I was in real estate. Because of the economy, I needed to retrain myself in the field where I thought I would easily get a job after graduation. I already had a bachelor of science degree. I was an older student (46 years old) when I went into the Medical Coding Program (Health Information Technology) at well known online university. I had been a Realtor for seven years and, because of the economy, I decided to retrain myself in medical coding, because of the statistics and online information that suggested that it was a growing field and that there would be a lot of good paying, secure jobs.
The program was 2 years in length with a six week internship at the very end. Course work was in the basic sciences with an emphasis on medical terminology, health laws, and basic ICD-9 coding.
Why were you interested in medical coding training?
Because the online information highly suggested that there was a need for more qualified people in the field and I needed a “sure thing” in this horrible economy. It was a two year program, so I knew I could get through it quickly. Also, because I already had a bachelor degree, I was able to complete the associate degree in one year, and not two. Still in all, that one year cost almost $20K in tuition.
How did you choose the medical coding program you attended?
By proximity to my home (less than three miles), and also, because I could complete a majority of the courses online.
What did you like about the program?
Because I already had a bachelor degree from a well known and well respected state university, I like the fact that the program was able to use a lot of my former credits to expedite getting me through the program quickly.
What did you not like about the program?
All the instructors were there to pick up a paycheck. They feigned interest, but the place was a diploma mill and they just wanted to take your money and give you a diploma. Their ability to find employers after graduation was nil.
What types of jobs did you and your fellow classmates get after completing the training? How much did these jobs pay?
I was never able to secure a full time job after training. Even though I had a 3.9 GPA, graduated with honors, completed my RHIT and had a bachelor of science degree.
What was the total cost for your medical coding program?
$20K, but I completed it in one year. Had I been a traditional two-year student, it would have been around $40K.
How did you pay for your medical coding program?
I used my own money, much to the chagrin of the (for-profit) university that I attended. Some schools tell you how great the job market is in this field, then grind you through their program, get you an internship that doesn’t even want you. I did no coding at my internship and I felt like they very much were displeased with having to attend to an intern.
What advice would you give to students regarding paying for their medical coding training?
Unless you are already working for a physician group or a hospital that has encouraged you to proceed with this training and is assisting you with the some or all of the cost, I would really crutch the numbers. Some schools will encourage you to take out their school sponsored loans, telling you that you will get a good job after you graduate. This has not been my experience. Be prepared to not get a job and be strapped with a huge loan.
What things should a student look for when choosing a medical coding program?
With the advent of the Electronic Medical Record, some coding activities will be done at the nursing station when direct care is being given to the patient. If you really want to go into this area of study, I would make sure you already have a good relationship with potential employers, like physician groups and hospitals. The goal is to take a certification exam called the RHIT via the American Health Information Management Association. After I graduated I proceeded to get my RHIT and even though I had almost a 4.0 average, it didn’t matter because I didn’t have any real world coding experience.
If you are head over heals and still want to go into this field, make sure you are somehow able to get an internship that provides lots and lots of hands on coding experience. In my experience, that is what employers want, and your school may not help you find it.