway includes extra educational materials to ensure that anyone with the certificate is well-prepared for the duties that will be assigned to them in a hospital or clinic.
Even after you get your medical billing certificate, you’ll need to earn continuing education credits each year. I’ve found that they aren’t hard to get, but they are something you’ll need to work into your schedule.
These credits can be earned by attending certain conferences, taking approved courses, and participating in other professional development programs or sessions (my favorite option).
As you can see, getting a medical billing certificate might just be a great professional move depending on your career goals.
These certificates can help you get hired as a medical biller or coder at a hospital or medical clinic, and those jobs are well-paid and usually pretty stable. Plus, they also include some room for growth or advancement. I’ve certainly found my medical biller job to be fulfilling in multiple ways.
The good news is you can start studying for a medical billing certificate right now!
Wondering what your other healthcare options are, or considering getting healthcare degree after your certificate? Resources like ConsiderSchool are perfect places to browse hundreds of accessible degrees in just a few clicks. Check out ConsiderSchool today to find the best healthcare education pathways for you!