I became a coder as my back was going bad and it was getting more and more difficult for me to do the long hours of standing that clinical nursing required. I took my first training in a one-year program at a vocational school at a cost of $7,000. You can get Stafford loans to cover the training if your credit is halfway decent. I was hired as a physician coder for a huge ER doctors group, but only because I passed a coding test with a 95% pre-hire and was a licensed RN. I was told later that they almost never hire coders coming out of vocational schools because their training just isn't up to par. I was hired because of my nursing background. Since, I have gone to an AHIMA accredited coding program at a community college and I see that the vocational school was a rip off. The community college is way cheaper because it is out here in California and I have learned way more than what I was ever taught in the voc ed program.
You really need to take a certification test after training. Certification is voluntary and pretty much the same as being licensed. It says you went the extra miles to be better. The places that really care to be coding right (like the ER docs I worked for) only want certified coders and are willing to pay them well for it. My coding instructors, one of which who is an official in the state HIM organization, has said that AHIMA is pushing for mandatory licensing of coders. It will probably be years before that is ever realized.
If you thought nurses were paranoid about possible malpractice, you haven't been around coders. The whole coding business is nothing but Medicare rules and regulations. Fraud is the big issue and people get huge fines and prison sentences for trying to code so that a doc can collect more money than he should get. Because collection of money is at the end of those codes, the incentive for some doctors or facilities to push coders to ignore coding principles can be very tempting.
You can go onto the AHIMA website (http://www.ahima.org/
) and find certified coding schools near you and inquire about their tuition. I believe that AHIMA is also offering online coding training again so you could train from home via your own computer. My community college has already switched half the classes in their coding program to online anyway. They only require the students to be present for coding labs now and the rest of classes are done online.