Some Advice for Getting Your Medical Coding Diploma

What is a medical coding diploma and how do I get one?

If you're considering entering the fast-paced world of medical coding or billing, you may have run across many different programs offering many different degrees, diplomas, qualifications, or certifications. Here we'll focus on medical coding diplomas.

What is a medical coding diploma?

Similar to a high school diploma, a medical coding diploma is a certificate issued by an accredited institution which identifies you as a graduate of a coding institution. This means that you've completed a course of study in medical coding.

A diploma indicates that you've:

  • successfully completed all course requirements,
  • passed all necessary exams,
  • and taken all the classes needed for a well-rounded coding education.

In short, getting your medical coding diploma shows that you are educated in medical coding.

Because medical coding is also closely related to medical billing, your medical coding education will probably include a decent amount of medical billing as well. This makes you a more well-rounded medical coder, as well as a better potential employee in the medical industry in general.

Should I get a degree or a diploma?

Should you get a medical coding diploma or a degree? Diplomas are more focused and faster

Before deciding on which program you want to enter it's important to figure out whether you want a degree or a diploma.

Typically, any type of degree is going to involve a longer, more difficult, and more expensive study program than a diploma. Like it sounds, a degree takes 2-4 years - a significant time investment.

You'd have to take all the classes required by the university, such as elective courses, pre-requisites, and others that may or may not be specifically related to your degree.

Similar to a degree, a diploma program includes all the classes needed to round out a solid education in medical coding. The program will probably include classes like medical billing and reimbursement, medical terminology, and human anatomy.

Unlike a degree program, however, the diploma program will be more focused on medical coding. You'll have to spend less time worrying about pre-requisites, elective courses, or other university-related requirements.

This also means that many diploma programs are less time-consuming, ranging from intensive eight-month courses of study to a 15-month program. Some programs are also offered online.

Because diploma programs are offered by vocational schools, technical colleges, and routes other than the traditional university setting, they're cheaper. It's also easier to apply and get into these programs than traditional universities.

Does a diploma program include a coding certification?

In short: no. Both degree and diploma programs give you the education you need to take a certification exam, but neither offer them.

Coding certifications are given by special organizations which aren't related to any specific university, course of study, or college program.

Many coding diploma programs are specifically designed to help you take and pass the coding exam, but they do not offer the actual exam as part of the program of study.

If you want to be a certified coder, you'll have to get your diploma or education first, then take your medical coding certification exam. Diploma programs prepare you for the test, but you don't have to pass the test to graduate.

See: benefits of certification.

So how do I get my diploma in medical coding?

The program that you ultimately choose will depend on your current needs and financial situation, as well as whether or not you already have to work, or when you can start taking classes.

Some medical coding programs are offered face-to-face in local colleges, such as Virginia College, Stanford-Brown Institute, Everest Institute, and Southern Careers Institute.

These courses are very much like traditional university or college branch courses. They may be a bit more expensive than their online counterparts, but offer a great, well-rounded view of everything included in the field of medical coding.

Other programs are offered online, and their financial requirements will vary greatly.

Choosing the right program for you

No matter which medical coding diploma program you ultimately decide on, choose carefully! Don't let a pushy salesperson dupe you into signing up for a two year program that isn't right for you. These programs can be expensive - make your decision wisely, since it will greatly affect your financial future.

For each program that you look into, weigh your pros and cons, and check the reputation of the school you're looking at. You may also want to call a few hiring firms or large medical groups to see if they take graduates from certain institutions, or if they prefer not to take graduates from certain institutions.

Vocational schools work very hard to make sure their graduates are placed in good jobs, so that they spread a good reputation of their schools in the workforce. This means that if the school really doesn't have a good reputation, it may not be worth going to, even if their schedule works perfectly with yours and the prices are great.

Remember: if you can't get hired after you graduate then there's no point in going to school for a job in medical coding in the first place! Do your homework before you sign up to actually take classes and do real homework - it will all pay off in the long run.

See: 6 tips for choosing the right program.

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