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How Medical Coders Can Choose an AAPC Certification Level

The basic medical coding certification level for the AACP is the CPC certification. This certification indicates proficiency in reading a medical chart and abstracting the correct diagnosis codes, procedural codes, and supply codes. It’s the certification level most members first attain.

As a CPC-certified coder, your best fit is in a physician’s office, billing office, or certain other outpatient environments, where you’re expected to have a thorough understanding of anatomy and medical terminology and be able to apply procedural codes and the supporting diagnosis codes. Other basic CPC certifications include CPC-H and CPC-P.

Certification Related Skills and Competencies
Certified Professional Coder (CPC) Proficiency in reading medical charts and assigning correct diagnosis (ICD-9) codes, procedure codes (CPT), and supply codes (HCPCS)
Certified Professional Coder-Hospital (CPC-H) Proficiency in assigning accurate codes for diagnosis, procedures, and services performed in an outpatient setting; understanding compliance and outpatient grouping systems; and completing a UB-04, the billing form used for facility claims, with appropriate modifiers
Certified Professional Coder-Payer (CPC-P) Proficiency in understanding the claim adjudication process; possessing basic knowledge of coding-related payer processes, including the relationship between coding and payment

The AAPC has stringent eligibility requirements for full certification. If you have two years of coding experience before you take the exam, you’ll be fully certified upon passing. If you don’t have experience in coding prior to sitting for the exam for any of these certifications, you’ll earn an apprentice status: CPC-A, CPC-H-A, or CPC-P-A.

After you complete your apprenticeship, you can request that the A be removed by following either of the following processes:

  • Send a request, along with two letters verifying that you’ve had at least two years of experience using the coding books. At least one letter should be on letterhead from your employer, and the other may be from a co-worker. Both letters must be signed and should outline your coding experience and amount of time in that capacity.

    Alternatively, to speed the process up, your references can fill out the Apprentice Removal Template available on the AAPC website. However, letterhead and signatures are still required.

  • Prove that you have completed at least 80 hours of coding education and have completed one year of on-the-job experience using CPT, ICD, and HCPCS codes. This can be a certificate of course completion, a letter from your instructor on school letterhead, or a transcript that states that you have completed a minimum of 80 hours of classroom training.

    If you choose this option, you also must provide one letter on letterhead that has been signed by your employer that verifies that you have completed one year of on-the-job experience.

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