Medical Billing and Coding Certification
If you aspire to work in the medical billing and coding field, career-specific healthcare training and medical billing and coding certification can help distinguish you as a qualified candidate. Employers seek professionals with a comprehensive understanding of industry-standard codes and practices, which is why many prefer applicants with the Certified Professional Coder (CPC®) credential from the American Association of Professional Coders (AAPC). Furthermore, the 2010 salary survey published by the AAPC indicates that certified coders earn approximately 20% more than their non-certified counterparts, with certified professionals earning an average annual salary of $45,404 compared to $37,746 for those without certification.1
Many individuals opt to pursue a formal healthcare training program that focuses on the content featured in the CPC® certification exam, as successful graduates are able to earn education credentials in addition to industry certification. Ultimate Medical Academy (UMA) offers two online healthcare education programs that are designed to help students embark on a rewarding career in medical billing and coding.
UMA’s Medical Billing and Coding diploma program can be completed in as few as 10 months and provides the foundation students need to apply for entry-level jobs in hospitals, physicians’ offices and other healthcare settings. The program is offered via UMA’s online learning platform as well as on-campus in Tampa, Florida. Students who seek a higher level of education can work toward the Associate of Science in Medical Billing and Coding degree, which expands on the diploma program’s core curriculum with additional business, healthcare, general education and communications courses. At 63 semester credits, UMA’s online medical billing and coding degree program can be completed in as few as 18 months. In addition to conferring academic credentials, both programs prepare students for the CPC® certification exam offered by the AAPC.
Training for Medical Billing and Coding Certification
Many healthcare providers – such as physicians, dentists, physical therapists and outpatient surgery centers – depend on medical billing and coding professionals to ensure that patient records and insurance forms include the proper codes for all diagnoses and procedures.
- Current Procedural Terminology (CPT®) codes identify procedures, such as office visits, physical examinations, flu shots and sutures.
- ICD-9 codes from the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems indicate diagnoses, such as diseases of the digestive or nervous systems, complications of pregnancy, injuries, poisoning, and mental disorders.
- Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) Level II codes represent devices and supplies, such as prosthetics and durable medical equipment, as well as non-physician services, such as ambulance transportation.
These codes determine the amount of reimbursement a healthcare provider receives from insurance companies for services provided to patients. Through medical billing and coding training and CPC® certification, professionals are able to demonstrate their familiarity with CPT, ICD-9 and HCPCS Level II codes.
Formal medical billing and coding education prepares students to sit for the CPC® exam offered by the AAPC and gives them the opportunity to learn and practice professional skills such as processing healthcare claims, accurately coding medical procedures and using proper terminology. These qualifications can assist applicants when competing for coding jobs.
Benefits of AAPC Certification
Employers often favor credentialed professionals with verifiable skills when hiring for medical billing and coding positions. Widely regarded as the industry’s gold standard, the CPC® credential from the AAPC is respected by healthcare providers, medical societies and government organizations nationwide, as it conveys a proven level of expertise.2 CPC® certification signifies that a candidate should be able to:
- Review patient records and assign accurate medical codes for treatment, diagnoses and services
- Demonstrate familiarity with healthcare services such as surgery, radiology, anesthesia, pathology and evaluation.
- Apply knowledge of medical coding rules, procedures, compliance and reimbursement
- Manage issues such as claims denials, medically necessary procedures and bundling
- Understand key medical terminology, as well as anatomy and physiology
CPC® is a respected medical billing and coding certification that can lead to expanded career opportunities. Employers know that professionals who have passed the AAPC examination and attained the CPC® credential have demonstrated proficiency in reading medical charts and assigning the proper ICD-9, CPT and HCPCS Level II codes for clinical activities.
The CPC® Examination
The CPC® certification exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions. It is designed to evaluate the candidate’s knowledge of anatomy, medical terminology, laboratory and clinical procedures, practice management, coding guidelines and other key topics, as well as his or her ability to apply correct procedure, supply and diagnosis codes. Individuals who sit for the exam are allowed to use approved manuals for reference, and may take up to five hours and 40 minutes to complete it.
Medical Billing and Coding Certification Requirements
The AAPC recommends that certification candidates hold an associate’s degree; however, diploma holders are also eligible. While full CPC® certification requires two years of relevant work experience, the AAPC will grant apprentice status (CPC-A) to individuals who pass the exam but do not yet have the necessary work experience. CPC-A holders may apply to have the apprentice designation removed by either submitting two letters of recommendation confirming two years of professional experience, or submitting proof of 80 hours of coding education plus one letter verifying one year of on-the-job experience.
To maintain CPC® certification, medical billing and coding professionals must be current AAPC members. This requires annual renewal of AAPC memberships and completion of 36 continuing education units every two years.
Prepare for an In-Demand Medical Billing and Coding Position with UMA Healthcare Training
Medical billing and coding is detailed work, and healthcare providers depend on a high degree of skill, knowledge and accuracy. If you are detail-oriented, comfortable with computers and interested in the opportunities presented by today’s healthcare industry, consider enrolling in a medical billing and coding training program. UMA’s medical billing and coding degree and diploma programs provide quality education and are designed to help students prepare to sit for the CPC® exam. Once you pass the CPC® exam, you’ll join the ranks of healthcare professionals with AAPC certification and have the opportunity to embark on a career as a medical billing and coding professional.
1 Wells, Robinson, and Brad Ericson. “2010 Salary Survey: Coding Still a Good Bet in Bumpy Seas” Coding Edge. October 2010: 30-33.
2 “Certified Professional Coder (CPC®)” overview page; AAPC Website.
For information on student graduation rates, retention and placement rates, and student financial obligations visit www.ultimatemedical.edu/consumerinfo