Pros and Cons of Technical School Programs for Medical Coding and Billing
Vocational schools offer an alternative to the community college route as a means to train for a career in medical coding and billing. Some of these programs offer excellent training.
Pros of a technical school for medical coding and billing
Attending a vocational or technical school program offers certain advantages:
The programs are usually more subject specific and take less time to complete. The more specialized vocational programs usually focus on subject matter that is directly related to the program, such as medical terminology, anatomy, how to use coding materials, understanding insurance, and an introduction of various coding and billing software programs.
Programs at technical schools also tend to cycle more often (that is, the programs are offered more frequently), which eliminates a longer waiting time to begin a program.
Although the abbreviated course schedule means less time from enrollment to certificate of completion, don’t assume that it means less commitment to study. If the program is complete but shorter, you have less time to learn the material because you’re covering the same amount in a shorter timeframe, which may translate to a greater need for out-of-class study time.
The specialized curriculum makes for smaller classes and promotes more interaction with the instructors. This is a bonus for you as a student. More face time equals more personal instruction.
Vocational and technical schools often have lower out-of-pocket costs. Many vocational programs include coding materials with the cost of tuition, and many of the AAPC programs also include a student membership and the certification examination fee. This represents a significant out-of-pocket savings (the cost of a typical certification exam is $300 — $260 for students with student memberships — and the books at a bundled price are about $160).
A student membership is offered at a discount to individuals enrolled in an AAPC-accredited program. Yes, you’re still paying for these items through tuition payments, but it tends to hurts less when it’s all rolled into one payment.
Note: Having lower out-of-pocket expenses doesn’t necessarily mean that these programs are less expensive. In fact, they may be more expensive.
Cons of technical schools for medical coding and billing
Following are the disadvantages of vocational or technical school programs:
Vocational school programs often are more costly. Unlike community colleges, vocational schools are purely self-supporting and for-profit institutions. Programs may cost closer to $10,000 (this cost usually includes material costs and the fees to sit for a certification examination).
Make sure exam fees are included in your tuition and that, at the end of the program, you can take the certification exam as an inclusive part of your paid program.
A major marketing tactic these programs use is to boast that 90 percent of their graduates receive certification upon completion, which is one reason the cost of the exam is rolled into the tuition. The thinking is that students are more likely to study for and take an exam that they’ve already paid for.
You likely have to fly solo when seeking financial aid. As for-profit institutions, technical schools aren’t structured like a typical college or community college, meaning they often have no financial aid office to support students. If you need financial aid, you need to seek grants, scholarships, and loans on your own.
They may not be accredited. Unfortunately, as the field of medical coding and billing rapidly grows, so do the number of scams and diploma mills. The onus is on you to seek out accredited programs that require study in the necessary topics.