Healthcare Topics

Becoming a Medical Coder: The Differences Between AAPC and AHIMA

Medical coding is a fast-growing profession in the world of healthcare. For a medical coder, each workday contains interesting puzzles to solve as they review patient files and figure out how to translate the details into the universal codes used by insurance providers.

While you don't need a medical degree to start a career in medical coding, a comprehensive training program is required. MedCerts' Professional Coder Program is a flexible approach to training that offers two options for certification: AAPC and AHIMA. Let's take a closer look at these two types of medical coder certification and see which option might be the best fit for your career goals.

Understanding Medical Coder Certification

Although there are several medical coder certification organizations in existence, two of them stand out as the "gold standard" of certification in the field: the AAPC, which was formerly known as the American Academy of Professional Coders and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).

Having certifications from either of these issuing organizations can take your medical coding career to the next level, proving that you have the skills needed to read a medical chart and select the correct procedure codes for the diagnosis. Your choice of certification will depend on what type of coding work you want to do and what type of healthcare setting you prefer.

AAPC Certification

The Certified Professional Coder (CPC) certification is issued through AAPC. When you pass the CPC certification exam, you earn the CPC-A "apprentice" credential. You'll need this provisional credential and a full year of medical coding experience to achieve the complete CPC credential.

The CPC exam is made up of 150 multiple-choice questions that cover a wide variety of topics. Test-takers are given five hours and 40 minutes to complete the exam. Because of its focus on outpatient coding, CPC certification is highly recommended for anyone who would like to do medical coding for a physician's office. Most physician's offices look for this certification when hiring certified coders; also, coders who hold this certification can earn up to 20 percent more than those who aren't certified.

AHIMA Certification

The Certified Coding Specialist-Physician-based (CCS-P) certification is another sought-after credential that's issued by AHIMA. A medical coder with this certification has proven that they possess mastery-level knowledge of both inpatient and outpatient coding, so it's possible to work in a variety of healthcare settings including physicians' offices, hospitals, and specialty clinics. The exam consists of 97 multiple-choice questions and eight medical scenarios, and it must be completed in four hours. With the CCS-P certification, you can earn a higher salary and qualify for a wider variety of job opportunities than non-certified coders.

Both the AAPC and AHIMA certifications are respected in the healthcare industry, so you can't go wrong with either option; however, one or the other may be a better fit for your current employment setting or future career goals. With MedCerts' Professional Coder Program, you'll develop the skills you need to succeed on either certification exam. Contact us for more information on how MedCerts can help you launch or advance your career as a medical coder.

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