Medical billers submit insurance claims and manage patient accounts. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that job opportunities for medical billers and coders will increase 21 percent between 2010 and 2020, which is faster than average for all industries. To become a medical biller, you need to complete an associate degree or professional certification. The time to completion varies widely from program to program, but a certificate can be completed in as little as 10 weeks, and a degree program can take up to two years to finish.

Education Requirements

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that medical billers typically need only a postsecondary certificate to break into the field. An associate degree may be obtained as well, although it is not necessary. After this educational certificate is achieved, employers may also require that candidates seek and obtain professional certification. To obtain this certification, graduates must pass one of the national medical coding exams, such as those given by the American Academy of Professional Coders or the American Medical Billing Association.

Length of Program

The duration of postsecondary certificate and degree programs varies widely by school. For example, the program at California State University, Los Angeles, requires 80 course hours to be completed in 10 weeks and includes a final exam. The diploma program at the American Career College Orange County campus takes 9 months to complete. Degree programs typically take longer to complete. The associate degree in medical office administration at Guilford Technical Community College, which includes medical billing, takes two years to finish. Many online programs are also available to provide students with flexible study options.

Coursework

Coursework in a medical billing and coding programs provides students an overview of healthcare policies and laws, insurance procedures and codes, and more. Coursework may include medical terminology, medical legal issues, medical coding, database concepts, records management and more. The program should also provide training on important software programs that may be used in medical offices.

Externship

Some certificate and degree programs require students to complete a formal externship in the community. The externship is completed at the same time as coursework but does not extend the length of the certificate or degree program. The length of the externship depends on the position secured, but it may last for a few weeks or a few months. Advisers are typically available to help students find positions.