certified coding specialist

How To Become a Certified Coding Specialist

Between the promising pay prospects, the high rate of job growth, the flexible schedules, and the ability to work from home, medical coding may seem like a dream job. To get this job, however, you must train as a certified coding specialist and demonstrate your knowledge and commitment to employers. The following steps will allow you to secure a promising career in this field:


Step 1: An Education

Given the importance of medical information to patients and clinics alike, most employers will not hire coders who have not been through an accredited certified coding specialist program. Such programs usually focus on teaching students to recognize medical terminology, major coding systems such as CPT and the ICD series, and laws like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPPA. They will also provide training in basic pathophysiology and other medical subjects. Coding programs emphasize the ability to speak clearly, write legibly, and use medical software effectively, ensuring that everything you record will be easy to understand.


Step 2: Hands-On Experience

Beyond formal education, employers prefer coders who have at least 2 years of practical experience in a related job. Experience prepares specialists for the pace and volume of work and other unpredictable factors that a training program could never cover. Any job in a doctor’s office, hospital, health clinic, health insurance company, or other health-related business will contribute toward your experience. Diploma programs often help students to gain experience while they are in training by organizing internships and externships, many of which are paid.


Step 3: Official Certification

Once you’ve finished your education and have begun gaining work experience, you should start planning to take the relevant tests and become a certified coding specialist. There are a number of available coding tests, including the ordinary Certified Coding Specialist test, or CCS, and the more specific Certified Coding Specialist-Physician-based test, or CCS-P; most of these tests are administered by the American Health Information Management Association. Because it costs several hundred dollars each time you take the test, don’t take it until you are confident that you will pass. Consider using test prep software or taking preparatory classes to make sure you pass the test the first time.


Step 4: Lifelong Learning

Because medical billing and coding is a constantly changing field, specialists are required to renew their certification periodically. Many take lifelong continuing education classes in order to stay up to date on medical terminology and review for the test; these classes are available online, from local community colleges and vocational schools, and from a wide range of other sources. Taking continuing education courses also sends a message to employers that you are committed to your field and will remain in it for the long haul.


Bonus: Additional Degree Assessment

Though not required to be a medical billing and coding specialist, getting an associate’s or bachelor’s degree will make it easier for you to be promoted to higher positions. This is particularly valuable if you view coding as a stepping stone into health services management and other upper-level medical careers. It will also allow you to command higher wages even as a certified coding specialist.


Training as a certified coding specialist isn’t easy, but once you’ve completed the necessary steps, you have access to a promising career and a chance to make a difference in people’s lives. Even if you have what it takes for this career, however, that doesn’t mean it’s the ideal job for your interests, so make sure to consider other possible lines of work. To learn more about your career options, visit the Southern Careers Institute today.

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