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Financial Aid for Medical Coding Schools

There is a lot of excitement surrounding the medical coding profession and all of the employment opportunities. It isn’t surprising at that hundreds of people are signing up for training in medical codes. Prospective students do face a challenge though: money. Medical coding courses are not extravagant but there are fees involved and costs for textbooks and software. Students quickly realize that several thousand dollars may be needed to get the required education for a medical coding career. This may be more than a person can reasonably afford. It may require seeking some kind of financial aid to be able to attend a medical coding school.

The good news is that such financial aid is available. This could be in the form of outright scholarships but Federal Student Aid is a more common form. These are federal loans and grants that help a student pay for education. Ultimate Medical Academy offers both campus and online education in medical coding. It also has advisers who will help prospective students create a financial aid package to cover the cost. This is a fairly common service offered by academic institutions. It is to their benefit that a person secure needed financial aid and these schools have staff members whose primary job responsibility is to help find the money.
The assistance can come in a number of ways. The Federal Family Education Loan Program provides Stafford Loans. These are direct loans funded by the government and are available through financial institutions. The Federal Work Study (FWS) program will provide part-time employment that a student can use to pay for education. Perkins Loans can be given to those students who are economically deprived, but these are available only at participating institutions. There are other needs-based grants and may come through the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants program. These federal programs will require that a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, form be completed. This is a fairly comprehensive document and a prospective student should not hesitate to seek assistance from a school’s financial staff in completing one. Another good source of financial aid can come with the help of the student’s parents. PLUS loans are there for parents whose dependent child is at least a part-time student in an eligible program.

Scholarships are the most desirable form of financial aid because they ordinarily do not have to be paid back. The American Health Information Management Association(AHIMA) has a merit scholarship program for those interested in going health information studies. Under the terms of the AHIMA Merit Scholarship a student can receive anywhere from $1000 to $2,500 depending on the level education he or she is seeking. One of the conditions, though, is that a person must be a member of the Association and other criteria includes number of credit hours completed or currently enrolled in.

Some caution should be used while looking for financial aid. Unlike grants or scholarships, financial aid might have to be paid back at a later date. Anyone reviewing financial aid options should read the paperwork carefully. It’s important to have an understanding of what obligations, if any, are expected of the student receiving the financial aid. Failing to do so can have some heavy financial consequences. It is possible that a schedule of payments can be arranged that will not destroy a person’s budget, but an applicant has to realize that any Federal money given in financial aid is a sum that will sooner or later have to be repaid. That being said, those people seeking to afford medical coding education will discover that there are means available to help afford the coursework. What it does take is a little homework ahead of time to get the right financial aid package.

Medical Coding Qualifications for Employment

When all is said and done the objective of any interest in medical coding is being able to land a job in a dynamically growing career. The American healthcare industry is growing by leaps and bounds and the need for medical coders has increased along with it. It’s all well and good, but a primary concern is understanding specifically what it takes to secure one of those desired jobs.

Job descriptions can give some needed clues. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has a general explanation of the types of duties that people in medical coding and/or medical records are required to do on a daily basis. The Bureau’s overall job description gives an idea of the work environment and the job outlook as well. While this is an important source of information about what it takes to be a medical coder, often the qualifications will vary from job description to job description. Still, it is a start.

It is pretty much a given that a medical coder has to have an acceptable level of proficiency in medical codes. ICD – 9 codes are used extensively, but a new and much larger set of codes, the ICD – 10, will come into use in late 2013. Anyone looking for a medical coding job would be wise to get thorough training in ICD – 10 codes and show a good knowledge of medical terminology as well. Solid knowledge in the codes can be effectively demonstrated if the job applicant has a certified professional coder (CPC) designation. The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) can provide both the training and the CPC designation (this, of course, comes after the successful completion of the CPC examination). Another medical coding related certification is offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Known as the registered health information technician (RHIT) certification, this is a particularly good qualification for those who are seeking management positions.

Work experience is a very common employment qualification for any job, and medical coding is no exception. A problem for most medical coding students is a situation that puts the  cart before the horse – i.e. how can one get the right amount of job experience without the right job qualifications beforehand. There is a very simple remedy for this and it is internship. Student interns work for free in exchange for gaining needed job experience. The AAPC has the Project Xtern program that offers internships in a large number of participating facilities. The AHIMA also offers internship opportunities for students. It should be noted, though, that membership in the organizations is a basic requirement to gain access to any of the offered internship programs. Another means of getting experience in a roundabout way is to work in a health care setting without actually being a medical coder. It would be possible to say in a job interview that work experience was gained through activity in a job related to medical coding.

There is one final way to meet any work experience requirement, and that would be to have one or more academic degrees. It is often the case that an associate degree in medical coding or medical records can be substituted for one or two years of hands-on experience. It all depends on the needs of the employer and what that company’s job description demands of a candidate.

The qualifications for entry level employment in medical coding are not that difficult to achieve. A person ought to take a look beforehand regarding general requirements and map a job search with that information in mind. This is a growing field with a great number of job opportunities. Taking a look at medical coder job descriptions of various health care facilities can educate a person on what, at the very least, are the basic qualifications for the position.

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