A Complete Guide On CPC Certification (And How To Earn One)

Updated 30 September 2022

As the health care business continues to expand, you may wish to pursue a profession that matches your interests, skills and talents. There are many employment options available, such as medical billing and coding roles at a desk in a standard office setting, during normal business hours where a degree may not always be a mandate. If you have interesting in such a tech job in the health care industry, learning about the certified professional coder certification can be helpful.

In this article, we define the CPC certification, look at the role of a certified professional coder, outline steps to earn this certification, discuss the advantages of earning this certification, share some useful tips while applying for this certification and answer some related frequently asked questions.

What Is A CPC Certification?

The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) offers the nationally recognised CPC certification in medical coding. Earning this certification demonstrates to hiring managers that you have the requisite training and experience in medical coding and the health care business. This certification enables you to assist general practitioners, work in doctor's offices and concentrate on outpatient services. To be eligible for the CPC examination, you require two years of medical coding experience and submitting two reference letters to the AAPC.

Related: 31 Medical Coding Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)

What Does A Certified Professional Coder Do?

A CPC is an individual who has obtained the designation by passing an AAPC-administered medical coding certification exam. As a CPC, you show your understanding of medical coding and compliance, allowing you to perform your duties per the industry standards. Along with a minimum of two years of coding expertise, these workers require completing a set number of continuing education courses every two years.

A certified professional coder evaluates clinical paperwork and converts medical procedures, diagnoses, supplies and services into reimbursement codes. CPCs require a thorough understanding of medical language and anatomy to interpret medical records and extract pertinent data. They have a crucial role in the financial health of the organisation they work.

Related: What Is A Medical Coder? Definition And Skills

How To Earn A CPC Certification

You can follow these steps to earn your professional coder certification:

1. Decide the ideal career path

You may be interested in a career in the medical sector because many roles offer job security. It is crucial to take the time to define your long-term career objectives before you enrol for certifications. You may benefit if you choose a field that matches your education and then pursue subsequent higher degree courses that can assist you in mastering the required knowledge and skill sets to get the job you desire.

Consider the aspects of a job that are most essential to you, like responsibilities, average salary, job prospects or opportunities for advancement. If you discover that medical coding is the appropriate profession for you, then this certification can be ideal for you.

Related: How To Find Your Desired Career Path

2. Complete your diploma of graduation

To take the certification exam, you require a high school certificate or equivalent, such as a general education diploma (GED). The GED is a high school equivalency exam that tests your understanding of high school courses. It is an alternative to graduating from college with a diploma. Earning your GED is a convenient option to demonstrate to the AAPC that you have the fundamental competencies to take the CPC exam if you have not completed your graduate degree yet.

Many experts in the coding industry hold a graduate degree from an approved college. Consider studying the employment criteria of employers who are employing coders to determine if a graduate degree is typically required. If so, you may like to explore diploma degrees that support your job objectives.

3. Accumulate coding experience

Gain experience as a medical coder by working in the domain for at least two years. Upon receiving preliminary certification, medical coders can begin working in hospitals and other health care facilities. During this time, you can build your abilities as a medical coder and become familiar with the procedures of working in the health care industry professionals. You might also expand your network of professional contacts, which can enhance the number of career options available to you in the future by enhancing your reputation in the sector.

Related: How To Improve Coding Skills (With Practical Tips And Advice)

4. Consider continuing education courses

The CPC credential requires two years of medical coding experience or its equivalent. If you do not provide evidence of two years of experience, you receive the CPC-A designation when you pass the CPC exam. Consider completing the continuing education units (CEUs) every two years to update your medical coding knowledge and keep your certification valid.

Related: How To Write A Medical Coding Resume (With Tips & Samples)

5. Appear for the CPC exam

The AAPC conducts the CPC examination, which includes questions on radiography, surgical procedures, International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), compliance, coding requirements and medicine. To be eligible for the exam, you require to be an AAPC member and submit your exam charges. You can also order study materials to prepare for the exam from the AAPC website. To pass the CPC exam, you require achieving a score of 70% or higher.

Advantages Of Getting A Certified Professional Coder Certification

As a certified professional coder, you are eligible to attend AAPC-hosted networking events, training and seminars. You can learn more about the subject of medical coding and meet other experts who you can learn from and network with for a very low cost or for free at many of these events.

The professional coder certification is also more widely recognised in the medical community. It demonstrates to patients and other health care professionals your commitment to your work and your expert-level knowledge of medical coding. Employers value this certification because they regard it as the proof of skill sets of candidates and they may offer new employees a better starting salary and greater earning potential. Including this certification on your CV may further increase your appeal to hiring managers.

Related: 10 Examples Of A Medical Coder Resume Objective (With Guide)

Tips For Appearing For The Professional Coder Certification

Here are some useful tips to consider while appearing for the certification exam:

Review the guidelines

Review and learn the application of all coding principles to prepare for the examination. This applies to all codebooks like current procedural terminology (CPT), international classification of diseases–tenth revision–clinical modification (ICD-10-CM) and health care common procedure coding system (HCPCS) Level II. You can find the conventions and rules for ICD-10-CM coding in the codebook's introduction. CPT recommendations are often available in the codebook's introductory sections and select subsections.

Keep your research organised

Clearly marked codebooks might be of great help in the final preparation for the examination. As coding guidelines usually contain all the information necessary, knowing how to locate it during the examination quickly is of the utmost importance. Consider using various coloured highlighters to differentiate between the different categories easily.

Related: How To Write An Effective Medical Representative Resume

Follow the sequencing

Follow the sequencing rules provided in coding standards and guidelines. For instance, a urine culture validates the patient's diagnosis of an Escherichia coli-caused urinary tract infection (UTI). The proper codes and order are N39.0 and B96.20. There is a remark instructing you to identify the infectious agent using an additional code B95-B97. If there are multiple code possibilities containing the same codes in a different order, pay special attention to the coding rules and guidelines to help you make the correct choice.

Related: FAQ: What Is A Medical Technologist? (Definition And Salary)

Explore parenthetical notes

Paying great attention to the information included in the CPT parenthetical notes eliminates coding problems. For instance, code 10030 is a parenthetical comment that says not to report 10030 in conjunction with 75989, 76942, 77002, 77003, 77012 or 77021. This notifies the coder that you cannot report imaging guidance along with the surgical operation code.

Related: Attention To Detail: Definition, Examples And Tips

Understand the modifiers

Examine the correct application of each modification. Recognise when to add each modifier. For example, you append modifier 26 to codes with a professional and technical component to indicate that the coded provider only performed the professional component. If the code description includes a professional component such as 93010, you may benefit if you do not add modifier 26.

Related: How To Become A Medical Researcher (Complete Guide)

FAQs About The Professional Coder Certification

Here are two frequently asked questions about this certification:

Why do employers look for the CPC credential?

Accurate medical coding is essential for optimal and ethical payment. It makes medical coders indispensable to the financial resources of every health care organisation that treats or provides services to patients. CPCs credentials have earned a reputation for quality for over three decades. A certified professional coder carries high expectations, trust and regard.

What does the apprentice status mean?

If you do not possess two years of medical coding experience prior to taking the CPC exam, the AAPC awards you a CPC-A certificate upon passing the CPC exam. The letter A denotes apprenticeship status, which requires two years of experience to complete. AAPC removes your apprentice designation from your certification upon showing evidence of two years of coding expertise.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are associated with Indeed.

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