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Is the CareerStep medical coding program a good program? - Thinking of enrolling

Posted: Nov 22, 2010


Career Step - Beth

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Its a decent program, but just know they do not help you find a job. I finished the course February 2008 with Honors and still looking for work. If you decide to take the course definitely do the online as well as books.

Career Step - Anonymous

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I'm in the program now and will probably finish in the spring. I agree with Beth, it's decent but I'm also doing independent study using additional outside sources. They don't help you find a job but are pretty up front about that, I don't know many schools that do. Getting certification through AAPC or AHIMA is the key to finding coding employment, anyway, regardless of your program.

career step - steph

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Beth, did you take any cert. tests? that is very discouraging if you are still looking after 2 years AND are certified. Makes me rethink everything!

I don't think she said she was certified - Did she?

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Lots of schools teach coding. Some teach to the level required for certification. I don't remember if Beth said she had taken certification exams through AHIMA or AAPC or not, but schools don't give those tests. They can either prepare you well enough so that you have a good chance of being certified, or not. They don't certify you though. They can give you a certificate that shows you graduated, but the education is the part that matters. Does it get you ready for certification exams or not is the important thing.

What makes it a decent program? - sm

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I'm wondering if you attempted a certification exam. I you didn't, why not? After a program like that, you should have felt ready. If you did take an exam, did you pass? Did the school offer to continue to work with you until you were able to pass?

The main way a program helps you find a job is by providing what you need to get certified and demonstrate to employers that you can do the work even though you do not have experience. After all, it isn't as though they can go out, round up some jobs, and "apply you" for them. A school imparts the knowledge and expectations for a job, but you still have to get the job yourself.

My concern is the contradiction between it being a decent program and your inability to find employment for almost two years. That would be an indication that the program failed in some way, and the failure is not going to be in the future-employment department.

decent program/cert - steph

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That is my concern. I want to take a course that will prepare me GREATLY for certification, which is about really the only way to have hope of hiring. My suspicion is Beth is not certified and hence cannot find employment. Hopefully Beth can answer us soon (:
Decent program - Anonymous
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The school provides the education, YOU are the one who prepares yourself for certification, whether that means extracurricular study, practice exams, etc. The foundation is there, but it is up to the students to take resposibility for the rest.
Schools vary in the level of preparation for certification - From what I have been seeing
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Some prepare students well and some aren't designed to do more than just teach basic coding, not enough to really get or keep a real coding job. Those courses are faster and cheaper though, so that gives people a choice. It depends on what you are looking for.

If you want to work in the coding department as a professional coder, you're going to have to do better than a course that just teaches basics. If you are happy to work in the billing department of a hospital or clinic or doctor's office, you don't need that much. Your choice. Neither is the only way to do it. It depends on what you want.

Personally, if I were thinking about a long-term career, I would think about a much more serious course in medical coding than I would if I just wanted to make a few bucks for the next year or two and then quit or do something else.
I agree, but - Anonymous
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If a student felt that the "basic" coding taught in their program was not adequate to train them for a long term career, it is always possible to study on their own. A number of excellent publications are available, there are even some free on-line tutorials. I'm not saying to forego the program, but to take advantage of every learning opportunity. Hospital billing departments, clinics and doctor's offices employ certified coders and that is probably where a lot of coders get their start and then choose to stay because they enjoy the work, why are those not "real" coding jobs? Please explain the difference between a professional coder and an unprofessional coder.
I agree with you BUT - non-coders do not know what they do not know
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How can you even decide what you need to study when your course has not been adequate to teach more than the basics, if that? When we are learning any new skill, we don't know what we don't know. It would be easy to learn it if we knew exactly what it was. Also, employers aren't really much impressed with a do-it-yourself education in coding either. That's another problem. Other than that, I do see your point and it is a good one. Even with a great education from an excellent coding program, graduates still need to keep learning.
Can I throw this in there? How does Andrews School sum up? - Thinking of enrolling
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I hear a lot of positives on Andrews School's coding course. Does anyone have experience with this course? Is this course more in-depth and perhaps educates you better, increasing your chances for passing the credentialing exams?
Some ideas regarding if it is a - Better education or chance to pass credential exam
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There are courses that you get through faster, and if you are not looking for a heavy-duty coding job, that may be fine.

There are courses that cost less and some that cost a lot more. With some, you get what you pay for, but not always.

In the Andrews course, the instructors approach it as if you were a coder starting to work for them. It's not so much that the work is hard, but it takes time to do, and they will send it back to you until they know that you understood what you did wrong and can do it right next time. Attention to detail is really critical and if you don't have the time to devote to it or you get your feelings hurt having your work sent back to you to be redone, you won't like it.

If you want to be prepared for the CCS or AAPC credentialing tests though, the course is designed to prepare you for those, if you take it seriously, have the time to spend on it, and don't mind having to redo your work (better than failing the exam) when you think you understood it and the instructor disagrees.

They treat you the way you will probably be treated on the job. They expect you to do the work the way they want it done and they won't accept anything less than that. There is a great deal of instruction. Things aren't just marked as correct or incorrect. They are going to make sure that you get it or you aren't going to be allowed to move on.

It is definitely not the right course for someone who wants to finish in 3 months or who wants lots of pats on the back. It's more like a coding job rather than a class where they feed you all the answers. Andrews makes you dig it out and they teach you how to do that. They don't do it for you. Some people like that and some won't like it at all.

That's the best description I can give. Hope it helps.
You asked about the difference between a professional vs. unprofessional coder - My understanding
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I've seen lots of people working in medical offices who called themselves coders, but if they changed jobs and wanted to apply in a Medical Coding position in a hospital, for example, they wouldn't be seriously considered.

Most of the time they just have the basics of how to look up a number, usually from a Superbill or maybe even using a code book, but they only know the surface of what coding is. There's nothing wrong with that unless your goal is to be a real Medical Coder, a different thing entirely. The difference between the understanding of the concepts is like night and day. They don't talk the same language as someone who just got superficial or "Introductory" training in coding, or in most cases, just on-the-job training from a medical office manager who had a two-day seminar on how to code and is teaching from that knowledge or lack thereof. That's the difference.
Thanks Guys... Great responses. SM - orginial poster
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I am looking to learn EVERYTHING. I want the most detailed and in-depth course that is out there. I actually used reverse psychology to get the answers I wanted. lol. I knew Career Step was not the school I wanted to attend but rather Andrews. So I figured I would post about Career Step... see how many responses I get regarding that the course is not adequate and then throw in a question about Andrews, which confirmed that Andrews IS the school for me.

I just needed some more confirmation on this before I made my decision. I love the way the one poster described how Andrews teaches. That is exactly what I need. I'd rather get the "tough love" approach while I'm learning than to be on the job and not know what I'm doing and getting it there, although I am sure I will still get it on the job as well. Every day will be a learning experience even years into the job I would assume.

Thank you guys so much!!!! I feel I am ready to enroll into the Andrews' program and I feel 100% confident in my choice.
Realistically - Anonymous
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How realistic is a 2-day coding seminar in this day and age? Even billers and insurance specialists need to know a lot, claims needs to be correct the first time and that includes the coding. In many outpatient facilities, the same people who do the insurance billing also do the coding and do have their CPC certifications. Unless you've done both jobs and know everything that is involved, don't demean coders who are not employed in hospital inpatient settings.
I have. - nm
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Regardless - Anonymous
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Regardless of how you view certain coding programs and whether one offers a better education than another, speaking for myself as a new coder, I am not going to refuse any offer of employment, be it in a clinic, doctor's office or hospital billing department. We all have to start somewhere. At this point, I don't think any job is beneath me.
That's a good point - Not the Original Poster
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Obviously the better your education, the more options you will have available, but you are right. At some point you have to consider all your options and take the best one available to you. We all have to do that. You also have a good attitude that no job is beneath you.

However I would also encourage anyone thinking about a career in Medical Coding to consider where they would like to go in their career before they start their coding education though, because it will be important later, when it's too late to do anything about it other than start over from scratch. Nobody wants to have to do that.
That's a realistic answer. - sm
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The example of a person who simply copies codes off a superbill is realistic! That's the extent of what a lot of people in small offices do. They still call themselves coders.

Yes, you can learn to do that in a 2-day seminar or a few hours of online training. It doesn't require much knowledge.

I've had entire radiology offices tell me they felt competent to do the work themselves after listening to a webinar. They didn't see why they ought to have a consultant *or* a code book. "It's not that hard! They told us what the codes were."

I don't think the poster was saying that only hospital coders are professional. She was just making the point that for a situation that truly demanded a professional coder, anything less than that would be unsatisfactory. A hospital coder would need to be more highly trained than that, as would coders in large clinics and medical groups.

Realism - Anonymous
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I work for a larger clinic and they're all very professional so really I've never seen what you are referring to. I know that some of our midlevels will dictate the ICD-9 codes when they do their notes, and even as an MT/coding student I have flagged a report or two because the codes they chose were goofy; that could be one example of just looking numbers up (in this case, the wrong ones, lol!)
Exactly. - Original poster
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Not really. A student can't learn what is not being taught - Some schools barely teach the basics
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Some schools don't provide sufficient education to even get you started.

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