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How to Align a Medical Coding Certification to Your Career Goals

Deciding which type of medical coding certification best fits your career goals is really a two-step process. Think about these two factors when you are selecting a certification type:

  • The type of training program you want: How much time can you dedicate to a training program? What’s your budget? What sort of curriculum interests you?

  • Your long-term career goals: What kind of medical billing and coding job do you ultimately want to do? In what sort of facility do you want to work? How do you want to spend your time each day?

Your answers to those questions can help you choose what kind of certification will most benefit your long-term goals and short-term educational needs. Read on for more details.

The thing you need to remember about AAPC and AHIMA when choosing a type of certification is that each organization’s certifications are designed to help you fit in the career niche of your choice.

Consider medical coding education requirements

Some certifications require you to earn a four-year degree prior to taking the exam, while others require little more than a short-term program under your belt. Both AHIMA and AAPC recommend that you complete some type of accredited training program. Your other pre-test training options include vocational training schools and online programs.

Most programs offer training in subjects like human anatomy and physiology; medical terminology and documentation; medical coding, including proper use of modifiers; medical billing; and more.

Each training option has its pros and cons, but the most important qualities to look for in a training program are accreditation and the expertise of the instructors teaching the classes.

Prioritize your medical coding career needs

Although you can’t predict the future, you can put some thought into your long-term career needs when you’re thinking about the type of training program you want. The last thing you want is to get stuck in a program that prepares you for a certification exam that doesn’t match up with how you want to spend the rest of your career.

As you talk your way through this decision, consider these factors:

  • Where you plan to seek employment (hospital, physician’s office, and so on)

  • The kind of job you want to do (coding, medical billing, charge posting, or accounts receivable follow-up)

    Coders tend to be introverted and detail-focused and are happiest working quietly on their own. If that appeals to your personality, then coding, medical billing, or charge posting may be good choices. If you’re more social, you may be happier in accounts receivable follow-up because this position requires constant interaction with others (payers).

  • The type of certification potential employers might prefer

  • The availability, quality, and cost of the training programs in your area

What do medical coding employers in your area want?

Where you want to work and what kind of job you want to do will probably carry the most weight in your decision-making process. After all, you want to make yourself the most marketable candidate for the jobs you want most. Try these tips for tracking the ins and outs of potential employers and, by extension, the certifications they require:

  • Check with local employment recruiters and see what type of credentials their clients prefer.

  • Take note of the credentials displayed in local medical offices that you visit.

  • Look through the local job listings and see what kinds of certifications are mentioned in jobs that appeal to you.

  • If you have your heart set on working for a particular company, find out what kind of coders they prefer. If the local hospital only uses AHIMA certified coders and records clerks, then you want to find an AHIMA-accredited program and take an AHIMA exam.

    On the other hand, if that same hospital employs both AAPC- and AHIMA-certified professionals, then you need to find the program that best prepares you to take the exam that’ll give you the best chance to score a job.

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