The CPC credential is one of the most recognized medical coding certifications in the entire healthcare industry. When you achieve this accreditation, you’ll establish yourself as a healthcare professional, which increases your chance of being hired across the medical field.
To earn the CPC credential, it’s important to know what a CPC is and why it matters. A CPC is a “Certified Professional Coder” that has an extensive knowledge base about coding. But someone who works in the medical field also has to demonstrate their knowledge in:
- A range of medical services, including surgery, pathology, radiology, medicine, anaesthesia, and evaluation and management.
- Medical coding regulations and guidelines.
- Anatomy, medical terminology, and physiology.
- How to integrate payment policy and medical coding changes during reimbursement.
Getting CPC certified can be difficult, as you need to know a lot about technology and medicine. However, your daily schedule will mostly include coding. If you’re able to prove that you have a decent enough knowledge of medical terminology or a willingness to learn it, you’ll be fine.
How to Become CPC Certified
Here’s the step-by-step process you need to follow to become CPC-certified.
1. Get a Post-Secondary Education (Optional)
Getting a post-secondary education isn’t always necessary, but it will help you find your first job or gain legitimate coding/medical experience in your field. Some jobs will require a bachelor’s or associate’s degree or a certificate in computer science, like lead hospital coders.
However, your best option is a medical coding school if you’re looking to specialize. These programs will teach you everything you need to become a high-quality medical coder.
2. Get Basic Medical Coding Credentials (Optional)
The reason why this step is so close to step 1 is that it makes your life easier. Several coding credentials don’t require work experience, like the Certified Coding Associate (CCA) and the Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) certificates.
However, you will need an associate’s degree in Health Information Management to take the RHIT. Both credentials will help you get your first job as a medical coder.
3. Get Two Years Worth of Medical Coding Experience
After earning your credentials or acing your medical coding interview, you can work as a medical coder. There are several entry-level jobs to choose from, like junior medical coders for physician offices or a general coder for hospitals.
You need to work for 2 years as a medical coder before you can receive a CPC designation. Otherwise, you’ll get a CPC-A (apprentice) credential. To remove the “A,” you’ll have to submit two letters of recommendation proving you know how to use ICD-10-CM and HCPCS Level II.
One letter has to be from an employer, so it helps to get a bit of training under your belt before applying. However, you can also submit at least 80 contract hours of a coding preparation course that includes the same code sets. Either way, you’re earning experience.
4. Prepare For Your CPC Exam
The CPC exam can be taken online or through traditional classroom sources. The exam includes 150 multiple-choice questions, which have to be completed in 5.8 hours. You’re allowed to use approved AMA standards or professional CPT manuals or codebooks.
A passing grade is 70%, and the exam will typically cost $425. If you fail, you can take the exam once more for free, and you can take the test an infinite amount of times. There’s no training or education prerequisite to take the exam.
To help you study, you can purchase a study book or an online practice exam, which simulates the difficulty level, time constraints, and format of an actual exam. To pass, you’ll need to know medical anatomy and terminology, as well as be fluent in ICD-10-CM and HCPCS Level II.