Become A Certified Coding Specialist

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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.

This article was published on: 04/8/13 1:48 PM

What SCI Students Are Saying

“I made a complete career change when I started my training at Southern Careers Institute. I needed a stable career to continue providing for my growing family. SCI provided me with the medical terminology and know how that I needed to understand and acquire a career in the medical field. SCI taught me that it doesn’t matter where you are in life right now; you always have room to advance and learn.”


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Raquel S.

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Annette D.
Business Accounting

“When my youngest child graduated from high school, I told my husband that it was my time. I went back to school to change careers after spending 37 years in the business field. At SCI, the instructors are professional, and they care about what they are teaching you, as well as expect you to give 100% in return. I had problems understanding how to draw in syringes and give injections. I requested extra help from a knowledgeable instructor, and I was able to receive one-on-one training. Today, I draw injections for approximately 100 patients each week. I am very confident in what I’ve learned. SCI has given me the chance to do what I always wanted to do. Thank you for my education. I am doing wonderful.”


Bonnie M
Medical Assistant

“I am now a certified Lab Tech. SCI helped me get an externship, and I came out with a job. After my little sister had cancer, I knew I wanted a career in the medical field that allowed me to help others. I am happy about what I do.”


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Andrea Garcia

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Olga C.

“Southern Careers Institute totally surpassed my expectations. Once I finished school, the Career Services team helped me find a job. I would tell anyone thinking about starting career training that you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain. I wish I would have started my training sooner.”


Valerie D.

“I am very happy with where I am and where I’m going. Through high school, I struggled with math. When I came to SCI, I enrolled in the Business Accounting Specialist program to see if I could do it. SCI provided me with the accounting skills I needed to help me find a career. Now, I have an amazing career and room to grow in the company.”


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Business Accounting

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