A career as a medical billing specialist is ideal for anyone with a strong interest in the health field who doesn't want to work directly with patients. To become a medical billing specialist, it is best to enter an accredited program and obtain an associate's degree in medical billing and coding. Though a degree isn't required, a medical billing specialist must have an extensive knowledge of all medical procedures in order to properly code the billing documents that are sent to insurance companies. Some billing specialists do learn on the job, but the background from an academic institution gives the worker a firmer grasp and understanding of the entire medical profession and not just the billing office tasks.
Academic programs for those wanting to become a medical billing specialist include courses in general education as well as anatomy, physiology, statistics, medical data coding, computer science, and medical law. For a better chance of gaining admittance to such a program, it's a good idea to take science, health, and math classes in high school. Most medical offices look for staff with previous experience in a medical setting, so getting a part-time job at a medical office or hospital while in school would behoove the person wanting to jump into a good job right after graduation.
Certification is offered as a Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), but they require completion of a two year degree at a school accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM), and a passing score on the AHIMA exam. Those who are trained on the job or at an unaccredited school to become a medical billing specialist are not allowed to take the exam to acquire the RHIT credential.
Once general training is completed and experience is obtained, medical billing specialists also have the option of specializing. A demand for billing specialists in cancer has led to certification programs watched over by the National Cancer Registrars Association (NCRA). These specialized certificate programs are usually two years long, but pay is higher for those with specializations. Advancement opportunities also include supervisory positions and positions as coding specialists.
Another great opportunity and a reason some want to become a medical billing specialist is the chance to work virtually from home. Most of the tasks are done via a computer, and since billing specialists don't deal direction with patients, many tasks can be completed outside of the office.