I’m often asked, “How many certifications should I get?” or “Which certification should I get next?” This often comes at the thrill of newly certified students, fresh off the heels of passing their very first coding certification exam?
Firstly, kudos to you for continuing to pursue knowledge and professional development!
The top 5 American Academy of Professional Coders, AAPC, certifications are: COC, CRC, CPB, CPC, and CRC, but there are more options available, including specialty certifications in certain areas, i.e., cardiology, hematology, dermatology, urology, etc. Each of the preeminent coding credentialing organizations, AAPC and AHIMA, American Health Information Management Association, offers full listings and descriptions of all certifications, found at https://www.aapc.com/certification/ and https://www.ahima.org/certification-careers/certifications-overview/, respectively.
With all of these options, how do you choose? Ask yourself: What interests me the most? What am I most enthusiastic about? What are my goals? Envision yourself in the middle and end of where you want to be. If you’re not quite sure yet, take your time, land that job, and allow the rest to unfold.
The first certification I obtained, the Certified Professional Coding (CPC), was the only one I needed to land my first job in coding. Since then, none of my positions have ever required more, and I have been promoted multiple times, based on experience and work ethic.
I currently hold the following coding credentials with AAPC: COC (outpatient), CRC (risk adjustment), CPB (billing), CPC (coding), CIC (inpatient), CPMA (auditing), CPCO (compliance), CPC-I (instructor).
In additions, I have the following credentials with AHIMA: CCS (coding specialist-inpatient and outpatient), CDIP (Clinical Documentation Improvement Specialist) and Training Credentials- Revenue Cycle Management and ICD 10 CM and ICD 10 PCS certified trainer. Most of my credentials were acquired simply so that I could challenge myself, to better understand the exams/exam strategy, and because my completing the training allowed me to fulfill CEU requirements.
Most outpatient coding jobs will require at least one coding certification. Based on my experience, industry level standard is either the CPC through AAPC or CCA through AHIMA. Also in my experience, I have had many CPC certified students land a job billing job; therefore, in general, a billing credential is not needed for a billing job. However, a billing certification, such as the CPB through AAPC has broadened my knowledge of several billing concepts and allowed me to share those with my students and those I mentor.
If you decide to pursue an inpatient coding position, my suggestion is the Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) through AHIMA. In performing job searches for inpatient coding, what I see most often required is the CCS, which in my opinion may carry more weight than AAPC’s CIC credential. AHIMA offers an outpatient coding credential as well-the Certified Coding Apprentice. you want pursue inpatient coding, I suggest getting the CCS through AHIMA- as it carries more weight than AAPC’s CIC.
AAPC offers a CPPM or CPM or something similar to certify as a Practice Manager if you’re thinking of a management position in an outpatient setting.
If you currently hold a certification, I don’t suggest jumping into another certification until you have at least one year of work experience. This allows you to see and better understand some of the stages and roles within the full revenue management cycle. This will also keep you from getting overwhelmed.
Nevertheless, stay curious, look for opportunities, and be ready for whatever is next.
Most of all, simply start with that first and possibly your 1 and only credential, then let it lead you along a wonderful journey.
Cheers to your formidable self!
All the best,