Certified Professional Coder (CPC) Certification

The Certified Professional Coder (CPC) Certification is offered by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC), the subject of an earlier post.

Although the CPC Certification is not required by law, employers can state a preference or requirement that applicants for medical billing and coding positions possess a CPC Certification. The AAPC describes the CPC Certification as the top standard for medical coders who work in physician offices, and according to an AAPC survey CPCs usually earn a 20 percent higher wage than their non-certified counterparts.

The AAPC recommends that candidates attempting to become CPC-certified have an associate’s degree. Those who are interested in pursing a CPC Certification with the AAPC will need to pass the certification exam. Registering for this requires:

  • Current AAPC membership. These are offered at three levels:
    • Individual – $125
    • Student – $70
    • Corporate – $750 for 6-10 members
  • Examination fee of $300
  • At least two years of medical coding experience. Candidates who do not have this experience who pass the exam will be designated as “CPC – Apprentice (CPC-A).”
    • The “Apprentice” designation will be removed once two letters of recommendation verifying two years of experience are received by the AAPC. One year of experience may be substituted with 80 contact hours of medical coding education.

The application and exam fee, which can both be made through the AAPC’s website, must be completed four weeks prior to a candidate’s exam date. Once a candidate has paid to take an exam, he or she will have one year to complete this. One free CPC exam retake is allowed within a year of a candidate’s first exam. Renewing the CPC Certification requires:

  • Maintaining an annual membership with the AAPC
  • At least 36 AAPC-approved continuing education units (CEUs) submitted biannually, along with associated fees

The CPC Certification exam is comprised of 150 multiple-choice questions to be completed in 5 hours and 40 minutes. It is open book, and includes information from the latest editions of:

  • American Medical Association’s CPT (Current Procedural Terminology) coding rules and guidelines, current retail $114.95
  • HCPCS (Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System) coding book, current retail $309.95
  • ICD-CM (International Classification of Diseases, Clinical Modification), physician offices and outpatient facilities or hospitals and payer organization, current retail $99.95 or $103.95, respectively

Candidates are encouraged to take these three resources into the exam and use them as references during the test.

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The scope of the exam covers a medical coder’s knowledge of 24 subject areas likely to be encountered in a physician’s office setting, including:

  • Anesthesia
  • Major body systems
  • Radiology
  • Medicine
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Coding guidelines
  • Pathology
  • Laboratory

The AAPC recommends several methods for candidates to prepare to take the CPC Certification exam:

  • AAPC’s online medical terminology and anatomy courses
  • CPC preparation course
  • Official CPC study guide
  • CPC online practice exam
  • CPC review class

For those who know they will benefit from a more specific certification, the AAPC also offers additional certification options:

  • Certified Physician Practice Manager (CPPM)
  • Certified Professional Medical Auditor (CPMA)
  • Certified Professional Compliance Officer (CPCO)
  • Certified Professional Biller (CPB)
  • Certified Professional Coder – Hospital Outpatient (CPC-H)
  • Certified Professional Coder – Payer (CPC-P)
  • Specialty Medical Coding Certification, for over 20 different specializations ranging from surgeries and dermatology to pediatrics and urology