There are many types of medical coding certifications but the two most common are the CPC and CCS.
The CPC stands for Certified Professional Coder, and is offered by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). The CCS stands for Certified Coding Specialist and is offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).
There are several things to consider when deciding which of these two certifications you wish to obtain.
The first thing to consider is the type of coding you are interested in doing. There are two types to choose from: Professional and Facility.
Professional coding is coding performed for outpatient services, such as private practices, surgery centers, and emergency medicine. These coders work mainly in physician offices.
Facility coding is coding performed for inpatient services, which is mainly patients who are admitted to a hospital. These coders work mainly in a hospital setting.
The CPC medical coding certification is recognized more as a professional coding credential than a facility coding credential. Individuals who are interested in working for private practices and surgery centers should consider the CPC certification.
The CCS medical coding certification is recognized more as a facility coding credential. Individuals who are interested in working for a hospital should consider the CCS certification.
The second thing is the medical coding certification exam. Both the AAPC and AHIMA require individuals to sit for and pass a lengthy timed examination.
The CPC exam offered by the AAPC is a 5 hour and 40 minute, 150 multiple choice question exam. Individuals must be an AAPC member ($120.00 annual membership fee) in order to sit for this exam. CPC exam fees are an additional $300.00, and gives examinees two attempts to pass the exam.
The CCS exam offered by AHIMA is a 4 hour exam that is broken down in two parts. The first part is a one hour 60 multiple choice question exam. The second part is a three hour exam with real medical records that must be coded accurately. Individuals do not have to be an AHIMA member in order to sit for the CCS exam, but non-members pay more for the exam.
AHIMA membership fees are $165.00 and CCS exam fees are $320.00 for members and $405.00 for non-members. This exam fee only provides examinees with one attempt to sit for and pass the exam.
The CPC and CCS certification exams also contrast in their level of difficulty.
The CPC certification exam can be passed by individuals who are new to the coding field and who have taken an appropriate medical coding training course.
The CCS certification exam was purposely constructed for individuals who already have a minimum of two years of medical coding experience. The pass rate among CCS examinees passing on their first attempt is also only 50%.
The CPC and the CCS are both well recognized medical coding certifications from reputable organizations. While the CPC exam is easier to obtain than the CCS, the CCS certification is slightly more valuable because many employers will except a CCS certification in place of a CPC certification, however, many facilities will not accept the CPC certification as a substitute for the CCS certification.
Often individuals who are just starting out in the medical coding field choose to obtain their CPC medical coding certification, gain a few year of on the job medical coding experience, and then sit for their CCS credential. Holding dual medical coding certifications can also give coders a competitive edge in the job market and give them the flexibility to move between professional and facility settings easily.