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Top 11 Inpatient Coder Certifications

This article will provide an overview of the top certifications available for inpatient coding professionals, including details on each certification's requirements, cost, and benefits.

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Brenna Goyette
Certified Professional Resume Writer, Career Expert

Published 17 min read

Certifications are an important way for inpatient coders to demonstrate their skills and knowledge to potential employers. Certified coders have the advantage of being recognized as having achieved a higher level of expertise than non-certified coders. This can be especially important in a competitive job market, where employers are looking for the most qualified employees to fill positions. Certifications also provide evidence that the coder has the necessary knowledge and experience, which can be reassuring for employers who need accurate coding. In addition, certified coders may have access to additional training opportunities or resources that non-certified coders don’t have. Ultimately, certifications can give coder’s resumes an edge in the job market and help them stand out from other candidates.

The purpose of the article is to review the top certifications for Inpatient Coders and explain how they can help an inpatient coder advance their career.

What are Inpatient Coder Certifications?

Inpatient coder certification is a specialized form of medical coding that focuses on the coding of diagnoses, procedures and services for inpatient hospital settings. Inpatient coding is a complex process that involves interpreting patient records and interpreting the documentation to accurately assign codes that reflect the patient’s condition, treatment and services provided. This type of coding requires detailed knowledge of anatomy, physiology and medical terminology as well as an understanding of medical billing regulations.

Having an inpatient coder certification can help improve accuracy in medical coding by demonstrating proficiency in this specific field. It can also help coders demonstrate their expertise to potential employers, allowing them to be more competitive when seeking employment. The certification also allows coders to stay up-to-date with new developments in medical technology and coding practices, ensuring they are up-to-date with current trends and regulations. Finally, having an inpatient coder certification can give coders access to continuing education opportunities that can help them further develop their skillset and maintain their certification status.

Pro Tip: Inpatient coder certification requires completion of an approved coding program and passing a certification exam. It is important to stay up-to-date with the most current coding guidelines, as these change regularly. Staying on top of changes in the industry can help ensure accuracy and compliance with regulations.

Related: What does an Inpatient Coder do?

Top 11 Inpatient Coder Certifications

Here’s our list of the best certifications available to Inpatient Coders today.

1. American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) Certified Coding Specialist (CCS)

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) credential is a professional certification for health information management professionals who specialize in coding and classifying medical data. The CCS credential is designed to demonstrate the holder’s knowledge of medical coding and its application to healthcare reimbursement, quality measures, and other related areas.

It typically takes between 6-12 months to complete the requirements for the CCS credential. To become certified, applicants must pass an exam that covers topics such as medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, ICD-10-CM/PCS coding systems, HCPCS Level II coding systems, and reimbursement methodologies. Applicants must also have a minimum of two years of experience in coding or related fields prior to taking the exam.

The cost for the CCS exam varies depending on where you take it; however, it typically ranges from $300-$400 USD. Additionally, AHIMA offers a variety of study materials and practice exams to help prepare for the exam at additional cost.

2. American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) Certified Professional Coder (CPC)

The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) Certified Professional Coder (CPC) is a professional certification for medical coding professionals. It is the most widely recognized and respected certification in the medical coding industry. The CPC credential demonstrates an individual’s knowledge of medical coding principles and practices, as well as their ability to accurately code diagnoses and procedures for reimbursement.

It typically takes between 4-6 months to prepare for the CPC exam. Preparation includes studying the official AAPC curriculum, taking practice exams, and attending review courses or seminars.

In order to become certified by AAPC, you must pass the CPC exam with a score of 70% or higher. You must also meet certain eligibility requirements such as having at least two years of professional experience in medical coding or related fields, or completing an approved training program prior to taking the exam.

The cost of becoming certified by AAPC varies depending on your chosen method of preparation. The cost of the exam itself is $399 USD for members and $499 USD for non-members. Other costs may include course materials, practice exams, and review courses/seminars which can range from $100-$1000 USD depending on what you choose.

3. AHIMA Certified Coding Associate (CCA)

The AHIMA Certified Coding Associate (CCA) credential is a nationally recognized certification for health information professionals who demonstrate proficiency in coding and classification systems. It is designed to provide recognition of an individual’s knowledge and skills in medical coding and classification.

To become a CCA, you must have a minimum of two years of experience in medical coding or related work experience, such as auditing or quality assurance. You must also pass the CCA exam, which consists of 150 multiple-choice questions covering topics such as anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology, medical terminology, ICD-10-CM/PCS coding concepts, HCPCS Level II coding concepts, and CPT coding concepts.

The exam takes approximately three hours to complete and costs $299. Upon successful completion of the exam, you will be awarded the CCA credential by AHIMA. The credential is valid for two years from the date it was issued and must be renewed every two years by completing continuing education requirements.

4. AAPC Certified Outpatient Coder (COC)

AAPC Certified Outpatient Coder (COC) is a professional certification offered by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). It is designed to recognize coders who have demonstrated expertise in coding outpatient services such as those provided in physician offices, clinics, and other ambulatory care settings. The COC certification requires mastery of the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) code set and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10-CM).

To become certified as an AAPC Certified Outpatient Coder, applicants must pass an exam that consists of 150 multiple-choice questions. The exam covers topics such as medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, reimbursement methodologies, coding guidelines and conventions, and coding for outpatient services. The exam takes approximately three hours to complete.

In order to be eligible for the exam, applicants must have a minimum of two years of professional experience in outpatient coding or have completed an accredited course in medical coding. Applicants must also be current members of AAPC.

The cost for the exam is $399 USD for non-members and $299 USD for members.

5. AHIMA Certified Documentation Improvement Practitioner (CDIP)

AHIMA Certified Documentation Improvement Practitioner (CDIP) is a credential offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). The CDIP credential recognizes professionals who demonstrate expertise in improving healthcare documentation. This certification is designed to help healthcare organizations improve their documentation practices, resulting in better patient care and more accurate reimbursement.

The CDIP exam is a computer-based test that consists of 150 multiple-choice questions. Candidates have four hours to complete the exam. To be eligible for the CDIP exam, applicants must have at least two years of experience in health information management, including one year of experience in clinical documentation improvement or coding compliance auditing.

To get the CDIP credential, candidates must pass the CDIP exam with a score of at least 500 out of 800 points. Candidates can register for the exam through AHIMA's website and pay an application fee of $299. After passing the exam, candidates must submit an application for certification and pay an additional fee of $125.

The CDIP credential is valid for three years from the date it was awarded, after which time recertification will be required to maintain active status.

6. AHIMA Clinical Documentation Improvement Practitioner (CDIP-P)

AHIMA Clinical Documentation Improvement Practitioner (CDIP-P) is a credential that recognizes the knowledge and skills of an individual to improve the accuracy of patient health information. It is designed for healthcare professionals who are responsible for improving clinical documentation in order to ensure accurate coding, quality reporting, and reimbursement.

To become certified as a CDIP-P, individuals must pass an exam administered by AHIMA. The exam covers topics such as medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology, ICD-10-CM/PCS coding systems, clinical documentation improvement principles and strategies, quality measures and data analytics.

The exam takes approximately three hours to complete and consists of 150 multiple choice questions. The cost of the exam is $299 USD for members of AHIMA or $399 USD for non-members. After passing the exam, individuals will receive their certification within 4–6 weeks.

7. AAPC Medical Billing and Coding Specialist Certification (MBCS-CPC-I)

AAPC Medical Billing and Coding Specialist Certification (MBCS-CPC-I) is a certification offered by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). This certification is designed to recognize individuals who have achieved a high level of proficiency in medical billing and coding. The MBCS-CPC-I certification requires applicants to pass an exam that covers topics such as medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, legal aspects of coding, reimbursement systems, and coding guidelines.

In order to obtain the MBCS-CPC-I certification, applicants must first complete an AAPC approved training program or demonstrate two years of experience in medical coding. Once this requirement is met, applicants can register for the exam which takes approximately three hours to complete. The exam fee is $399 for members and $499 for nonmembers.

After passing the exam, applicants will receive their official MBCS-CPC-I certificate from AAPC. This certificate is valid for three years after which time it must be renewed by taking continuing education courses or retaking the exam.

8. AAPC Certified Risk Adjustment Coder (CRC)

AAPC Certified Risk Adjustment Coder (CRC) is a certification program offered by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). It is designed to recognize experienced coders who have demonstrated a comprehensive understanding of risk adjustment coding and its principles. The CRC certification helps employers identify qualified coders who can accurately code diagnoses and procedures for risk adjustment purposes.

It typically takes three to six months to prepare for the CRC exam, depending on an individual’s experience level. To become certified, applicants must pass a comprehensive online exam that covers topics such as risk adjustment coding principles, medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, ICD-10-CM coding guidelines, HCPCS Level II codes, and more.

The cost of the CRC exam is $399 USD. This fee includes access to the online practice test and study materials. Additionally, there are other fees associated with taking the exam such as the application fee ($50 USD), background check fee ($30 USD), and retake fee ($50 USD).

To apply for the CRC certification exam, applicants must first be members of AAPC and submit an application along with proof of education or experience in coding. Once approved, they will receive instructions on how to register for the exam.

9. AHIMA Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT)

AHIMA Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) is a professional certification offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). It is designed to recognize individuals who have demonstrated knowledge and competency in health information technology. RHITs are responsible for managing, organizing, and maintaining medical records and other health information data. They ensure accuracy, privacy, security, and compliance with regulations.

It typically takes about two years to complete the educational requirements for the RHIT certification. To become an RHIT, you must first obtain an associate degree in health information technology from an accredited college or university. Once you have completed your degree program, you can take the AHIMA Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) exam to become certified. The exam costs $200 and is administered by Prometric Testing Centers throughout the United States.

In addition to completing an educational program and passing the RHIT exam, applicants must also meet certain eligibility requirements including having at least one year of experience working in a healthcare setting as a health information technician or related position. Additionally, applicants must submit proof of completion of continuing education credits every two years in order to maintain their certification status.

10. AAPC Certified Inpatient Coder (CIC)

AAPC Certified Inpatient Coder (CIC) is a professional certification offered by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). It is designed to recognize individuals who have mastered the knowledge and skills necessary to accurately code inpatient services. This certification demonstrates that an individual has achieved a high level of competence in coding inpatient services and understands the complexities of coding for this setting.

To become certified, individuals must pass a comprehensive exam that covers topics such as anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, ICD-10-CM/PCS coding, reimbursement systems, and other related topics. The exam consists of 150 multiple choice questions and takes approximately three hours to complete.

In order to be eligible to take the CIC exam, applicants must have at least two years of experience as an inpatient coder or hold one of the following certifications: CPC-H, CPC-P, or CPC. Applicants must also submit proof of membership with AAPC prior to taking the exam.

The cost for taking the CIC exam is $399 USD for members and $499 USD for nonmembers. Additionally, there is a one-time application fee of $50 USD for all applicants regardless of membership status.

11. American Academy of Professional Coders’ Advanced Medical Coding Certification Program

The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) Advanced Medical Coding Certification Program is a comprehensive program designed to provide coders with the knowledge and skills necessary to accurately code complex medical procedures. The program consists of three levels: Certified Professional Coder (CPC), Certified Professional Coder-Hospital Outpatient (CPC-HOP), and Certified Professional Coder-Physician Office (CPC-P).

The program takes approximately 12 months to complete, depending on the individual's experience and the level of certification they are seeking. To get certified, individuals must first pass an exam that covers topics such as anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, coding systems, reimbursement methodologies, and compliance. After passing the exam, individuals must complete a minimum number of hours of continuing education in order to maintain their certification.

The cost for the AAPC Advanced Medical Coding Certification Program varies depending on the level of certification sought. The cost for the CPC certification is $399 USD; for CPC-HOP it is $499 USD; and for CPC-P it is $599 USD. In addition to these fees, there are also additional costs associated with taking the exam and completing continuing education requirements.

Do You Really Need a Inpatient Coder Certificate?

No, you do not need an inpatient coder certificate to become an inpatient coder. While having a certificate may be beneficial for certain employers and may demonstrate your knowledge of coding procedures, it is not a requirement for most employers. Instead, employers typically look for experience and aptitude when hiring inpatient coders.

In addition to on-the-job training, employers often prefer candidates who have taken college courses related to coding, such as medical coding or medical billing and coding. These courses provide a comprehensive understanding of the rules and regulations governing inpatient coding, as well as practical experience with the software programs used by coders. Taking these courses can also help candidates prepare for certification exams offered by organizations such as the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC).

In short, while having an inpatient coder certificate may be beneficial for some employers, it is not a requirement to become an inpatient coder. Employers tend to value experience and aptitude more than certificates when considering applicants for this position.

Related: Inpatient Coder Resume Examples

FAQs About Inpatient Coder Certifications

1. What is an inpatient coder certification?

Answer: Inpatient coder certification is a professional credential that demonstrates an individual’s proficiency in coding and billing for medical services provided to inpatients. It is typically earned by passing a national exam administered by a certifying organization such as the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC).

2. What are the requirements to obtain an inpatient coder certification?

Answer: Requirements vary depending on the certifying organization, but generally include a certain amount of coding experience and completion of educational courses related to medical coding. Additionally, applicants must pass the required national exam.

3. How long does it take to become certified as an inpatient coder?

Answer: The amount of time needed to become certified depends on the individual’s experience and background knowledge. Generally, it takes between six months and one year to complete all requirements for certification.

4. Is there any continuing education required to maintain my inpatient coder certification?

Answer: Yes, most certifying organizations require certified coders to complete a certain number of continuing education credits every two years in order to maintain their credentials. These credits can be earned through attending seminars or workshops, taking online courses, or reading approved literature related to medical coding.

5. Are there different levels of inpatient coder certification?

Answer: Yes, some organizations offer multiple levels of certification based on experience and proficiency with medical coding principles and practices. For example, AAPC offers Certified Professional Coder (CPC) credentials for entry-level coders as well as more advanced credentials like Certified Professional Coder-Hospital Outpatient (CPC-H) for experienced coders who specialize in outpatient settings.