If you’ve decided to pursue a career as a medical billing and coding professional, you’ve chosen a career with strong growth projections. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that job openings for medical and health information technicians, which includes medical billers and coders, is projected to grow 9% at the national level over the period from 2020-2030.[i]
However, because this field is growing, there will be competition for jobs. How can you differentiate yourself from other candidates and stand out to prospective employers? The answer is by getting certified as a medical biller and coder before entering the workforce.
In this article, we’ll look at the various paths to medical billing and coding certification, which organizations offer it, and why you’d want to become certified as a medical billing and coding professional.
Why Should You Pursue Medical Billing and Coding Certification?
So, why would you want to get certified? Here are two great reasons:
- Certification is something many employers will look for when hiring, according to the BLS.[ii]
- The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) reports that certified medical coders earned 27% more than coders without certification in 2021.[iii]
There are two main organizations through which medical billers and coders can become certified: AAPC and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). They each offer multiple certifications that could work for you, depending on your needs and goals.
What Kinds of Medical Billing and Coding Certifications Are There?
Certifications from AAPC are recognized by many organizations in the healthcare industry. Some of their offerings include:
- Certified Professional Coder (CPC)
- Certified Outpatient Coding (COC)
- Certified Inpatient Coder (CIC)
- Certified Risk Adjustment Coder (CRAC)
- Specialty coding certifications for specific areas of medical practice
Altierus Career College medical billing and coding students prepare for the CPC exam as part of their studies.
Certifications from AHIMA can help with career advancement and understanding of the industry. AHIMA offers three coding certifications:
- Certified Coding Associate (CCA)
- Certified Coding Specialist (CCS)
- Certified Coding Specialist – Physician-Based
The type of certification you ultimately need is largely based on your career goals and what your potential employer might require of you. For example, AHIMA says that coders with CCS certification usually work with patient records in a hospital, while coders who seek a CCS – Physician-Based credential usually work in physicians’ offices or specialty clinics.
Keep in mind that some of these certifications have specific requirements for testing as well, so the path you take to getting certified can matter, too.
Path 1: Earn a Medical Billing and Coding Diploma Before Certification
The certification exams mentioned above will test your understanding of the technical aspects of coding as well as the duties and responsibilities of a medical billing and coding professional.
A formal training program like the eight-month Medical Billing and Coding Diploma at Altierus can help you prepare for such an exam. Your coursework will help you become proficient in medical terminology and human anatomy. You’ll also gain an understanding of medical treatment and insurance practices. Finally, you’ll become familiar with industry coding software.
At Altierus, our program combines online coursework with one day per week on campus for labs. Students also complete a 200-hour externship experience and certification exam prep.
Path 2: Become Certified While You Work
Can you jump right into medical billing and coding certification without a formal training program? Yes, but it will require much independent study, not to mention out-of-pocket costs for test fees.
The AAPC certification exam, for example, is extensive: 100 multiple-choice questions covering Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes, coding guidelines, medical terminology, anatomy, and more. To be certified through the AAPC, you’ll also need to have two years of medical coding experience.
To be eligible to take AHIMA’s Certified Coding Specialist exam, you will need to have at least six months of work experience or formal education. The CCS exam is made up of 90-115 multiple-choice questions.
Studying for either of these exams on your own while working full-time can be a tricky balancing act. Completing a formal training program can help you feel more confident and prepared to take the certification exam.
Fees for these exams are also quite high: the fee for the CPC exam as of January 2022, for example, was $399.[iv] Students at Altierus Career College have fees for their first two attempts at the CPC examination covered in their tuition costs.
Train for Medical Billing and Coding Career Opportunities
Medical billing and coding is a growing career field that plays an important role in the health care system. Learn more about hands-on training and certification preparation for medical billing and coding at Altierus.