Proprietary Colleges

I work right next door to a proprietary college, Virginia College, and am seriously considering taking a course there in Medical Billing and Coding. I have been at my current job for almost five years and though it’s not a bad job, it has limited advancement positions unless I want to become a manager, which I don’t, and the pay, while okay, is not spectacular, either.

I know I could probably get a better and cheaper education at a community college, but the convenience of being able to walk to class right after working a full shift is pretty significant, especially since the other campuses are ten to thirty miles away.

Also, I am a little leery of these types of schools, and don’t know how much to trust them. Does anyone here have specific knowledge of them, especially Virginia College, the one I am considering?

Proprietary college - Wikipedia entry.
Basically they’re for-profit educational institutions, commonly vocational in nature.

Right. I read the article before posting the thread. I am more or less asking if I should trust them to give me a certification or degree that will actually help me start a new career.

Have you looked at how much you could reasonably make as a medical biller? Is it significantly more than you’re making now? When you say that your current pay is OK, do you mean that you are financially stable (not spiraling toward bankrupcy)?

As to proprietary colleges themselves, I’ve heard of them portrayed as bottom feeders, taking the people who can’t hack it anywhere else and getting them financial aid, then watching them fail, keeping the aid money. Certainly, proprietary colleges do a lot of advertising. Back in 2006/7, I frequently read a local freebie newspaper and they almost always had at least one ad for a local proprietary school. The fields advertised were typically Medical Billing and Coding and Medical Assisting (I suppose that this means nursing assistant).

According to, only the lowest 10% of Medical Records and Health Information Technicians make less than what I currently make after five years at my current job, and the median income is 1.5 times more.

As for current pay, it’s okay considering my lifestyle, but my lifestyle is pretty spartan in the first place and I’d like more eventually.

Ok. Important things to consider are:

  1. Whether or not you’re gonna even be able to find a job as a biller/coder. Have you looked at the local outlook?
  2. Can you afford it? If you’re going for financial aid, have you figured out how much your payment is gonna be when you graduate?
  3. Does billing/coding seem like something you could do everyday? Have you spoken to any billers/coders to talk about the lifestyle, working environment, stressors, etc.?
  4. Is there room for advancement? (I honestly don’t know) Do major hospitals have “Senior Biller/Coder”, “Lead Biller/Coder”, “Biller/Coder Foreman”, “Billmaster”, etc. positions with corresponding increasing responsibility and pay? Or would a promotion involve a lateral switch to a different field?
  5. Did you check reviews of the specific college you’re considering? Have you spoken with current and former students? Look for former students who did well and also look for those who didn’t do so hot, if you can.
  6. Can you handle the classwork? I’m not really sure what the classes would involve. Is it mostly learning processes and practices, such as how to look up a code in a manual given criteria such as type of procedure or condition, or is it more rote memorization (e.g. “If the doctor says ‘The patient needs a chest x-ray’, you code ‘QQ-XRAY-L-CHEST’, and if the doctor says 'The patient needs x-rays of both lower arms as well as a colonoscopy, you code ‘DDR-553-XRAY-OOIMP-LOWERARM-BOTH’, and ‘PROCEDURES_X-SDG-SCOPE-COLON’”)?

“Mr Hades! Give me the code for 33 cc’s of penicillin! Now!”


“NO! It’s PP-DRUG-ATB-PENN-MM-CC-33!” Fail!

1 says “employment is expected to grow much faster than the average and job prospects should be very good”, which is a key reason for my interest. If jobs aren’t here, I have no problem moving. That is a long-term goal, anyway.

2 Assuming I am doing the math right, and if I get a government loan, then yes. Certification costs about $20,500 for 60 hours over five quarters.

3 It seems fairly similar to the job I’m currently doing, which I’ve been doing some variation of for the past five years, so I think I can handle it.

4 Yes, there are advancement options by getting further degrees or by specialization.

5 I am doing that now. This is part of that, but more general. The reviews seem mixed, with the biggest problem being credits not being transferable if you want or need to go to another school.

6 I think so, otherwise I wouldn’t be interested. I asked about memorization vs. using manuals while speaking to an admissions admin today, and was given to understand that manuals are always there to use if you need them.