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Are There Free Medical Terminology Course – And Are They Worth It?

medical terminology

Nephrosis, dermatitis, kidney, and tracheotomy are just some of the medical terms you encounter in a career in medical billing and coding.

The array of medical terminology you are exposed to daily is daunting – and some of these terms sound like they couldn’t possibly be true.

Despite how overwhelmed you might feel, knowing medical terminology and their meanings is one critical aspect of being a coder. Furthermore, you need to recognize the term and know how to bill for it correctly – improving your billing department’s efficiency.

While you prepare for your career, or look for ways to improve yourself in your current job, you might come across terminology courses.

Some of these courses promise to teach you for free, but how much would you really learn from them and will they be worth the time investment?

Brief Information About Free Medical Terminology Courses


stethoscope and a book

Educational institutions and online certifying bodies might offer free terminology courses. However, these do not reward college credits. If you need continuing education credits or credits to graduate, look at your current teaching program to see if they offer a terminology course.


The area of medical terminology is quite vast. You are using all the words utilized in medicine – and there are thousands of them. Furthermore, the doctor’s formal training and age mean they could use terms that newer physicians would not. By taking these courses throughout the year, you stay up-to-date on the latest term changes, and by knowing their roots, you can identify a term with ease.


Even if you don’t plan to go into a career in coding, learning the terminology can help you jumpstart a career in:


  • Medical Assisting
  • Nursing
  • Physician Assistant
  • Hospital Administration
  • Physician’s Secretary
  • Medical Support Staffing

Also, if you plan on going to medical school or another professional healthcare training course, knowing these terms might help when you take your entrance examination. 

The MCAT, for example, focuses on chemical, physiological, reasoning, social, and biological systems – all of which use medical terms in the test language. By studying these ahead of time, you can perform better in your MCAT prep courses, and eventually while taking the test itself.

Options For Free Medical Terminology Courses You Can Take In Your Spare Time Online

man typing on his laptop

Are you ready to improve your career as a medical biller or coder?

Here are some of the top online programs that will help you get a grip on the latest terms and procedures:

1. Des Moines University: Online Medical Terminology Course


The online medical term course from Des Moines University is fast and effective. Even better, the course is 100 percent free. You do not receive documentation for completing the course, but you do get a certificate of participation and two contact hours. You cannot use the certification or course hours for your academic credits or even further credits at the University.

This course is rather extensive and focuses on everything from the root and prefixes to the nervous system, digestive system, cancer terms, and even reproductive terms for the male and female bodies.

2. National Cancer Institute: Cancer And Medical Terminology Course


Instead of an official online course, the NCI training module is online. You work through it at your comfortable pace and go through areas like symptomatic suffixes, diagnostic suffixes, illnesses, physical findings, and site-specific training.

You receive no certification from this free online learning resource, and you cannot use the course for credit transfers.

3. Upstate University Hospital: Glossary Of Medical Terms


You can use this online resource for definitions of the more common medical terms, but also any abbreviations healthcare workers are likely to use in medical charts. You also have training on metric conversions, which are common in medical records. Prescriptions and dispensing medication abbreviations are also in the online glossary.

4. Coursera: Clinical Terminology For International And U.S. Students


For an online class, you can take the Clinical Terminology course from Coursera taught by the University of Pittsburgh. In this training course, you have a series of online videos that cover areas like decoding medical terms, clinical terms, and their abbreviations, advanced decoding techniques, diseases of the body, laboratory tests and diagnostic procedures, and clinical abbreviations.

Most weekly courses consist of videos, readings, and practice quizzes.

5. Medical Terminology Course Online By AAPC


AAPC is one of the nationally recognized testing bodies for certified professional coders. They also offer a medical terminology course free if you are a member of the AAPC. Therefore, if you have already tested and become a member of the organization, and you pay your annual membership due, you can take this as part of your continuing education.

Are Free Medical Terminology Courses Online Worth It? Tips For Picking A Good One

medical assistant filling the form

Not all online courses are worth the time investment. While you know a few basics, here is how you can ensure the class you pick is worth it:

  • Online Videos: A good course will use video training in combination with reading. After all, not everyone learns from reading walls of text. These video modules may consist of power points or a live lecturer discussing the terms in action.
  • Practice Quizzes: To make sure you have retained the information, look for a course offering practice quizzes. Quizzes act like reassurance that you are learning and will remember that information when you apply it to your job.
  • Abbreviations: Today, doctors have minimal time between patients, which means writing out terms fully is unlikely. You want a course that focuses on medical terminology, but also the abbreviations so that you can read a chart and bill properly.
  • Suffixes, Prefixes, and Roots: These are critical to understanding medical terminology as a coder. You need to know medical prefixes that indicate amounts, diagnoses, tests, and also prescription information. Prefixes may also show the area of the body being dealt with, complaints from the patient, and procedures used. Lastly, medical word roots that indicate colors are essential, because these help with diagnostic criteria needed to accurately bill insurance.
  • Specialty Medical Terms: Medical terminology is more than just understanding basic anatomy. To further your career, you need to understand terms in specialty areas, like pathology, genetics, cells, tissues, skeletal system, the lymphatic system, GI tract, respiratory system, oncology, nervous system, and even reproduction.
  • Radiology and Pharmacology: Two critical areas of billing are radiology and pharmacology, which means you need to know the terms associated with areas like contrast mediums, CT and MRI terminology, drug administration, dosage abbreviations, and cancer treatment terms.
  • Diagnostic Exams: To diagnose a patient accurately, physicians complete a series of diagnostic tests. You need to know terms and their related codes for areas like physical exam positions, urinalysis, chemical blood tests, physical blood tests, blood count, medical instruments, abnormal findings and sounds, and vital signs.
  • Planes of the Body: The direction, planes, and regions of the body are also crucial for your coding career. A diagnostic test for the brain versus thoracic region results in two very different billing outcomes. Therefore, you need to know how to read a doctor’s shorthand and code based on the proper area of the body. A good course covers the body cavities, directional terms, planes of the human body, and anatomical directions.

Free Medical Terminology Courses Are Worth It – When You Select the Right One

Medical Transcriptionist

Bottom line: if you pick the right online terminology course that covers the areas pertaining to your job, then they are worth the time investment. Even better, because they are free, you do not have to worry about additional out-of-pocket expenses.

Even if your initial coding training covered medical terms, there is no harm in brushing up on the latest terms, diagnostics, and even new medications added to formularies so that you are the best coder in your office.

By continuing your education, you only increase your value. Higher value translates into more advancement opportunities and possibly better-paying jobs as you move forward in your career.

Learn more about an exciting career in coding, or where to go for your certified coding professional training.