CPC Certification Guide - Become a Certified Professional Coder

An explanation of the CPC credential offered by the AAPC, including everything you need to know about what it qualifies you for and how to get it...

The basic coding credential offered by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) is the CPC, otherwise known as Certified Professional Coder.

The CPC credential is considered the gold standard among all coding credentials, and is encompasses the basics of all billing and coding.

Most new coding and billing job offers come with the stipulation that a certified coder is preferred, if not straight-out required. This means that becoming a certified coder is more important than ever.

The CPC credential is the go-to credential for becoming a certified coder.

What is a CPC qualified to do?

The CPC credential encompasses all aspects of the job of a medical coder or biller - not just coding. From terminology to medical billing, the CPC exam tests for everything that a coder or biller has to know in a regular medical billing or coding position.

This means that a CPC is qualified to perform all of the job functions of a medical biller or coder.

This also means that holding a CPC credential allows you to apply for jobs in all aspects of the medical profession. From pediatrics to oncology, being a CPC illustrates your ability to code in all medical settings, thus making you qualified to work in all medical settings.

What do you have to know to be a CPC?

Becoming a CPC requires that you have a very good knowledge of all types of codes, including HCPCS, ICD-9, and CPT. In addition, with the upcoming change to ICD-10 codes, the CPC will soon also have to be proficient in this as well.

CPCs have to be able to correctly assign diagnosis and procedure codes based on physician's records, and assign them on a medical claim in order to receive correct reimbursement for medical services.

CPC certification

This certification also necessitates a wide range of knowledge across the medical spectrum, from evaluation and management services to anesthesia, surgery, radiology, and medicine.

In order to get the CPC, you also need to have an adequate and accurate knowledge of medical terminology and human anatomy. This allows you to translate doctor's notes and medical records into the correct diagnosis and procedure codes.

In addition to all of the above, you also have to have a basic knowledge of medical billing. This includes knowing how a medical billing office works, from verifying patient insurance, coding and billing claims, entering insurance payments, and following up on claims.

Having all of these qualities allows you to pass the CPC exam and demonstrate your ability to get the maximum reimbursement for medical services.

How do you get the CPC certification?

In order to get your CPC certification, you must first be a member of the AAPC. This allows you to register and sit for the CPC exam. It's as simple as paying an annual membership fee and remaining within their standards of ethical practice.

Once you're a member, you can register to take the CPC exam.

It goes without saying that you have to be confident in your ability to pass the test. You either have to have enough on-the-job experience in outpatient coding to be able to pass the test, or have acquired an adequate education in the field of medical billing and coding.

This is very important, because the CPC exam is difficult. This is not to dissuade you, but it's better that you know that the exam is difficult upfront, that way you can make sure you are adequately prepared. Keeping the CPC exam difficult ensures that only the most qualified individuals pass the test and receive the certification.

This adds to the credibility and employability of people who hold the CPC certification.

How can you prepare for the test?

Whether or not you have been going to medical coding or billing school, or you have an extensive education in billing and coding, use the CPC study guide offered by the AAPC.

Although you have to pay for it, the study guide is an essential way to prepare for taking this test. It gives examples of exam questions, contains a practice test, and includes loads of great tips on coding and taking the test.

The AAPC also offers practice exams, in the exact same format as the exam itself, on the AAPC website.

CPC certification

Note that you do have to pay for these study items. If you're not a member, they cost around $60 each. Even though they may seem expensive, they are worth it. Think of them as an investment in your future success.

You may also find that you are in an area with an active local AAPC chapter. Local chapters usually offer CPC exam study sessions or other resources that can help you pass the test.

After you have the right education, practice, or background in medical billing and coding, you are ready to take the CPC exam.

What else do you need to know?

An important thing to remember is the difference between inpatient and outpatient coding and billing. The CPC only tests for outpatient coding, so if you want to be a hospital biller, you are better off getting the CPC-H credential, which credentials for hospital billing.

The CPC certification also comes with the requirement of continuing education units (CEUs). These are education opportunities that the certified coder must take advantage of in order to keep their certification up to date.

Your CPC certification requires a certain amount of CEUs each year, in order to retain your credential. If you don't keep up with your CEU's, then you'll lose your certification!

Another important thing to keep in mind is that the CPC isn't the only coding certification offered by the AAPC. There are other certifications, from hospital coding to specialty practice coding.

Each one of these certifications offers employers a different set of coding and billing abilities, and allows you to demonstrate your knowledge in a specific area of expertise.

The AAPC also offers certifications on medical auditing, practice management, and compliance.

More information on the certifications offered by the AAPC.

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