Coding Specialist

Medical Coding Specialist Certificate Program

Enhance your education and build a future with a college that knows what it means to prepare graduates for a lifelong career in healthcare. The Medical Coding Specialist certificate program we offer here at Northwestern College is geared toward helping you get the experience and instruction you need to set yourself up for success in the medical field. Whether you are a brand-new student starting a career in medical coding or adding additional billing and coding experience to your existing job skills, our students and graduates get access to the same education and resources.

Medical Coding: What It Is and What They Do

Medical coding is the process of taking all of the procedures, diagnoses, medical services, and equipment usage that happens day-in and day-out in a healthcare facility and translating it into a set of universal medical alphanumeric codes. It’s a kind of common language used by everyone from healthcare teams to insurance companies so that patients’ medical records can be understood the same across the country. Medical coding specialists — also called medical coders or medical billing and coding specialists — are the ones who process and translate all this information. They perform tasks like:

  • Reviewing patient information for preexisting conditions, completeness, and accuracy of the data so that it can all be inputted correctly
  • Organizing data into clinical databases and maintaining that information
  • Using classification software to assign the appropriate diagnosis and procedure codes for all aspects of patient care
  • Working as a liaison between healthcare providers, billing offices, and insurance companies
  • Tracking patient outcomes for assessment of quality of care
  • Maintaining confidentiality of patients’ records 

In recent years, the right of electronic health records has directly impacted the medical coding field, making it possible to digitally record, collect, store, analyze, and retrieve vast amounts of patient information. It also has meant that medical coding specialists must be very aware of all the ways they can help secure this information and implement privacy practices.

Medical Coding Specialist Education and Certification

Those who thrive in the medical coding profession are often detail-oriented people, with strong technical and analytical skills and have a high level of personal integrity, given the delicate nature of the information they’re working with. No matter if you’re already working in healthcare and looking to boost your skills or just getting started on your career path, you’ll need specialized medical coding training from an accredited institution like Northwestern College. Our Chicago-based and online Medical Coding Specialist certificate trains you in the most up-to-date classification systems in both acute and ambulatory care systems. This is a technology-based program that starts with a foundation of medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, and pathophysiology and builds from there. We’ve ensured that our curriculum is in compliance with medical law and ethical standards and that our health informatics training meets the core values identified by the American Health Information Management Association. Graduates of Northwestern College’s Medical Coding Specialist program are qualified to sit for the Certified Coding Specialist Physician-based (CCS-P) exam — a key certification that employers often want to see in potential job candidates.


Medical Coding Classes at Northwestern College

Northwestern College’s Medical Coding Specialist certificate program is designed to provide you with the focused education you need to step into your new career as a medical coder. Get hands-on training from instructors with real-world experience in things like reviewing patient codes and assigning numeric codes; CPT coding systems like ICD-10-CM and HCPCS Level II; and the essentials of health information documentation, data integrity, and quality. You’ll even be able to specialize in physician-based settings such as physician offices, group practices, multi-specialty clinics, or specialty centers.

Students are required to complete at least 37 credit hours to earn a certificate in Medical Coding Specialist. Classes in this program include:

  • Health Data Content and Structure (3)
  • Health Data Content and Structure Lab (1)
  • Ambulatory Reimbursement I (3)
  • Coding and Classification Systems I (3)
  • Coding and Classification Systems I with Lab (1)
  • Coding and Classification Systems II (3)
  • Coding and Classification Systems II with Lab (1)
  • Coding and Classification Systems IV (3)
  • Coding and Classification Systems IV with Lab (1)
  • Coding Exam Review (2)
  • Advanced Coding & Abstracting (3)
  • Medical Terminology  (3)
  • Anatomy, Physiology & Pathophysiology I (4)
  • Anatomy, Physiology & Pathophysiology II (4)
  • College Success (1)
  • Professional Development (1)

For the full curriculum, visit our College Catalog.

The Outlook for Medical Coding Jobs


Healthcare professions have some of the brightest future job prospects in the coming decade, and medical coding specialists are no exception. A rapidly aging population in need of more medical services means that medical coders and other health information technicians will be required in order to log, maintain, and manage all of this information. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment of medical coding specialists is expected to grow by 8% — double the average for all occupations — through 2029. Those with training in the areas of electronic health data content and structure are likely to be in even higher demand. Most of these jobs will likely be in state, local, and private hospitals, who employed 37% of medical records technicians in 2019 according to the BLS, but other prominent employment spaces will be physicians’ offices and nursing care facilities.

Program Goals

Upon completion of the program, it is expected that students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge in medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, and pathophysiology
  • Specialize in physician-based settings such as physician offices, group practices, multispecialty clinics, or specialty centers
  • Review patient records and assign numeric codes for each diagnosis and procedure
  • Demonstrate in-depth knowledge of the CPT coding system and familiarity with the ICD-10-CM and HCPCS Level II coding systems
  • Demonstrate proficiency in health information documentation, data integrity, and quality

Accreditations and Approvals

Northwestern College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, 230 S. LaSalle St., Suite 7-500, Chicago, IL 60604, (312) 263-0456, www.hlcommission.org

We are also approved for veterans training under the G.I. Bill® for Veterans Educational Assistance. On top of that, we are proud to support our students with things like financial aid assistance and job search assistance.

Discover Chicago Medical Coding Programs Today

The time to get started on your new career is right now. We offer both flexible program options and class times so that it’s easier than ever to invest in your education and your future. Get the skills you need to become a medical coding specialist by contacting Northwestern College today to learn more.