Pros and Cons of Community College for Medical Coding and Billing Training

Community college programs for medical coding and billing vary in cost and number of hours required for a certificate of completion. A solid community college program includes instruction in medical terminology, anatomy, physiology, and diagnosis and procedure coding. A good program also includes instruction in medical billing programs in addition to an introduction to medical clearinghouse practices. Programs offered by community colleges have both pros and cons.

Pros of community college programs for medical coding and billing

Community college billing and coding programs give you credibility because they’re known to offer programs with a solid and diverse course of study. The associate’s degree or certificate of completion you receive has an air of authority that you may not get from a for-profit school. Following are some other benefits:

  • Commitment to its students: A community college is invested in the success of its alumni and often offers post-graduate services such as job search support and alumni resources for networking. Also, community college programs have ample resources to assist potential students with planning a course of study.

  • Affordability: Community college programs are based on the normal fees of the local college; an average program costs around $2,500.00. Financial aid is usually available in the form of grants, scholarships, or loans, and the interest rate on a student loan can be quite attractive.

  • Possible externship or internship opportunity: Many local instructors work in the industry and have the resources to offer on-the-job training opportunities.

Cons of community college programs for medical coding and billing

Community college programs have certain drawbacks:

  • Scheduling issues: Community college programs are usually structured to coincide with the typical college semester or session term. In addition, individual classes are usually structured in a series of tiers, with tier-one classes being prerequisites for the tier-two classes and so on.

    If life intervenes and interrupts your participation in the scheduled classes, the interruption can result in a delay of a year, which is particularly a problem when the program participation is small, because the program cycles are less frequent.

  • Lack of flexibility: The community college curriculum is normally structured in class blocks that serve as prerequisites to the next class. The structure is such that the classes follow in order and may not offer much flexibility with regard to times and frequency. For the student already working, the lack of flexibility can be a major roadblock.

  • Having to purchase your own books: Many community college programs use a book rental system for students, but in a coding program, you want to keep your books so that you can use them later to study for the certification exam.

    Unless the cost of materials is built into your tuition, you need to purchase your own books, which can get pretty expensive. Here’s why: You need the coding books to take the certification exam, and the books change every year! If the year (and coding books) changes, you need to purchase more books. The exam schedule indicates which coding books should be used to find the right answers.

    Procedure codes that are found in the CPT book are added and deleted annually, and the ICD-9 books add new diagnosis codes every year. In addition, in October 2014, the United States will transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10. This major change will affect every diagnosis code that billers and coders use. Guess what that means — you’ll need to buy more books!

    If you use an older book while you’re in school or to take your certification exam, it may not do much damage. But in the actual work of coding, numbers are everything. After you begin your job, you absolutely must use the right book.

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