Learn Medical Coding Online: Billing & Coding Courses

Learn all you need to know about becoming a medical coder in this article.

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Healthcare is one of the fastest-growing industries. With a projected growth of 13% from 2021 to 2031, it is expected to yield 2 million new jobs over the following decade.

Although you might think that this projected growth within the healthcare industry would only apply to doctors, nurses or lab techs, there are many non-clinical careers that don’t involve patient interaction that are vital to hospitals and clinics around the USA. Which brings us to the topic of today, Medical Coding.

What is a Medical Coding?

According to the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), “Medical Coding is the transformation of healthcare diagnosis, procedures, medical services, and equipment into universal medical alphanumeric codes.”

Put simply, medical coding involves translating information from physicians into a specific code meant to easily represent and identify information regarding diagnoses, procedures, treatments, services, equipment, and supplies. These codes are then supplied to insurance companies to ensure that payments and reimbursements are processed correctly for said procedures.

In case it wasn’t clear from the previous definition, please keep in mind that when we refer to “code, coding or codes” we are not talking about the “traditional” coding most people know as 0’s and 1’s. But rather identifying and using specific code that references a specific medical procedure, diagnosis, etc.

If you still are confused, please look at the image below:

medical coding example image stating code for  "4965" for a contrast injection for radiological evaluation within a work portal
Medical Coding Source https://www.devry.edu/

In the image above you are able able to see “49465” stands for: “contrast injection (s) for radiological evaluation of existing gastronomy, duodenostomy, jejunostomy, gastrojejunostomy, or cecostomy…” It is the medical coder’s responsibility to analyze and assign the correct code (s) from the written report from the procedures, conditions etc. undergone to care for a patient.

Hopefully this fully clarifies any doubts you might have regarding the definition and general role of a medical coder.

Types of Medical Billing and Coding Systems

Currently, there are two types of medical billing an coding systems used in the healthcare field:

  1. International Classification of Diseases (ICD) – ICD is monitored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and is internationally regulated. The codes identify specific conditions and are used worldwide.
    ICD codes are irregularly updated every now and then with the current code, ICD-11 replacing ICD-10.

    Example:  B27. 9 Infectious mononucleosis, unspecified.
  2. Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) – CPT codes are created by the American Medical Association (AMA) and are federally regulated.
    The codes refer to procedures and activities done to a patient. It is separated into three categories with Category I referring to well-known and frequent procedures, Category II conveys the quality of care and Category III is used to refer to newer procedures.

    Compared to the ICD, these are frequently updated and are more complex. It is also applicable to private health insurance companies since it is federally regulated.

    Example: 45379 Colonoscopy, flexible; with removal of foreign body(s)

Summary: The Role of a Medical Coder

As mentioned previously, medical coders are the individuals responsible for translating all the health information of a patient and appropriate medical terminology into the appropriate codes to process insurance claims from insurance companies.

Medical coders aren’t only found in hospitals. They are employed in clinics, doctor’s offices, urgent care, and nursing homes. Some insurance companies also employ coding specialists to verify the accuracy of claims. They can also be found in law firms that specialize in identifying billing and insurance frauds.

Now that we have fully established what medical coding is, and what role medical coders are expected to fulfill within the healthcare industry, we can explore the benefits of becoming a medical coder, and why it is such a good option for people trying to change up their career and have better job prospects.

Why should you become a Medical Coder?

Medical billing and coding certification can provide you with a way to get a new career in the medical industry quicker than you’d think. Although, it is non-clinical and will not have you interacting with patients (which to most would be a relief), the role is crucial for the healthcare system to function properly.

Here are 6 reasons to get certified as a medical coder:

  • Very Positive Job Outlook: according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for medical record specialists are projected to grow 7% from 2021 to 2031, faster than the average for other occupations. Work settings aren’t limited to hospitals but you can also get employed in legal and insurance companies. And, it tends to be a remote position, meaning you’ll most likely work from home.
    Given the events of COVID-19 and other arising diseases and illnesses along with the aging population, the demand for healthcare related workers will always be there even in an economic slowdown.
  • It Pays Well: considering it is a professional certification that doesn’t take too long to acquire, it pays really well. According to the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC)’s 2022 Salary Survey results, a coding career makes $55,389 annually. The more certifications you earn, the higher your salary gets.
  • You Can Start Immediately: while some schools offer a two or four-year program to become a Certified Professional Coder (CPC), online courses can be completed in as little as 4 months.
  • Room for Growth and Career Progression: healthcare is an industry of advancing technologies where new standards of care are being applied, and cures to several illnesses and diseases are being found. It’s forever evolving and growing. Because of that, you will keep on learning new things and face challenges that will only make you grow.
  • Consistent Work Schedules: finding a job that promotes work-life balance is a career goal for many employees. Unlike other healthcare workers, the schedule of most medical coders are fixed 40-hour shifts and they rarely work on weekends. While it’s part of your role to familiarize yourself with specific terminology and codes, it’s not necessary to memorize them by heart. There are books and references as well as software systems that will help you navigate your way to become efficient in your tasks.
  • You Will Gain Transferable Skills: by working as a medical coder, you’ll earn valuable skills such as communication, critical thinking, problem-solving and organization. Furthermore, you’ll learn to be detail-oriented and maintain integrity and confidentiality in compliance with healthcare laws.

Getting a Coding Certification with the AAPC

AAPC ogo

The American Academy of Professional Coders, now known as AAPC, founded in 1988 with the goal of providing certification to coders working in physician-based settings. It is the US’ largest training and credentialing organization for medical coders, medical billers, medical auditors, and practice managers.

AAPC has several types of certifications for medical coders as well as certifications for medical auditors, compliance officers and practice managers.

Online Medical Coding Training Courses with AAPC

AAPC offers 5 coding courses along with 18 advanced practice specializations.

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screenshot of Example of Courses offered by AAPC
Example of Courses offered by AAPC

The first thing you would have to do if you’d like to become a medical coder, is to get your CPC certification.

But, do you require anything in order to enroll into the CPC certification course?


In order to enroll, you need to have knowledge of medical terminology and anatomy. If you don’t have a background in these subjects, you need to enroll in both of these courses in order to be able to pursue a certification in medical coding.

AAPC sells a bundle prep course for these subjects (medical terminology and anatomy) that would give you the necessary credentials to continue to your CPC course.

The bundle usually costs $1,209.90, but if you are a member of AAPC it would cost you $695.

To be honest, this seems expensive regardless of any “member discounts” considering it is just a requisite just to enroll. And, now you must be wondering, so how much does this membership cost?

The AAPC membership costs $205 per year. Or, if you are already a student in one of their courses, you can log in and get the membership for $140 per year. There is no monthly membership.

medical teminology and anatomy courses image of AAPC

Below you have a list of all the costs, and inclusions of getting that Certified Professional Coder Certification (CPC) as well as the other courses and combos offered by AAPC.

1. Certified Professional Coder (CPC) Certification:

cpc course image

The CPC certification is an entry-level course ideal for those who want to work in a physician’s office. It is the most recognized medical coding certification in the healthcare field.

We have broken down this course into 2 steps: the course itself were you study in order to pass the certification exam, and “after the exam” which outlines the steps and options you’ll have available after passing the exam in order to become a Certified Professional Coder.

Preparation for the Certification Exam
  • Online Program Overview: The course covers CPT, HCPCS and ICD-10-CM coding and HCPCS Level II code sets and practices the correct assignment of codes for physician’s procedures.
  • Live Instructor-led – The course will be taught by an instructor in a span of 16 weeks with lessons lasting 1.5 hours per week.
  • Self-paced Instruction – Flexibility to go through the course at your own pace with 6-month access to the materials.
  • 50 question practice exams
  • Review divided into topics covered in the exam
  • CPC certification exam fee of $499 for 2 attempts
  • 40 Continuing Education Units (CEU)
  • CPC-A Practicum which will remove the apprentice designation
  • Live-instructor led: $3,436
    Optional Add-ons:
    Prerequisite courses: $1,595
    Coding books: $229.99
  • Self-paced instruction: $2,880
    Optional Add-ons:
    – Prerequisite courses: $995
    – Coding books: $229.99
After the Exam

Upon passing your CPC certificate program, you’ll earn the CPC-A credential which stands for apprentice. To remove the apprentice label, you are required to complete and submit proof of 2 years work experience as a CPC.

You have three options to reduce or remove the time required to graduate from the apprentice level.

  1. Practicode – AAPC’s web-based program that provides CPC-As real-world coding experience using redacted medical records. Completion of the practicode deducts 1 year from the 2-year requirement.
  2. AAPC’s 80-hour medical coding course – completing this course or equivalent also deducts 1 year from the 2-year requirement.
  3. On-the-job Training- Deducts 1-2 years upon verification of the work experience using CPT, ICD-10-CM, and HCPCS Level II code sets.

2. Certified Outpatient Coder (COC)

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certified outpatient coder course

COC is the only standalone outpatient coding credential in the healthcare industry.

COCs are experts in outpatient coding, ambulatory payment classifications (APCs), and Medicare severity-diagnosisrelated groups (MS-DRGs). Outpatient medical coders assign ICD-10-CM, CPT, and HCPCS Level II codes to outpatient facility procedures and services.

Outpatient coders go on to work in outpatient facilities, hospital emergency departments, and ambulatory surgical centers.

Preparation for Certification Exam

CPC Certification Required for enrollment in the COC certification prep course*

  • Online Program Overview: Course content includes ICD-10-CM coding, HCPCS, Payment Methodologies & the Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS), CPT Coding, CPT Surgery, Radiology, Pathology and Laboratory, and Medicine.

The COC Certification Course involves roughly 80 clock hours of coursework.
You should complete self-paced programs within 4 months, with an additional 2 months of access to online materials for a total of 6 months.

  • COC Course: $4,404.95
    • COC Preparation Course + Free Career Development Modules
  • COC Complete Training Package: $5,448.73
    • COC Preparation Course + Free Career Development Modules
    • COC Online Practice Exams
    • COC Exam
  • COC Complete Training + Hands-On Experience: $5,747.73
    • COC Preparation Course + Free Career Development Modules
    • COC Online Practice Exams
    • COC Exam
    • Practicode COC-A Practicum
  • Live Online Instruction COC Complete Training: $6,497.73
    • COC Preparation Course + Free Career Development Modules
    • COC Online Practice Exams
    • COC Exam
    • Practicode COC-A Practicum
    • Live Online Instructor

Please note sales and offers to members are available, view them here

Condensed COC Course for Existing CPCs

This course teaches existing CPCs the regulatory requirements for outpatient coding.

  • COC Course + Exam + 3 Practice Exams – $1,100 (CPC certified members only)
  • COC Course – $800 (CPC certified members only)

View this course option by clicking here.

3. Certified Inpatient Coder (CIC)

certified inpatient coder course medical coding

CIC is the only certification specializing in hospital and facility inpatient coding.

Hospitals employ CICs to manage health records of inpatients and demonstrate expertise in ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS coding, Medicare Severity Diagnosis Related Groups (MS-DRGs), and the Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS).

Preparation for Certification Exam
  • Online Program Overview: The course covers ICD-10-PCS and ICD-10-CM coding code sets and practices the correct assignment of codes for diagnoses and procedures of hospital’s inpatient facilities.

The CIC Certification Course involves roughly 80 clock hours of coursework. Self-paced programs should be completed in 4 months with an additional 2 months for a total of 6 months of access to online materials.

  • CIC Course: $4,404.95
    • CIC Preparation Course + Free Career Development Modules
  • CIC Complete Training Package: $5,612.78
    • CIC Preparation Course + Free Career Development Modules
    • CIC Online Practice Exams
    • CIC Exam
    • Practicode CIC Practicum
  • Live Online Instruction CIC Complete Training: $6,338.78
    • CIC Preparation Course + Free Career Development Modules
    • CIC Online Practice Exams
    • CIC Exam
    • Practicode CIC Practicum
    • Live Online Instructor

4. Certified Risk Adjustment Coder (CRC)

certifed risk adjustment coder medical coding

Certified Risk Adjustment Coders assist healthcare providers by determining the correct and appropriate code for chronic conditions and comorbidities.

They establish accurate risk scores for patients and demonstrate expertise in identifying comorbidities, disease progression and chronic conditions. In short, CRCs ensure proper funding for high-risk patients or patients with existing illnesses.

Preparation for Certification Exam
  • Online Program Overview: Coverage of ICD-10-CM coding for all risk adjustment models (HCC, HHS-ACA, CDPS)

80 hours of course work and 4 months of self-paced learning with an additional 2 months for material access.

  • CRC Course: $2,904.95
    • CRC Preparation Course + Free Career Development Modules
  • CRC Complete Training Package: $3,713.79
    • CRC Preparation Course + Free Career Development Modules
    • CRC Online Practice Exams
    • CRC Exam
  • CRC Complete Training + Hands-On Experience: $4,012.79
    • CRC Preparation Course + Free Career Development Modules
    • CRC Online Practice Exams
    • CRC Exam
    • Practicode CRC Practicum
  • Live Online Instruction CRC Complete Training: $4,762.79
    • CRC Preparation Course + Free Career Development Modules
    • CRC Online Practice Exams
    • CRC Exam
    • Practicode CRC Practicum
    • Live Online Instructor

There are lots of over courses and specialties available. Check out the full list of courses here

Medical Billing and Coding Programs

1. Certified Professional Coder (CPC) + Certified Professional Biller (CPB) Dual Certifications

Coding specialists and billers play an integral role in the healthcare revenue area. Medical coders translate diagnoses, procedures, equipment, and services into codes which in turn identify billable information. Medical billers use those codes to bill patients and create medical claims to submit to insurance providers.

Dual CPC and CPB Certifications

Back to back certifications offer offer more opportunities for employability and competitive salaries. Getting certified in the medical billing and coding program has its advantages as you will be knowledgeable in both fields.

Preparation for Certification Exam
  • Online Program Overview: Comprehensive CPC and CPB training.

Designed to be completed in 8 months but you’ll be given 12 months to complete the online program and have access to the course materials.

  • Self-paced: $2,904.95
    • CPC & CPB Preparation Courses + Free Career Development Modules
    • Student Codify
    • CPC & CPB Online Practice Exams
    • CPC & CPB Exam
    • CPC Exam Review
  • Self-paced + Hands-on Experience: $3,940.88
    • CPC & CPB Preparation Courses +
      FREE Career Development Modules
    • Student Codify
    • CPC & CPB Online Practice Exams
    • CPC & CPB Exam
    • CPC Exam Review
    • Practicode CPC-A Practicum
  • Live Online + Hands-on Experience: $4,860.87
    • CPC & CPB Preparation Courses +
      FREE Career Development Modules
    • Student Codify
    • CPC & CPB Online Practice Exams
    • CPC & CPB Exam
    • CPC Exam Review
    • Practicode CPC-A Practicum

Other Costs and Requisites

AAPC has other specialty programs if you are targeting a specific specialty or just want to add to your certifications. 

Cost of Certification

The cost of certification is covered in the packages of each course but it’s also priced individually at $399 for a single attempt and $499 for two attempts.

*80% of AAPC students pass on the first attempt

Prerequisite Courses for CPC Training

Medical coders work in healthcare settings and deal with medical documentation so they will need to have knowledge of medical terminology, anatomy, and pathophysiology prior to taking the exam. AAPC offers these prerequisites as separate courses or as a bundle.

  • Anatomy: $604.95 (Members: $395.00)
  • Anatomy and Medical Terminology: $695
  • 3-in-1 Course, Foundations in Medicine: $2,622.90 (Members: $1,595 )

Note: You are exempted from taking the prerequisites if you have an educational background or previous employment background in any of these three.

After Getting Certified

What’s next after getting certified? Applying for a new job! However, it’s also important to keep in mind that must maintain your certifications or continue advancing and adding specializations to make yourself more employable and competitive.


AAPC partners with over 1,000 healthcare organizations in more than 40 countries where you can network with other certified professionals. There’s a forum where you can ask questions and meet other people in your field.

AAPC also has its own job board where you can easily apply for a job after getting certified.

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AAPC Forum for medical coders
AAPC Forum

Maintaining Certifications

The medical field is continuously evolving and growing and so should you if you want to continue to be competitive and relevant in this field. AAPC uses Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to make sure your skill are up-to-date. Employers recognize this as well.

CEUs are reported every two years before your membership due date. The number of required CEUs will depend on the number of certifications that you hold.

Lifelong Learning

You can continue adding to your credentials by getting certified in specializations or by learning advanced specialty courses relevant to your professions, such as advanced ICD-10 training or behavioral health coding.


AAPC VS AHIMA medical coding course companies

AHIMA stands for the American Health Information Management Association. It was founded in 1928 by the American College of Surgeons. Like the AAPC, AHIMA provides certifications for medical coders and health information managers.

What do they have in common?

Both organizations provide respected and recognized certifications and use the same medical coding systems, CPT and HCPC for medical procedures and ICD for diagnoses.

They both offer separate designations for new coders and more experienced coders. They have the entry level certification with AAPC’s Certified Professional Coder (CPC) Certificate and AHIMA’s Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) Certificate with both organizations offering the inpatient and outpatient coding certifications. AHIMA doesn’t have an apprentice level like AAPC’s CPC-A but it does have the Certified Coding Associate or CCA which is similar.

Neither requires an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree prior to taking their courses.

What are the differences between AAPC and AHIMA?

AAPC and AHIMA’s courses differ in that the former has live teaching and hands-on experience. The AAPC is widely recognized in outpatient settings while AHIMA for inpatient settings. AAPC has a number of coding+specialization certifications if you’re aiming to apply in a specific department.

Which organization to go for will rely heavily on which setting you want to work in and if you want to take on a specialization in the future.

Are There Coding Schools That Offer Free Medical Billing and Coding Programs?

While enrolling in a course to get certified is the most ideal way to get a career as a medical coding professional or a medical biller, you can get an introduction to the field by getting free or low-cost courses as introductory content.

  1. Udemy’s What is Medical Coding and Billing?
    Cost: Free
    Course Length: 1 hour
    Overview: This is an online medical billing and coding introductory course that discuss the duties and responsibilities of medical coders and billers and briefly teaches students how to assign CD-10-CM, CPT and HCPCS codes.
  2. Basics of Medical Billing and Coding
    Cost: Free
    Course Length: At your own pace
    Overview: This summarizes the fundamentals of coding and billing with 10 short informational videos. It covers basic terminology, fraud, insurance plans and submitting insurance claims.
  3. Introduction to Medical Coding Course (i2MC)
    Cost: Free
    Course Length: 8 weeks
    Overview: Completing this course prepares you to enroll in AMCI Coding’s paid course with a 20% discount. The course teaches basic ICD-10-CM and CPT coding.
  4. Cybersecurity in Healthcare
    Cost: Free
    Course Length: 15 hours
    Overview: This is an introductory course in Coursera. Medical coders and billers deal with sensitive patient information and are tasked with confidentiality and security
    . This free course tackles cybersecurity in the healthcare sector and covers information security and data security threats.

Please note that these free courses will not offer accreditation nor get you certified to land a job as a coding specialist. These serve as introductory courses that will give you a taste of whether a career in coding is right for you.


Is getting medical coding certificate worth it?

Yes, because AAPC’s certificates are widely recognized in the healthcare industry. Certification demonstrates to employers that high standards of proficiency have been met.

Does AAPC offer financial aid?

AAPC is not a traditional school or university and is not accredited by the Department of Education. Because of this, they are not eligible to offer grants or financial aid. Financial assistance may be available for a course taught by AAPC’s licensed instructors in a traditional college.

Is a high school diploma enough to get started pursue medical coding?

A high school diploma is the minimum requirement to become a professional in the medical billing and coding field.

How much does medical coding certification cost?

AAPC’s CPC course which is its entry-level course starts at $2,880 which also covers the cost of the exam.

How long does it take to become a medical coder?

You can become a medical coder in less than a year.

Do you need to complete a degree program to qualify as a medical coder?

You don’t need a formal degree in order to become a medical coder. Both AAPC and AHIMA do not require individuals to have a degree to pursue an entry level medical coder course.

What is the best medical coding school?

AAPC and AHIMA are both recognized in the healthcare industry and earning certifications from either are

Didn’t fully convince you to become a medical coder? Checkout these reviews on online tech bootcamps like Careerist or Merit America.

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