Careers in healthcare are on the upswing. The field of medical coding and billing in particular is witnessing a boom. A career in this field can be advantageous in more ways than one — awesome earnings, great advancement prospects, and a wide variety of work settings to choose from, to name a few. But in order to earn more than just a plain medical coder, you need to get certified.
Enter the world of medical coding where jobs and salaries depend on having the right certification. US medical coder jobs that pay a high salary per-year and per-hour have one thing in common: Candidates with a national certification like CPC from AAPC or CCS from AHIMA. Source: http://www.medicalcodingworld.com/2013/01/medical-coding-certification-salary-and.html
According to American Academy of Professional Coders, nearly 104,000 healthcare professionals hold AAPC certifications in physician offices, clinics, outpatient facilities, and hospitals. These credentials represent the gold standard in medical coding, billing, auditing, compliance, and practice management, and are nationally recognized by employers, medical societies, and government organizations. Source: https://www.aapc.com/certification/
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Why I Need To Get Certified?
By certifying as a medical coder, you are beginning your journey towards an in-demand career within the healthcare industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical coding is one of the fastest growing professions in the nation. While it’s not required that you become a certified medical coder, it is very strongly recommended.
A medical coding certification from one of the top professional organizations will increase your base salary, typically earning 20 percent more than non-certified coders, and significantly improve your chances for career advancement. Source: http://www.medicalbillingandcoding.org/coding-certification/
- Certified medical coders earn on an average $7000 more than their non-certified counterparts
- Both CPC and CCS coding certifications are nationally-recognized accredited qualifications
- US employers are more likely to hire candidates who have one or both of these credentials
- Both CPC and CCS certifications open up new career opportunities in a fiercely competitive employment market
- A certified medical coder has a higher chance of working from home with flexible hours and schedules
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How Do I Become Certified?
Online medical coding certification and programs are now widely available. Many of these medical coding programs are more convenient for students and can be less expensive than traditional classroom instruction after factoring in savings from the lack of campus maintenance, residency, and commute fees. Be aware, however, that some medical coding and billing certificate programs are scams. Some red flags that the program or school may only be out to get your money include:
- Promising certification in a very short amount of time.
- Promising unbelievably high wages for future employment.
- Asking for a large sum of money up front or, conversely, touting extremely low fees.
An excellent first step when selecting any program is to ensure that it is accredited by one of the following professional organizations:
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By far the largest organization of coders is the American Association of Professional Coders (AAPC). The AAPC offers general and specialized certifications in coding and billing.
A general certification is the best place to start as a new medical coder. The AAPC’s Certified Professional Coder (CPC) exam remains the most popular certification in the field.
The AAPC recommends that all persons interested in the CPC exam have an associate’s degree.
The American Health Information Management Association, or AHIMA, is another large professional organization for coders. Like the AAPC, AHIMA offers a number of certifications for professional coders, including the Certified Coding Assistant (CCA), Certified Coding Specialist (CCS), and Certified Coding Specialist – Physician-based (CCS-P).
Like AAPC, AHIMA requires an annual membership fee and the completion of a number of continuing education credits every two years if you are to remain certified. AHIMA requires certified members to complete and report 20 continuing education units every two years in order to hold their certification.
Here’s the recommended order in which you should proceed:
1. Start with the CCS-P or CPC certification exam. Either of these credentials will help you get a job in a doctor’s or physician’s office with a starting salary of $34,000-43,000 per year.
Once you gain at least 3-5 years experience as a physician coder, get the CCS certification. This will help you move up to hospital coding with salaries in the range of $44,000 and $57,000 per year.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts stable employment outlook for medical billing and coding specialists at least up to 2022. However, it is mandatory that you have at least one national certification in your resume, to be hired.
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2. Maintain your credential status. After you have passed your certification exam, you are required to participate in continuing education to stay certified. The amount of Continuing Education Units(CEUs) depends upon which certification you have received. Check with your accrediting organization so you are clear about the requirements.
- For the AHIMA, the CCA, CCS, and CCS-P, you are required to have 20 CEUs during your two year recertification cycle.
- The AAPC reuires 36 CEUs for one certification.
- You should take advantage of any on-the-job training offered in your workplace. These often count towards your CEUs.
- Other activities beyond getting CEUs may be required to maintain your credentialed status as well.