Medical breakthroughs. Evolving health insurance legislation. The transition to ICD-10 .
Change is a constant in the field of medical coding – driving demand for experienced coders with relevant industry certification.
As we mentioned in an earlier post, certification is essential to earning top pay and ensuring long-term career success as a medical coder. The reason is simple: When an employer hires a coder with a professional certification, they can be certain the candidate has the required knowledge and skills proficiency.
And the potential payoff for coding professionals is big. According to 2012 statistics from the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), the average salary of a certified coding professional was $48,033, and those with specialty credentials earned substantially more:
- Certified Professional Coder – Hospital Outpatient (CPC-H) pay averaged $56,466.
- Certified Professional Coder – Payer (CPC-P) pay averaged $55,255.
- Certified Professional Medical Auditor (CPMA) pay averaged $59,365.
So, in addition to earning your associate or bachelor’s degree in a health-information discipline, you should also obtain the right certification.
What are the best certifications for today’s medical coders?
To start, your smartest option is to obtain a national certification from an organization like the AAPC or the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Both offer medical coding certifications that will boost your pay and career prospects. Here are a few of the options they offer:
- Certified Professional Coder (CPC) credential from the AAPC. This designation validates proficiency in the correct application of CPT, HCPCS Level II procedure and supply codes, and diagnosis codes used for coding and billing for medical claims in a physician’s office. To attain certification, you must earn a 70% on the multiple-choice exam, which covers topic like ICD-10-CM, HCPCS, medical terminology, anesthesia, radiology, pathology, evaluation and management.
- Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) credential from the AHIMA. This certification is for higher-level professionals skilled in classifying medical data from patient records, generally in the hospital setting. To be eligible for this certification, candidates must meet the following eligibility requirements listed on AHIMA’s CCS certification page.
- Certified Coding Specialist – Physician-based (CCS-P). This is another mastery-level certification offered by the AHIMA for practitioners with expertise in physician-based settings such as physician offices, group practices, specialty clinics or specialty centers.
Once you obtain a basic certification, you may want to pursue a specialty certification in such as the ones listed above. Regardless of the type of certification you attain, know that continuing education and recertification will be required to maintain it.