Medical Coding Certification

Are you interested in starting a career in the growing field of medical billing and coding? Then consider earning a medical coding certification.

Earning a certification shows future employers that you are qualified to work as a medical biller and coder. Because employers seek out those who have received a national certification, having a certification to add to your resume can increase your chances of being picked for a job. Medical billers and coders who have earned a certification also have a better chance of working higher paying jobs.

A certification in medical coding is awarded by two national agencies: the American Academy of Professional Coders (AACP) and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).

AACP Certification

The AACP is the most well-known organization for medical coding certifications and is considered to be the gold standard across the nation. Their primary focus is billing and coding for professional services, inpatient, outpatient and office-based facilities. This focus is reflected in the certifications they offer:

  • Certified Professional Coder (CPC)
  • Certified Outpatient Coding (COC)
  • Certified Inpatient Coder (CIC)
  • Certified Rick Adjustment Coder (CRC)
  • Certified Professional Coder-Payer (CPC-P)

Taking a certification exam through the AACP requires your commitment of becoming an AACP member. If you are not an AACP member prior to taking the exam you will be expected to become a member by submitting membership dues along with your exam fee.  Membership costs $160 and the exam fee is $380, which includes one free retake.

AHIMA Certification

AHIMA is an excellent agency to earn your coding certification through. They are committed to certifying a high caliber of medical coders for the health care industry in order to boost the industry as a whole. Their primary focus is facility coding and billing, as well as health information management.

It is important to be prepared for your certification examination. In order to encourage prepared exam applicants, the AHIMA offers a variety of online courses for you to purchase prior to your examination. Taking a course is not required, but highly recommended for those who have little to no experience in the field.

AHIMA offers three coding certifications:

  • Certified Coding Associate (CCA)
  • Certified Coding Specialist (CCS)
  • Certified Coding Specialist-Physician-based (CCS-P)

The AHIMA requires that those taking a certification exam have a High School Diploma or equivalent. They also require that an applicant have either six months of coding experience or have completed a coding training program resulting in a certificate.

Is There a Difference Between a Certification and a Certificate?

Yes. A certification and a certificate are two different things.

Certifications for medical billing and coding are only awarded through professional agencies. A certification is an exam that tests your knowledge of medical coding.

Earning a certification can be useful for those who already work within the medical billing a coding field or have earned a certificate. Adding a certification to your resume increases the likely hood of being hired to work higher paying jobs.

A certificate is earned through a program that is offered by a school. A medical billing and coding certificate requires a 10 month commitment, depending on the program. You will take a variety of courses that teach you the coding skills you need to start your career. After passing the courses you will have earned your certificate.

Earning a certificate in medical billing and coding can be a good step to take for those who have no experience in the field. The education you receive can then be used towards applying for jobs or taking a certification examination.

Both a certificate and a certification can help you on your journey to becoming a medical biller and coder. Remember, holding a certification means that you have passed an agency approved examination. While a earning a certificate means that you have taken and passed courses related to medical coding.

What Does a Certification Exam Test?

Certification exams from the AACP and AHIMA will test for the same thing, proficiency in medical coding. But what exactly does that mean?

Facilities throughout the healthcare industry use the same codes to record patient information. Because of this, every medical coder must know what the codes are and how to apply them. A certification exam is designed to test the following things:

  • Current Procedural Terminology (CPT)
  • Evaluation and Management
  • Anesthesia
  • Radiology
  • Laboratory/Pathology
  • Medicine
  • Medical Terminology
  • Anatomy
  • International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10-CM/Diagnosis)
  • Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System Level II(HCPCS)
  • Coding Guidelines
  • Compliance and Regulatory

This list can seem overwhelming if you don’t have any experience in medical billing and coding. Instead of getting discouraged, take a proactive approach and consider taking courses in medical coding prior to taking the certification exam.

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