Medical Coder Certifications & Classes
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Every hospital and medical center in the country needs a team of medical coders. Medical coding involves inputting and processing all patient information and insurance claims. A medical coder is a high-demand profession that requires a diverse skillset and attention to detail.
The demand for medical coders continues to rise — right along with medical coder salaries across the country. For those looking to enter the medical profession behind the scenes, becoming a medical coder requires minimal training for an entry-level salary near the national average. Learn more about how you can become a medical coder through medical coder certifications and classes:
What are the Required Medical Coder Certifications?
There are two different medical coder certification bodies: the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Both organizations have many certifications for specific skill sets. It is possible to get certified by both organizations or multiple certifications from one organization.
The AAPC covers all aspects of the medical industry and is often considered the gold standard in medical coding certification.
The AAPC offers four primary coding certificates and 18 optional specialty coding certificates to demonstrate proficiency in specialty disciplines. Many medical coders plan to get two or more certifications for greater job opportunities and increased salaries. Here are the possible AAPC certifications to choose from:
Certified Professional Coder (CPC)
A certification in the diagnosis, supply, and procedure codes used for billing medical claims from a physician's office or another medical center. This certification verifies proficiency in CPT HCPCS Level II procedure and supply codes and ICD-10-CM diagnosis codes used in a doctor's office.
The cost of the CPC exam is $300, or $260 if you are already a remember of the AAPC.
Certified Outpatient Coding (COC)
A certification in the diagnosis, supply, and procedure codes used in an outpatient medical facility or hospital setting. This certification demonstrated proficiency in CPT HCPCS Level II procedure and supply codes and ICD-10-CM diagnosis codes for outpatient settings.
The cost of the COC exam is $399, or $325 if you are already a remember of the AAPC.
Certified Inpatient Coder (CIC)
This medical coder certification demonstrates proficiency in ICD-10-CM diagnosis codes for an inpatient hospital or facility.
The cost of the CIC exam is $399, or $325 if you are already a remember of the AAPC.
Certified Risk Adjustment Coder (CRC)
A certification to demonstrate proficiency in ICD-10-CM diagnosis codes for risk adjustment. These are used to modify payments to insurers for costs associated with chronically ill members.
The cost of the CRC exam is $600 or $460 if you are already a remember of the AAPC.
Specialty Coding Certifications
Medical coding certifications related to specific specialties, such as anesthesia and pain management, dermatology, general surgery, pediatrics, or obstetrics and gynecology. There are 18 specialty coding certifications available to choose from.
A medical coder might want to get a speciality certification for an interest in a specific field of medicine, for greater job opportunities, to earn a higher salary, and for the ability to learn new skills and advance their knowledge.
AHIMA medical coder certifications focus specifically on the professional, efficient management of healthcare records in various medical settings. Which certification you pursue will depend on your starting point and professional goals.
AHIMA certification demonstrates recall, application, and analysis in a practical setting. Coders can choose to earn multiple AHIMA certifications for greater job opportunities or combine AHIMA and AARP certifications. Here are the main AHIMA certifications medical coders can earn:
Certified Coding Associate (CCA)
Demonstrates a commitment to coding and proficiency in various medical settings, including hospitals and physicians' practices. You do not need an associate or bachelor's degree to take the CCA certification exam, but completion of a coding program or at least six months of coding experience is recommended.
The CCA exam costs $299, or $199 for AHIMA members.
Certified Coding Specialist (CCS)
This is a certification of a coding specialist's skills in classifying medical data from patient records. This certification demonstrates proficiency in ICD-10-CM and CPT code systems and a high level of data quality and accuracy. Coding specialists usually work in hospital settings to review patient records and assign codes for each diagnosis and procedure.
The CCS exam costs $399, or $299 for AHIMA members.
Certified Coding Specialist - Physician-based (CCS-P)
A medical coder certification for those who plan to work in physicians' offices, group practices, or specialty clinics. This certification demonstrates mastery of the CPT coding system and understanding of ICD-10-CM and HCPCS Level II. To take the CCS-P exam, greater proficiency is required, including coursework and coding experience.
The CCS-P exam costs $399, or $299 for AHIMA members.
Medical Coder Classes
You can take medical coder classes from the AAPC and AHIMA. These courses run from four to 16 weeks and cost $1,500 to $3,500 or more. If course costs seem too high, there are ways to get financial aid for vocational training to meet the medical coder education requirements.
How long does each program take?
All AAPC preparatory courses are designed to be completed in four months but allow an additional two-month grace period, giving you up to six months to complete the course. Each certification preparation course is 80 clock hours, not including reading and additional work.
AHIMA preparatory courses take four to eight months, depending on the qualification. Most students complete their medical coder online classes in six months. Both the AAPC and AHIMA programs can be completed in as little as eight weeks of full-time study.
To pass the medical coder classes, you will need a strong understanding of medical terminology, anatomy, and the specific codes, CPT HCPCS Level II or ICD-10-CM relevant to your certification. While these courses are not required, they are recommended to successfully pass the medical coder certification exam.
Why Become a Medical Coder?
Becoming a medical coder can give you freedom, independence, and a high return on investment. With no degree requirements for many certifications, you can start a career as a medical coder and earn a national average of $44,000 per year after as little as six weeks of training. Medical coders get to help people and be involved with healthcare from behind the scenes.
If you want the freedom to choose your working opportunities, our complete guide to vocational training opportunities will help you compare becoming a medical coder to other career paths.
Other Medical Careers Without a Degree
There are many medical careers you can get without a degree, and a variety of high-paying non-degree careers are open to you. Here are three other medical careers to consider:
- Medical transcriptionist: You will listen to voice recordings from physicians and healthcare workers and create written reports.
- Medical assistant: You will be involved in administrative and clinical tasks, including helping physicians with exams.
- Medical equipment technician: You will install, repair, and maintain medical equipment, providing an essential service to the medical field.
You can take the Lantern career quiz to find out which careers are best for you and get started on your new path today.
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