Career is something on the mind of any medical coder who is deliberating on certification study. It is a given in medical coding that those who are certified have a wide range of opportunity in the years to come. The profession itself is a growth area of the American economy and the prospects for the future look quite promising. The question becomes which certification holds the best chance for securing the ideal job.
To begin with, there are two certifying associations in medical coding: The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) The AHIMA is the older of the two, created in 1928, and the AAPC has been in existence since 1988. Both have a reputation for promoting high standards of professionalism. The AAPC programs are typically four months long and the AHIMA will require approximately two semesters of study. The primary difference is that the AAPC examination focuses on physician and outpatient coding, and the AHIMA certification examination concentrates on inpatient and outpatient coding. The AAPC requires two years of experience prior to taking the examination to earn the full CPC credential (the CPC-A, for apprentice, is awarded to a person who lacks the experience but has successfully completed the examination). The AHIMA recommends experience, but does not require it prior to the examination.
Job Prospects for a Certified Coder:
AAPC Certified Coder vs. AHIMA Certified Coder
The AAPC is more about outpatient and physician coding, while the AHIMA looks to both inpatient and outpatient coding. Almost immediately a contest between which is better can erupt and that isn’t very productive. Both certifying associations promote and expect competence; neither is a get-certified-quick operation. Job prospects, whether which one gains more employer attention than the other, can be quickly surmised by a search on an employment related website (e.g. CareerBuilder.com or Monster.com). That being said, the question that a medical coder has to ponder is one of profession vs. job. Is certification being sought to further a career or not? That must be answered individually by the medical coder.
Job content is a crucial part of the answer. Too many people are more concerned about just landing a position and getting a paycheck. There is nothing wrong with that, but job satisfaction is derived largely from the tasks being performed. If a job seeker looks at a position’s responsibilities and likes what is there, then checking to see what certification is needed is the next step. On the job, experience as a medical coder may reveal which direction should be taken. It may be that a person is more comfortable as an outpatient coder, or perhaps has an inclination towards physician services coding. The certification path chosen is the one that will lead to a career that is most satisfying to the individual.
Medical Coding is a profession with a lot of possibilities…
Keep in mind that medical coding is a profession with a lot of possibilities, both now and in the immediate future. It is possible that a medical coder may want to seek a number of certifications offered by either, and that is not a problem provided the basic requirements are met (N.B. the Registered Health Information Administrator, RHIA, offered by the AHIMA does require a baccalaureate from an approved program). What is essential is that a medical coder seeks the certification that best helps the career path that he or she decides to pursue.