AAPC or AHIMA: Which One is Worth Taking in 2024?

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If you’re in or considering a career in Health Information management, you must know it is difficult to streamline your career with the nagging competition in health care. Moreover, with so many careers and certifications available in health care, it is also difficult to narrow down choices. One choice might be to become a medical coder. If so, you must hear about two top organizations: AAPC (American Academy of Professional Coders) and AHIMA (American Health Information Management Association) that are providing certification to uplift your career in health care.  

In this blog, we will discover the difference between AAPC and AHIMA, including an overview of their respective histories, certification available, cost, and worth in 2024. If you’re confused about which one to attain, read this blog and make a decision.

AAPC Vs. AHIMA: An Overview

Both AAPC and AHIMA are considered highly valuable organizations and help individuals in medical coding. The American Academy of Professional Coders – AAPC was established in 1988 to provide continued education and certification for coder individuals working in medical settings. It is one of the largest credentialing bodies for coders, billers, auditors, practice managers, documentation specialists, compliance officers, and revenue cycle managers.

On the other hand, the American Health Information Manager Association – AHIMA was inaugurated in 1928. The organization provides education and certification in the health information sector. Moreover, this non-profit association represents health information professionals who work with health data for more than one billion patient visits each year. Now let’s move toward the next section where we will discuss the major differences that will help you to choose which is best for you.

Major Difference Between AAPC and AHIMA

We have listed the major differences between AAPC and AHIMA. Consider the differences and choose the one that help you advance your career goals.

Ethics of Medical Coding and Basic Purpose

There are several notable differences but the most basic one that differentiates them is the ethics of medical coding. The AAPC coding is generally associated with outpatient services while the AHIMA coding is generally associated with inpatient facilities.

Available Certification

Both vendors provide several certifications in the healthcare domain, catering to different requirements and skill sets. The most popular certifications for medical coders provided by AAPC and AHIMA are given below:

AAPC Certifications AHIMA Certifications
Certified Professional Coder (CPC) Certified Coding Specialist – CCS
Certified Outpatient Coding (COC) Certified Coding Specialist – Physician (CCS-P)
Certified Inpatient Coder (CIC) Certified Health Data Analyst – CHDA
Certified Risk Adjustment Coder (CRC) Registered Health Information Administrator- (RHIC)

While choosing any above certification, read the details thoroughly to make sure it aligns with your career goals.

Prerequisites for Obtaining the Certifications

AAPC Certifications AHIMA Certifications
To get the AAPC certification, you must have two years of experience in medical coding with an associate degree and have to pass the required exam. Check out the complete eligibility criteria for specific certification on the AAPC official website. Along with an associate degree, the basic requirements include 2 years of medical coding experience and passing the required exam. Every certification has different requirements. Check out the AHIMA official website.
Cost of Certifications

The cost of certification varies between two vendors. Generally, AAPC certifications are considered less expensive than AHIMA certifications.

AAPC Certifications AHIMA Certifications
The cost of the AAPC exam are same for all certifications i.e. $399. The cost of training is different for each certification. AHIMA exam costs are different for every certification and also for members and non-members.
  • Members: CCS, CCS-P, CHDA, and RHIA cost $299, $299, $259, and $229 respectively.
  • Non-Members: The exam costs for non-members are $399, $399, $299, and $329.
  • Validity, Recertification, and Continuing Education

    Both AAPC and AHIMA certifications require certified professionals to renew their credentials with continuing education and a recertification process.

    AAPC Certifications AHIMA Certifications
    To recertify your AAPC credential, you have to get 36 Continuing Education Units (CEUs), every two years. The validity period of each certification is 2 years from the date you have earned the certification. AHIMA requires 20 CEUs for most of the certifications every two years. These certifications are also valid for two years from the date of getting the certification.

    Career Prospects and Salary Figures

    Without any doubt, both AAPC and AHIMA certifications are notable in the medical coding field and help you step into the world of opportunities. With such certification, your career will look more lucrative and beneficial, placing you in top-notch job roles. Interestingly, both targeted healthcare units but job titles might differ. The job roles you get are:

    AAPC Job Titles Average Salary
    Certified Professional Coder $50,008
    Certified Medical Billing/Coding Specialist $45,778
    Medical Coder $51,858
    Coding Manager $78,572
    Medical Auditor $55,866
    Director of Revenue Cycle Management $95,785
    Medical Billing Supervisor $61,531
    Medical Coding Specialist $56,500
    Compliance Officer $130,000
    Health Information Managing (HIM) Director $72,000
    AHIMA Job Titles Average Salary
    Health Information Managing (HIM) Director $81,654
    Health Information Managing (HIM) Manager $63,151
    Medical Billing Manager $45,000
    Registered Health Information Administrator $53,819
    Certified Coding Specialist $40,000
    Medical Coder $58,000
    Consulting Manager $152,250
    Medical Records / Health Information Technician $72,953
    Healthcare Administrator $65,000
    Regulatory Compliance Manager $84,742

    AAPC or AHIMA: Which Is Worth Taking in 2024?

    It is crucial to place a verdict on one specific certification as both are reputable in the field of medical coding or health information. As explained earlier, the certification you want to pursue depends on your career choice and goals. The demand for medical coders continues to rise and getting certified by any of these organizations assists you in better outcomes. However, the following points aid you in making an informed decision.

    1. Align with your Career Goals

    Choose a certification that aligns with your career goals and best matches your interests. Though both certifications target health care, AAPC coding certifications are best for outpatient services while AHIMA is best for in-patient facilities.

    2. Medical Specialty

    If you want to advance your career in coding for a particular medical specialty, for instance, cardiology, then you’ll go toward AAPC specialty certification. No such or equivalent certifications are available through AHIMA.

    3. Based on the Job Title

    Whether you’re taking the AAPC or AHIMA certification, ensure that it will carry forward your medical career and the job title you’re at. AAPC has several certifications for auditing and practice management in a physician’s office. AHIMA’s certifications are probably suited for large organizations and hospitals. So, get a certification based on your current job title and the environment you want to work in.

    Ultimately, it is difficult to dictate which is worth taking in 2024 as both AAPC and AHIMA are globally recognized certifications and most of the medical coders have certification from both vendors. Earning any of the above certifications will make your way to a demanding and lucrative career.

    Read more: Benefits of getting IT Certifications

    Frequently Asked Questions

    AAPC and AHIMA certifications are considered the best and in demand in the field of medical coding and health information management. Our blog on the best medical coding certifications will give you a complete overview of the best medical coding certifications. Moreover, if you want to decide between AAPC or AHIMA certification, read above.

    AAPC certifications are valid globally and in the United States.  It has one of the most recognized certifications and by having one of its certifications, you will have an essential skillset for working in U.S. healthcare.

    Both certifications have their benefits. Choosing any of them should be based on your career goals, previous experience, and current job title. The CCS certification is a medical coding certification from AHIMA, that demonstrates your diagnostic coding expertise and data quality standards, whereas, the CPC certification is offered by AAPC and showcases your proficiency and training experience in the healthcare industry. Though both are globally recognized, there are differences in eligibility requirements, prerequisites, and work environment. Read out the difference before and then opt for a particular certification.



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