March 19, 2024
Top 5 Medical Coding Certifications |

As the medical field rapidly expands, so too does the need for healthcare support jobs like medical coders. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this field will grow by 8% over the next decade, creating thousands of new entry-level medical coding and billing jobs.

If you're interested in joining this growing field, you need a high school diploma and medical coding certification. This article explores every medical coding certification to help you choose one that's right for you.

Part One What Is a Medical Coder?

A medical coder is a liaison between healthcare and insurance providers. Medical coding means translating diagnoses and treatment plans into standardized codes used by insurance companies and government agencies.

Inputting the proper codes for insurance claims ensures that patients recieve prompt treatments and the healthcare facility is swiftly reimbursed. Medical coders must possess a keen attention to detail, a solid understanding of medical insurance, and extensive knowledge of medical codes.

>> Show Me Medical Coding & Billing Programs

Part Two What Are Medical Coding Certifications?

Medical coding certifications receive national recognition from medical groups and government agencies. In addition to testing your knowledge, they also prove your skills as a medical coder. Considered the gold standard by employers, an accredited medical coding certification can help you outshine your competition when applying for jobs. 

>> Related: Are There 4-Week Online Medical Billing and Coding Programs?

Are Certifications Required?

Some employers do not require medical coding certification for coding positions, but that doesn't make these credentials obsolete.

Most medical facilities prefer certified medical coders, which means you have a higher chance of landing a job with a certification. Plus, medical coding certifications can help you become a competitive candidate for higher-paid coding jobs.

If you want to optimize your income and increase the longevity of your coding career, you should pursue at least one, if not multiple, medical coding certifications.

We Found The Following Schools with Online Medical Billing & Coding Programs

Part Three Top 5 Medical Coding Certifications

Medical coding certifications test your knowledge of different medical code sets. They can help you find your first medical billing and coding job, expand your current coding role, or bolster your resume for your next job hunt.

This section explores the five most popular medical coding certifications to help you find one that suits your professional goals.

1. Certified Professional Coder (CPC)

Considered the gold standard in medical coding, the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) accredits the CPC credential. As the most popular medical coding certification, the CPC is ideal for those interested in working in outpatient settings like clinics and physician's offices.

CPC Exam

The certified professional coder exam is a 100-question multiple-choice test that you can take online or at a testing center. The 4-hour exam costs $499 and includes up to two attempts.

>> Show Me Medical Coding & Billing Programs

2. Certified Outpatient Coding (COC)

Formerly known as the CPC-H, the certified outpatient coding certification is the gold standard for outpatient medical coders. While the CPC is perfect for inpatient coders, the COC is ideal for those who want to work in hospital settings or surgical centers. Like the CPC, the AAPC accredits the COC certification.

COC Exam 

The certified outpatient coding exam is a 100-question multiple-choice test that you can take online or at a testing center. The 4-hour exam costs $499 and includes up to two attempts.

Certified Inpatient Coder (CIC)

The Certified Inpatient Coder (CIC) is the only credential dedicated exclusively to inpatient facility coding and is accredited by the AAPC.

This credential requires specific knowledge of inpatient coding, medical procedures, and inpatient procedures. Passing the exam verifies your knowledge of ICD-10-PCS procedure codes and ICD-10-CM diagnosis codes used for billing inpatient services to insurers.

CIC Exam

The certified inpatient coder exam is a 40-question multiple-choice test that you can take online or at a testing center. The 4-hour exam costs $499 and includes up to two attempts.

Certified Coding Specialist (CCS)

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) accredits the Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) exam. This certification verifies your ability to accurately translate patient record data into medical codes in both inpatient and outpatient settings. It is ideal for experienced medical coders who want to enhance their resume.

CCS Exam

Students have four hours to complete the 115-140 question CCS examination. The computer-based test consists of a multiple-choice and medical scenario section, which includes multiple-choice/multiple-response questions. Sitting the exam costs $299 for AHIMA members and $399  for non-members.

>> Show Me Medical Coding & Billing Programs

Certified Medical Coder (CMC)

Offered by the Practice Management Institute (PMI), the CMC is among the most popular medical coding certifications. Like other medical coding certifications, you may take the stand-alone exam to earn this credential. PMI also offers an online course that includes supplemental lessons and an exam.

Notably, this certification is only for outpatient medical coders. PMI recommends the credential for coders who have at least one year of professional experience in an outpatient setting.

CMC Exam

Considered more rigorous than other medical coding certifications, the PMI recommends taking its comprehensive learning course before the exam. 

The 6-hour CMC exam costs $375, and the reexamination fee is $189. You must attend the CMC exam at a testing center - PMI does not offer online examinations at this time. A passing score for the CMC certification is 70% or higher.

>> Show Me Medical Coding & Billing Programs

Part Four Choosing a Medical Coding Certification

With several certifications available, how do you know which credential is right for your medical coding career? A few vital factors can help you make the right decision:

  1. Desired Work Environment: Medical coders can work in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Accordingly, these environments have different coding certifications. For example, if you want to work in a physician's office, you'd opt for the COC instead of the CIC.

  2. Income: Your medical coder salary will depend on your level of experience, location, employer, and certifications. A certification like the CMC holds more weight than less rigorous exams and may help you earn a higher salary.

  3. Experience: Some coding certifications, like the CMC, require relevant work experience. If you're brand new to medical coding, an entry-level certification may better suit your career.

  4. Cost: Some medical coding certification exams cost more than others. Additionally, the study materials for each credential vary in price, and there are very few free medical coding programs. This means your budget may determine which medical coding certification you pursue. 

Medical coding certifications demonstrate important foundational knowledge of medical codes and the insurance process. You can earn multiple certifications to bolster your resume and showcase your skillset.

Part Five Becoming a Medical Coder: Resources & Next Steps

Earning a medical coding certification can help you enter this growing field or propel you to the next stage of your existing career. No matter what stage you're at, you have several resources at your disposal to ensure your success:

Ready to start your medical coding career? Read our guide to the best medical billing and coding schools to find a program today.

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