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What is Medical Billing and Coding?

Stethoscope and medical billing and coding

Understanding the Numbers
When reviewing job growth and salary information, it’s important to remember that actual numbers can vary due to many different factors — like years of experience in the role, industry of employment, geographic location, worker skill and economic conditions. Cited projections do not guarantee actual salary or job growth.

The healthcare industry continues to create an explosion of jobs in the United States.* A recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report predicts an additional 1.8 million jobs annually through 2032.* While many of those positions are for doctors, nurses and dental hygienists, they also include medical billing and coding professionals.

If you’re unfamiliar with this work, read on to find out exactly what medical billing and coding is, if it’s a good fit for you and what earning a bachelor's degree can do for your career.

What Does a Medical Biller and Coder Do All Day?

Dr. Lynn Ward, Health Information Management (HIM) program director at SNHUMedical billing and coding are essential in healthcare, according to Dr. Lynn Ward, health information management (HIM) program director at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).

These health information technicians must integrate themselves with both the software and their team as organizations seek to streamline their operations.

So, what exactly do medical billers and coders do? They handle the billing and insurance details in healthcare organizations and billing companies, according to BLS, and they may also manage their group's financial and electronic health records (EHRs). Their role is essential because it provides patient-facing professionals with the information they need to improve the quality of care and providers with what they need to decrease the number of billing errors and improve care coordination in an industry that demands it.

According to BLS, medical records specialists such as medical coders may also:

  • Look over patient information for pre-existing conditions
  • Assign diagnoses and procedure codes for patient care, health statistics and billing purposes
  • Work as a go-between with the health clinician and billing offices

A stethoscope graphic with a yellow cross and a blue backgroundMedical billing and coding are necessary for almost every health setting. In addition to hospitals, doctors’ offices and outpatient centers these jobs can be found at long-term care facilities, ambulatory care facilities, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, medical manufacturers, behavioral health organizations, governmental healthcare agencies and healthcare-related organizations.

In other words, coders and billers can be found everywhere. And with a bachelor's degree in this field, so can plenty of opportunities for HIM managers.*

The demand for highly educated professionals will be even more critical. BLS projects a 28% job growth for medical and health services manager roles between 2022 and 2032, which is more than five times faster than the growth for all other management jobs.*

These individuals will take on leadership roles, creating decentralized teams that support units within large healthcare settings such as hospitals and making recommendations that support an organization's technology, security and compliance needs. With a bachelor's degree, the typical qualification for medical and health services managers according to BLS, you can be well-qualified to be at the helm of these departments.

What Education is Necessary for Medical Billing and Coding?

In many instances, a certificate in billing and coding may get your foot in the door for an entry-level position (SNHU does not currently offer certificates in billing and coding). However, when it comes to the growth in healthcare, the educational edge — like a bachelor's degree — may help you get ahead and prepare you to take on additional responsibilities.

“The (Bachelor of Science) in Health Information Management program is a good fit for a student interested in this career path, especially for someone who would like to work in management of an HIM department,” Ward said.

Ward, who has more than 15 years of experience in higher education, is also a registered health information administrator and certified professional in healthcare information and management systems.

Find Your Program

What Can You Learn in an HIM Program?

A health information management degree program teaches the technology, terminology and professional skills required for an HIM career, especially in advanced roles.

You can learn to:

  • Analyze the uses, risks and management of health statistics and biomedical research data and support performance improvement programs

  • Evaluate information system applications for their capacity to meet the needs of healthcare organizations

  • Interpret and apply current laws, regulations, policies and healthcare ethics as they relate to decision-making in healthcare delivery and systems

  • Apply health data structure, standards and regulations to manage clinical classification systems and reimbursement

  • Implement and manage hardware and software technologies to ensure effective data collection, storage, analysis and reporting of information

  • Use current management principles to propose solutions and develop project management plans that solve organizational challenges

An icon of a laptop.The courses that make up an HIM program create a well-rounded degree — and a skilled, capable graduate. SNHU's program includes a medical billing and coding course, where you'll learn about the technologies used in the industry. If you're not quite ready to take on a full degree program, you're able to take this course on its own to determine if medical billing and coding courses are worth it for you.

Aside from the coding courses, you can learn more about healthcare management, project management, human resources, data analytics, computer platform technologies, pathophysiology and pharmacology, and the ethics and legal aspects of HIM.

In a medical billing or coding career, this knowledge can complement your training and may give you an edge in your current position, providing a holistic view of your role in the healthcare industry and setting you up for success in other possible HIM careers down the road.

If you wish to take your training and education further, you can explore master’s programs, such as a Master of Science (MS) in Health Information Management or an MBA in Healthcare Management, that may lead to advanced opportunities in the field.

Not all programs are created equally, so if you're looking for a degree that can help you grow in an HIM career, consider its accreditation. For example, SNHU's bachelor's and master's degrees in HIM are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Accreditation (CAHIIM). That means its curriculum and learning outcomes are aligned with industry expectations.

Learn more about what CAHIIM accreditation means.

What is Medical Billing and Coding’s Job Outlook?

Similar to the rest of the healthcare industry, job growth for medical billing and coding specialists looks good.* Medical records specialist jobs are projected to grow by 8% through 2032, and the position earned a median salary of $47,180 in 2022, according to BLS.*

“As Baby Boomers age and require more medical services, we’ll need more health information technicians to manage all of their data,” Ward said. “This increase in demand — combined with the number of insured citizens on the rise — will mean more reimbursement claims from insurance companies.* The industry will need more trained HIM staff to stay organized.”

Discover more about SNHU’s bachelor's in health information management: Find out what courses you'll take, skills you’ll learn and how to request information about the program.

*Cited job growth projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth. Actual salaries and/or earning potential may be the result of a combination of factors including, but not limited to: years of experience, industry of employment, geographic location, and worker skill.

Deidre Ashe was 9 years old when she launched her professional writing career. While spending a day at work with her dad, she penned her first book, illustrated it and sent it off to a publishing company – after finding the address on the copyright page of one of her paperbacks. While the story never made it to the shelves of libraries, the editors wrote back, encouraging her to continue pursuing her writing passion. (Yes, she still has that letter.)

After earning a bachelor’s in journalism, Ashe spent a decade working in the media industry. She then transitioned into marketing, later getting her MA in Communication from Southern New Hampshire University in 2018.

Ashe serves as a senior copy director at SNHU. She and her family live in New Hampshire. Connect with Ashe on LinkedIn.

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About Southern New Hampshire University

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SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.

Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.