Exploring The 8 Best AHIMA Certifications To Pursue In 2024

17 min read
Ahima Certification

In the world of healthcare, technology is the driving force that ensures everything runs smoothly. Behind the scenes, healthcare IT professionals play a vital role in managing patient data and optimizing healthcare systems. If you’re looking to step into this exciting field or enhance your existing career, AHIMA certifications can open doors to success. 

Whether you’re just starting your career or seeking new opportunities, AHIMA certifications can be your path to success in healthcare IT. In this article, we’ll explore the top 8 AHIMA Certifications you should consider in 2024. Let’s explore the top certifications and see how they can help you thrive in this dynamic field.

The Important Role Of AHIMA In Healthcare

The American Information Management Association (AHIMA) has emerged as a prominent organization in the medical billing and coding field. 

But what exactly is AHIMA, and why does it matter?

AHIMA is an organization dedicated to advancing health information management practices and standards. In simple terms, they’re the authority on how healthcare data is collected, managed, and protected. Their certifications validate your expertise in this critical domain.

So, why should you care about AHIMA certifications?

These certifications aren’t just credentials you can add to your resume; they’re the keys to career advancement in the healthcare IT field. AHIMA-certified professionals are highly regarded for their knowledge and skills, making them stand out in the job market.

Benefits of AHIMA Certification

Benefits of AHIMA Certifications

AHIMA certifications are keys to unlocking a successful career in IT, and their advantages are not to be underestimated. Any one of these certifications can be a game-changer for your resume. Here are the top benefits of obtaining one of these valuable certifications:

1.Validation of Expertise

The job market is highly competitive right now but having a valuable certification such as AHIMA supporting you can actually be a powerful differentiator. A staggering 86% of healthcare IT employers prioritize hiring candidates with IT certifications. This statistic highlights the critical role that certifications play in showcasing your expertise in managing healthcare data and information systems. 

2. Better Earning Potential

Your AHIMA cert isn’t just a mere credential but a ladder to career growth. Recent surveys have indicated that individuals with professional certifications are estimated to earn an average of 20% or more than their non-certified counterparts.  This substantial income difference shows that your association with AHIMA can help you negotiate a better salary package.

3. Rising Demand

As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), healthcare is considered to be the fastest-growing industry and is expected to add the most jobs in the next 10 years. So, we’ve established that this sector is booming. This means that the demand for certified healthcare IT professionals is on the rise as well. With an AHIMA credential in your hand, you will certainly be able to land a good job.

4. Improved Job Security

With the introduction of IT in the healthcare field, the sector has evolved significantly with updates and changes being the new norm. Therefore, staying current with the latest trends and regulations has become even more crucial to ensure job security. 

Getting certified with AHIMA involves ongoing education, ensuring that you remain at the forefront of healthcare IT knowledge. This commitment to continuous learning not only enhances your skills but also keeps you indispensable in your role.

5. Industry-Wide Recognition

AHIMA is a globally recognized authority in health information management. Earning this certification not only demonstrates your commitment to the highest standards of the profession but also garners respect from peers and employers alike. It’s a testament to your dedication to excellence in healthcare IT.

How To Choose The Right AHIMA Certification

Choosing the right certification is a pivotal decision on your healthcare IT journey. It will determine what your future looks like therefore it is important to make the decision by considering all the related factors. Here are the key factors you should take into account: 

1. Align with Your Career Goals

Your career aspirations should be the compass guiding your certification choice. Determine whether you’re interested in coding, data analysis, health information management, or leadership roles. Each certification caters to specific career paths, so choose one that aligns with your ambitions.

2. Evaluate Your Current Skills

Assess your current skills and knowledge. Some certifications have prerequisites or require prior experience in the field. Ensure you meet the eligibility criteria for the certification you’re considering in order to avoid unnecessary rules.

3. Research Certification Descriptions

Dive into the descriptions of the AHIMA certifications we’ve outlined earlier. Pay close attention to the topics covered by each certification. Evaluate how well these align with your interests and career goals. A comprehensive understanding of what each certification entails is crucial.

4. Seek Industry Insights

Connect with professionals who have AHIMA certifications, especially those in roles you aspire to. They can provide invaluable insights into the practical applicability of these certifications in the healthcare IT industry. Real-world perspectives can help you make a more informed choice.

5. Consider Your Learning Style

Reflect on your preferred learning style. Some certifications may require classroom-based courses, while others are more self-paced and can be pursued online. Choose a certification program that aligns with how you learn best to optimize your chances of success.

6. Budget for Certification Costs

Certifications come with associated costs, including exam fees, study materials, and potentially preparatory courses. Establish a budget that accounts for these expenses and ensures that you can comfortably invest in your professional development.

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

Best 8 AHIMA Certification

Best 8 AHIMA Certifications To Pursue In 2024

We have covered the importance and factors that one must consider before choosing a certification. But now it is time to actually explore the certifications in detail and assist you in making an informed decision.

1. Certified Coding Associate (CCA)

The Certified Coding Associate certification is designed for individuals who are looking to enter the world of medical coding across all settings, including hospitals and physician practices.  It covers fundamental coding principles and techniques, including CPT, ICD-10-CM, and HCPCS Level II coding.

Eligibility Criteria 

In order to take the CCA, candidates are required to have a high school diploma or equivalent to sit for the CCA examination. 

In addition, it is also recommended that they have one of the following: 

  • 6 months of coding experience directly applying codes; 
  • Completion of an AHIMA-approved coding program (PCAP Program); 
  • Completion of other coding training programs to include anatomy & physiology, medical terminology, basic ICD diagnostic/procedural, and basic CPT coding

Key Domains 

Here are the key domains tested in the CCA certification exam, along with their respective weightage: 

  • Domain 1 – Clinical Classification Systems (30-34%)
  • Domain 2 – Reimbursement Methodologies (21-25%)
  • Domain 3 – Health Records and Data Content (13-17%)
  • Domain 4 – Compliance (12-16%)
  • Domain 5 – Information Technologies (6-10%)
  • Domain 6 – Confidentiality & Privacy (6-10%)

2. Certified Coding Specialist (CCS)

Certified Coding Specialist certification is for those seeking a deeper understanding of medical coding, encompassing a wide range of specialties and settings. It involves inpatient and outpatient coding, as well as knowledge of coding software.

Eligibility Criteria 

 While not required, one of the following are recommended to sit for the CCS examination

  • Complete courses in all the following topics: anatomy & physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology, medical terminology, reimbursement methodology, intermediate/advanced ICD diagnostic coding, and procedural coding and medical services (CPT/HCPCS) plus one (1) year of coding experience directly applying codes; OR
  • Minimum of two (2) years of related coding experience directly applying codes; OR
  • Hold the CCA credential plus one (1) year of coding experience directly applying codes; OR
  • Hold a coding credential from another certifying organization plus one (1) year of coding experience directly applying codes; OR
  • Hold a CCS-P, RHIT, or RHIA credential

Key Domains 

Here are the key domains tested in the CCS certification exam, along with their respective weightage: 

  • Domain 1 – Coding Knowledge and Skills (39-41%) 
  • Domain 2 – Coding Documentation (18-22%)
  • Domain 3 – Provider Queries (9-11%) 
  • Domain 4 –Regulatory Compliance (18-22%) 
  • Domain 5 –Information Technologies (9-11%)

Read more: CPC vs CCS: Which Medical Coding Certification Runs The Show

3. Certified Coding Specialist – Physician-based (CCS-P)

Certified Coding Specialist – Physician-based certification is tailored for professionals specializing in physician-based coding, including outpatient services. It covers coding for physician practices, clinics, and other outpatient settings. 

Eligibility Criteria 

While not required, one of the following are recommended to sit for the CCS-P examination: 

  • Complete courses in all the following topics: anatomy & physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology, medical terminology, reimbursement methodology, intermediate/advanced ICD diagnostic coding, and procedural coding and medical services (CPT/HCPCS) plus one (1) year of coding experience directly applying codes; OR
  • Minimum of two (2) years of related coding experience directly applying codes; OR
  • Hold the CCA credential plus one (1) year of coding experience directly applying codes; OR
  • Hold a coding credential from another certifying organization plus one (1) year of coding experience directly applying codes; OR
  • Hold a CCS, RHIT, or RHIA credential

 Key Domains 

  • Domain 1 – Diagnosis Coding (24-26%)
  • Domain 2 – Procedure Coding (28-32%) 
  • Domain 3 – Research (6-10%) 
  • Domain 4 – Compliance (18-22%)
  • Domain 5 – Revenue Cycle (14-18%)

4. Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT)

Registered Health Information Technician certification focuses on health information management. Topics include health data management, coding, data analysis, and information governance.

Eligibility Criteria 

Candidates must meet one of the following eligibility requirements to sit for the RHIT examination:  

  • Successfully complete the academic requirements, at an associate degree level, of a Health Information Management (HIM) program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM); or 
  • Graduate from an HIM program approved by a foreign association with which AHIMA has a reciprocity agreement 

 Key Domains  

  • Domain 1 – Data Content, Structure, and Information Governance (19-25%)
  • Domain 2 – Access, Disclosure, Privacy, and Security (14-18%)
  • Domain 3 – Data Analytics and Use (12-18%)
  • Domain 4 – Revenue Cycle Management (19-25%)
  • Domain 5 – Compliance (13-17%)
  • Domain 6 – Leadership (9-12%)

5. Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA)

The Registered Health Information Administrator certification is a highly valuable and popular certification in the health IT space. It emphasizes leadership, strategic planning, and advanced health information management concepts. Equipping individuals with comprehensive knowledge of medical, administrative, ethical, and legal requirements standards for healthcare delivery and privacy of protected patient information, the RHIA certification acts as an essential link between all the different parties involved in the healthcare system. 

RHIAs are valuable in diverse settings in the healthcare industry, including hospitals, multispecialty clinics and physician practices, long-term care, mental health, and other ambulatory care settings. Additionally, they can also be quite useful in non-patient care settings such as managed care and insurance companies, software vendors, consulting services, government agencies, education, and pharmaceutical companies. 

Eligibility Criteria 

Before applying to take the RHIA exam, you must meet one of the following eligibility requirements:

  • Successfully complete the baccalaureate-level academic requirements of a Health Information Management (HIM) program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM); or
  • Successfully complete the Master’s-level academic requirements of an HIM program accredited by the CAHIIM; or
  • Successfully complete the academic requirements of an HIM Certificate of the Degree (Post-Baccalaureate) program approved by the CAHIIM; or
  • Graduate from an HIM program approved by a foreign association with which AHIMA has a reciprocity agreement

 Key Domains 

  • Domain 1: Data and Information Governance (17-20%)
  • Domain 2: Compliance with Access, Use, and Disclosure of Health Information (15-18%)
  • Domain 3: Data Analytics and Informatics (23-26%)
  • Domain 4: Revenue Cycle Management (20-23%)
  • Domain 5: Management and Leadership (23-26%)
Read more: FastTrack Your Healthcare IT Career: The Ultimate RHIA Certification Guide

6. Certified Documentation Integrity Practitioner (CDIP)

The Certified Documentation Integrity Practitioner certification focuses on improving healthcare documentation integrity and accuracy. It is vital for professionals involved in clinical documentation improvement (CDI). this certification validates expertise in clinical documentation within patient health records. CDIP holders are actually considered quite valuable and important in the broader health information community. 

Eligibility Criteria 

The prerequisites for this certification include a minimum of an associate’s degree and relevant work experience. Candidates must meet one of the following eligibility requirements to sit for the CDIP examination: 

  • Hold an associate’s degree or higher; or
  • Hold a CCS, CCS-P, RHIT, or RHIA credential

 Key Domains 

  • Domain 1 – Clinical Coding Practice (15-18%)
  • Domain 2 – Education and Leadership Development (21-26%)
  • Domain 3 – Record Review & Document Clarification (27-33%)
  • Domain 4 – CDI Metrics & Statistics (8-11%)
  • Domain 5 – Compliance (18-23%)

7. Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA)

The Certified Health Data Analyst certification demonstrates a candidate’s expertise in health data analysis, equipping them with the necessary knowledge to acquire, manage, analyze, interpret, and transform data into accurate, consistent, and timely information while balancing the strategic vision and goal with day-to-day details.  

Professionals with the CHDA certification are able to also demonstrate broad organizational knowledge as well as the ability to communicate with different stakeholders. 

Eligibility Criteria 

Candidates must meet one of the following eligibility requirements to sit for the CHDA examination: 

  • Hold an RHIT or RHIA credential; or 
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher degree from an accredited college or university 

 Key Domains 

  • Domain 1 – Foundational Knowledge of Analytics in Healthcare (14-16%)
  • Domain 2 – Business Needs Assessment (11-15%)
  • Domain 3 – Data Acquisition (14-18%)
  • Domain 4 – Data Analysis (22-25%)
  • Domain 5 – Data Interpretation and Reporting (18-22%)
  • Domain 6 – Data Governance (8-10%)

Learn more about the RHIA and RHIT certification here: RHIA vs RHIT.

8. Certified Health Data Analyst (CHPS)

The Certified Health Data Analyst certification validates an individual’s proficiency in designing, implementing, and administering privacy and security protection programs in all different types of healthcare organizations. In addition, it equips you with advanced knowledge concerning the privacy and security dimensions of HIM.

Eligibility Criteria 

Candidates must meet one of the following eligibility requirements to sit for the CHPS examination:

  • High School or General Education Degree (GED) and a minimum of six (6) years of experience in healthcare privacy or security; or
  • Associate degree in a relevant field (e.g., Health Information Management, Health Informatics, or Information Technology, etc.) and a minimum of four (4) years of experience in healthcare privacy or security; or
  • CCA or CCS or CCS-P or RHIT and a minimum of four (4) years of experience in healthcare privacy or security; or
  • Baccalaureate degree in a relevant field (e.g., Health Information Management, Health Informatics, or Information Technology, etc.) and a minimum of two (2) years of experience in healthcare privacy or security; or
  • RHIA and a minimum of two (2) years of experience in healthcare privacy or security; or
  • Master’s Degree or higher (e.g., JD, MD, or PhD) in a relevant field (e.g., Health Information Management, Health Informatics, or Information Technology, etc.) and a minimum of one (1) year of experience in healthcare privacy or security

  Key Domains 

  • Domain 1 – Ethical, Legal, and Regulatory Issues/ Environmental Assessment (10-18%)
  • Domain 2 – Privacy, and Security Program Management and Administration (30-40%)
  • Domain 3 –  Information Technology/Physical and Technical Safeguards (24-35%)
  • Domain 4 – Investigation, Compliance, and Enforcement (19-24%)

Insight Into Exam Structure For AHIMA Certifications

In order to excel in your chosen AHIMA certification, you will have to pass the respective exam and in order to do so, it is crucial to have a good understanding of the exam structure. To help you out, we have summarized the essential exam details for each AHIMA certification in the table below:

CCA CCS CCS-P RHIT RHIA CDIP CHDA CHPS
Exam Format MCQ,MSQ MCQ,MSQ MCQ,MSQ MCQ,MSQ MCQ,MSQ MCQ,MSQ MCQ,MSQ MCQ,MSQ
Exam Duration 2 hr 4 hr 4 hr 3.5 hr 3.5 hr 3 hr 3.5 hr 3.5 hr
No. Of Questions 105 115- 140 97-121 150 150 140 130-160 150
Passing Score 300 300 300 300 300 300 300 300
Cost of AHIMA Certification

Cost Of AHIMA Certifications

The initial investment required (cost) is an important discussion when it comes to choosing which certification to pursue. Some certification exams might cost more than others, and will especially vary depending on if you’re an AHIMA member or not. Here are the costs for the certifications:

Exam Code Exam Name Member Cost Non-Member Cost
CCA Certified Coding Associate $199 $299
CCS Certified Coding Specialist $299 $399
CCS-P Certified Coding Specialist - Physician Based $299 $399
RHIT Registered Health Information Technician $229 $299
RHIA Registered Health Information Administrator $229 $299
CDIP Certified Documentation Integrity Practitioner $259 $329
CHDA Certified Health Data Analyst $259 $329
CHPS Certified Health Privacy Security $259 $329

Maintaining And Renewing Your AHIMA Certifications

Earning an AHIMA certification is a significant achievement, but it’s important to note that certifications typically have expiration dates. In order to ensure that your certification remains current and valuable, you’ll need to maintain and review it. Here is what you need to know about maintaining your AHIMA certification:

Understanding Certification Maintainance Requirements

AHIMA certifications require ongoing maintenance to stay relevant. Familiarize yourself with the specific requirements for your certification, including continuing education units (CEUs) and renewal deadlines.

Recertification Process

The table below shows the CEU requirements for each respective credential.

Certification CEUs Required
Certified Coding Associate (CCA) 20 CEUs
Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) 20 CEUs
Certified Coding Specialist—Physician-based (CCS-P) 20 CEUs
Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) 30 CEUs
Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) 20 CEUs
Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA) 30 CEUs
Certified in Healthcare Privacy and Security (CHPS) 30 CEUs
Certified Documentation Improvement Practitioner (CDIP) 30 CEUs

The CEU earning criteria, however, vary if you hold more than one AHIMA certification. If this is the case, you must earn 10 additional additional CEUs per every credential within your 2-year recertification period. But only up to a total of 50 CEUs

It is important to note that these CEUs should not be duplicated or used for more than one credential. For further clarity, here are a few examples of potential credential combos and their required number of CEUs:

Credential Required Number Of CEUs
CCS and CCS-P (20 + 10) 30
CHPS with RHIT (30 + 10) 40
RHIA with CHDA (30 + 10) 40
RHIA with CDIP (30 + 10) 40
RHIA with CCS and CCS-P (30 + 10 + 10) 50
Certified Health Data AnalysCHDA with CCS, CHPS, and CDIP (30 + 10 + 10) 50
RHIA with CCS, CCS-P, CHDA, and CDIP (30 + 10 + 10) 50

For more details on the recertification process, visit the official link. 

Participate in Continuing Education

To maintain your certification, you’ll need to accumulate a certain number of CEUs through continuing education activities. These activities can include attending conferences, taking courses, and staying informed about industry developments.

Choose Relevant CEU Opportunities

Select CEU opportunities that align with your certification and career goals. AHIMA offers a variety of approved programs and resources to help you meet your CEU requirements.

Keep Records of Your CEUs

Maintain thorough records of your CEU activities, including certificates of completion and other documentation. This documentation will be important when it’s time to renew your certification.

Renew Your Certification Before the Deadline

AHIMA certifications typically have renewal cycles that can range from two to three years. Be proactive and renew your certification well before the expiration date to avoid any lapses.

Stay Informed About Changes

Stay updated on any changes to your certification requirements or renewal process. AHIMA periodically reviews and updates its certification policies, so it’s important to stay informed.

Leverage AHIMA Resources

AHIMA provides a range of resources to assist you in maintaining and renewing your certification. These resources include guidance documents, webinars, and access to the AHIMA Learning Center.

Plan Your Continuing Education

Develop a strategic plan for earning your required CEUs over the course of your certification cycle. This will help you manage your educational activities efficiently.

To Conclude

AHIMA Certifications not only validate your expertise but also offer heightened chances of success in this dynamic field. As you have learned, these certifications cover a broad spectrum of specialties, ensuring that there’s one perfectly suited to your career aspirations. 

Remember that AHIMA certifications are not just about acquiring knowledge; they’re about transforming your career. They elevate your earning potential, increase your job prospects, and position you as a valuable asset to employers seeking skilled healthcare IT professionals. So whether you’re just starting your career, seeking advancement, or exploring new horizons in the healthcare IT sector, any of these certifications can be a great tool to have in your arsenal. Make sure to select one that aligns best with you needs and future prospects.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

AHIMA certifications are specialized credentials in healthcare information management. They are vital for professionals in healthcare IT as they validate expertise and enhance career prospects.

The Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) certification is often in high demand, covering a wide range of specialties and settings in medical coding.

Nurses often find the Certified Coding Specialist-Physician-based (CCS-P) certification beneficial, as it specializes in physician-based coding, including outpatient services.

AHIMA offers 8 different credentials for individuals looking to thrive in the healthcare IT sector. All of these certifications are well renowned and help validate your knowledge and skills in the respective field. In turn, they also lead to better job opportunities as well as improved earning potential which makes them quite worthy of pursuing.

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