Advice for Getting Your Medical Billing and Coding Certificate

How do you get your medical billing and coding certificate, which one do you get, and where do you start?

A medical billing and coding certificate not only helps you become a better medical biller or coder, it also helps you be a more qualified candidate for hire. Being certified also allows you to demand a higher rate of pay in any medical billing or coding job.

Getting your certificate depends on...

  • what type of certificate you want to get
  • how much experience or education you have had in medical billing
  • how much time and money you are willing to spend.

There are two main avenues to getting your certificate. They both depend on your experience and level of education in the medical industry.

Increase your knowledge

Medical Billing Schools
The most effective way to learn more about billing and coding is by taking online medical billing courses.

Alternatively, look for medical billing and coding colleges in your area.

Previous Experience

Previous experience definitely gives you an advantage when you're going for your certification

If you already have previous experience in the medical billing and coding industry, you have a slight advantage over those who don't.

After some years of experience in your specialty, you'll already know what type of medical billing and coding certificate you need. You'll also likely know what certificate you are qualified to get, and the best way to prepare for your exam.

If you're actively working as a medical biller or coder, your employer may also help you pay for the exam.

No Previous Experience

If you don't have any experience in the medical industry, you first need to go to school for medical billing or coding.

Many education opportunities are available, including face-to-face colleges and online instruction. Options range from four-year degree plans to short five-week intensive training sessions.

After you've completed your education, you'll likely be qualified to sit for a certification exam.

Although many medical billing education programs don't require you to pass one of these exams to graduate, they usually offer assistance in studying for the exam. You may also be able to connect with other students from your medical billing classes to have study groups, to help prepare for the exam.

Whether or not you have experience in medical billing or coding, one of the most important decisions you'll make about your medical billing and coding certificate will be which one to get.

There are many options, ranging from general, all encompassing certifications, to very specialized certifications. Depending on which type of employer you want to work for, you can also get specialized certifications in medical auditing and insurance payer coding certifications.

There are two main bodies which govern medical billing and coding certification. They are the American Academy of Professional Coders, and the American Health Information Management Association.

Each offers different certifications, depending on what type you'd like to get.

AAPC Certifications

Certified by the AAPC!

There are three different categories of certifications offered by the AAPC. They are:

  1. Medical Coding Certification: All of the following certifications are useful to anyone pursuing a medical billing and coding career...

    • CPC (Certified Professional Coder)
    • CPC-H (Certified Professional Coder-Hospital)
    • CPC-P (Certified Professional Coder-Payer)
    • CIRCC (Certified Interventional Radiology Cardiovascular Coder)
    • Specialty: These specialty certifications are unique to the type of field of medicine you are billing for. They include 21 different specializations, from Anesthesiology and Cardiology to Pediatrics and Urology.
  2. Medical Auditing Certification: This certification is to help improve your revenue cycle, as well as remain in compliance.

    • CPMA (Certified Professional Medical Auditor)
  3. Medical Compliance Certification: Getting this certification will allow you to make sure your office remains in compliance with the many medical billing laws and regulations regarding the medical industry.

    • CPCO (Certified Professional Compliance Officer)

For more information, see the AAPC certifications website.

AHIMA Certifications

Certified by AHIMA!

There are four different certification categories offered by AHIMA. They include:

  1. Health Information Management: These certificates revolve around management of patient data, including medical records, and organizing and analyzing patient data.

    • Registered Health Information Manager (RHIA)
    • Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT)
  2. Coding: Getting one of these certificates will demonstrate your expertise with medical coding, including both hospital and physician-based coding.

    • Certified Coding Associate (CCA)
    • Certified Coding Specialist (CCS)
    • Certified Coding Specialist-Physician based (CCS-P)
  3. Health Data Analysis: This certificate demonstrates your ability to manage and collect patient health data and translate it into a coherent patient file.

    • Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA)
  4. Healthcare Privacy and Security: This is the only certificate in the medical industry that demonstrates competence in designing and administering patient privacy protocols.

    • Certified in Healthcare Privacy and Security (CHPS)

More information on AHIMA certifications.

No matter which organization you decide to go with, you need to pay to be a member of that organization. This includes making an up-front payment to join as well as an annual membership fee.

You also have to pay for your certification exam.

These exams can be hundreds of dollars, so make sure you're prepared! See our article on preparing to take your medical coding exam for tips on studying for your exam to make sure you pass on the first try.

Another important thing to note about getting a medical billing and coding certificate is that you can get multiple certifications.

They're not mutually exclusive! If you want to go through the AAPC and get your CPC, as well as a specialty certification, it will only make you more qualified to get your dream job in medical billing and coding.

Don't forget: for each medical billing and coding certificate that you get, you have to complete a required amount of medical coding CEUs (Continuing Education Units) to maintain your certificate. These are usually offered through your organization, such as the AAPC or AHIMA, and are often free of charge.

We suggest reading up on the benefits of becoming a certified medical billing specialist before committing.

You might also be interested in learning how to search for online medical coding classes.

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