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Embarking on a career in medical coding can be both exciting and challenging, especially when it comes to choosing the right certification path. Two leading organizations, the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), offer certifications that are highly regarded in the industry. But how do you choose between them? In this blog, we will delve into the key differences between AAPC and AHIMA, explore the benefits of each, and help you make the best choice for your career goals.
The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) was founded in 1988 and is the largest medical coding organization in the world. AAPC focuses on outpatient coding, which includes services provided in a physician's office, outpatient clinic, or other non-hospital settings. They offer various certifications, such as the Certified Professional Coder (CPC), which is the gold standard for outpatient medical coding.
On the other hand, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) was established in 1928 and is dedicated to the effective management of health information and medical records. AHIMA's focus is on inpatient coding, which includes services provided in hospitals and other inpatient facilities. Their flagship certification is the Certified Coding Specialist (CCS), which is highly regarded in the field of inpatient medical coding.
Both AAPC and AHIMA offer multiple certification options catering to different skill levels and specialties. Some of the most popular certifications include:
It's essential to research each certification option and determine which best aligns with your career goals and interests.
Preparing for AAPC and AHIMA certification exams requires dedication and hard work. Both organizations offer exam preparation materials, such as study guides, online courses, and practice exams. Additionally, local chapters and approved training programs can provide valuable resources and networking opportunities.
The cost of certification exams varies between AAPC and AHIMA. Generally, AAPC exams are less expensive, with the CPC exam costing around $300 for AAPC members and $400 for non-members. AHIMA exams, such as the CCS, can cost approximately $300 for AHIMA members and $400 for non-members. Keep in mind that prices may change, so always verify the latest exam fees on the respective organization's website.
Both AAPC and AHIMA require certified professionals to maintain their credentials through continuing education and periodic recertification. AAPC requires its certified professionals to complete 36 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) every two years, while AHIMA mandates 20 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for most certifications every two years. Both organizations provide numerous opportunities for continuing education, including webinars, conferences, and online courses.
Medical coders with AAPC or AHIMA certifications are in high demand, as these credentials demonstrate expertise and professionalism in the field. Employers often prefer or require candidates to have certifications from one or both of these organizations. Holding a certification from AAPC or AHIMA can open up a wide range of career opportunities in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, physician offices, outpatient clinics, insurance companies, and more.
The salary potential for medical coders varies depending on factors such as experience, location, and the type of certification held. According to AAPC's 2021 salary survey, the average salary for a certified professional coder (CPC) was $57,201 per year, while AHIMA's salary snapshot data showed that the average salary for a certified coding specialist (CCS) was $66,676 per year. It's important to note that these figures are just averages, and actual salaries can be higher or lower based on individual circumstances.
Choosing between AAPC and AHIMA certifications can be a difficult decision. However, by thoroughly evaluating your career goals, interests, and the unique benefits each organization offers, you can make an informed choice that sets you on the path to success. Remember, there's no right or wrong answer when it comes to selecting a certification; it's about finding the best fit for your unique career journey. Ultimately, both AAPC and AHIMA certifications can help you launch a rewarding and fulfilling career in the ever-growing field of medical coding.
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