13 Best and Gold Standard Medical Coding Certification In Healthcare Industry

17 min read

Technology is everywhere, whether it is in the engineering field or the medical, IT has rooted its plant almost everywhere. Medical coding and billing are currently in demand and one of the growing career fields. The demand for medical coders in the healthcare industry is also prevailing as the dynamic landscape of the healthcare sector requires precision and accuracy in medical coding. Nowadays, medical facilities and other companies are focused on more resilient and robust systems and rely on coded records for billing, compliance, patient records, and care. 

The medical coder needs certification to attain a widespread skillset and to meet the demands of the ever-changing healthcare sector. However, with numerous certification options available, candidates often find themselves confused, wondering which certification to take. In this article, we will shed light on some of the industry-recognized and sought-after medical coding certifications that pave the way for a rewarding career in the healthcare industry.  

13 Best Industry-Recognized Medical Coding Certification

We have listed down 13 top medical coding certifications that are considered the best and most acquired ones in this domain. Before we get into the key points that you should consider choosing for one’s career, first explore the overview of the certifications and their requirements.

1. Certified Coding and Billing Specialist – CBCS

The certification demonstrates your abilities as a Certified Coding and Billing specialist who primarily focuses on converting a medical procedure, diagnosis, or symptoms into a specific code to submit a claim for repayment and prevent fraud by auditing billing procedures. 

Required Prerequisites: To earn this certification, you need to have a high school diploma or equivalent, along with medical billing and coding training or education program within the last five years or one year of supervised work experience within the last three years.

Best Suited for: The CBcs certification is ideal for entry-level medical coding and billing specialists. 

Offered by: National Healthcareer Association – NHA

2. Certified Coding Specialist – CSS

The Certified Coding Specialist credential validates your tested skills in data quality and accuracy as well as the mastery of coding expertise. The certification also demonstrates your expertise in classifying medical data from patient records in hospitals. The coding specialist creates coded data used by hospitals and medical providers to get reimbursement from insurance companies or government programs. The CSS professionals are well acquainted with medical terminologies, diseases, and pharmacological concepts. 

Required Prerequisites: You should stand on one of the following eligibility requirements to sit on the certification exam:

  • 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) along with 1 year of coding experience directly applying codes; OR
  • Minimum of two years of related coding experience directly applying codes; OR
  • Have the CCS credential plus one year of coding experience directly applying codes; OR
  • Hold a coding credential from another certifying organization along with a year of coding experience directly applying codes; OR
  • Hold a CCS-P, RHIT, or RHIA credential

Best Suited for: The credential is best suited for intermediate-level medical coding specialists.

Offered by: American Health Information Manager Association – AHIMA

3. Certified Coding Associate – CCA

The Certified Coding Associate certification verifies the candidate’s coding proficiency across all settings, including hospitals and physician practices. The certification is considered a nationally recognized standard of achievement in the health information management field. It is proof of commitment to a coding professional as well as a benchmark in this field. 

Required Prerequisites: To attain this certification, you have to fulfill at least one of the following criteria: 

  • 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 and physiology, medical terminology, basic ICD diagnostic/procedural, and basic CPT coding. 

Best Suited for: The certification is best fit for entry-level candidates who want to pursue a medical coding career. 

Offered by: American Health Information Manager Association – AHIMA

4. Certified Professional Coder – CPC

The Certified Professional Coder certification showcases the expertise required to perform the job of a professional coder who specializes in coding for services performed by physicians and non-physician providers and to carry out all the responsibilities effectively. The certification addresses multiple facets of the medical coding profession, including procedure codes for coding and billing for medical claims in a physician’s office. 

Required Prerequisites: The certification demands you to have high-level knowledge of medical terminologies, anatomy, and pathophysiology. The certification also tests your understanding of the proper application of CPT procedure codes, HCPCS Level II procedure and supply codes, and ICD-10-CM diagnosis codes. 

Best Suited for: The certification is intended for professional-level medical coders with best practices and knowledge.  

Offered by: American Academy of Professional Coders – AAPC

5. Certified Inpatient Coder – CIC

The Certified Inpatient Coder – CIC certification is the only certification that offers specialization in hospital and facility inpatient coding. The certification demonstrates proficiency in gathering information from the medical record for ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS coding. It also validates high-level knowledge of Medicare Severity Diagnosis Related Groups (MS-DRGs) and the Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS). The major difference between inpatient coding from physician-based coding is that it focuses on services provided by the facility, rather than on services provided by the physician. 

Required Prerequisites: The CIC examination consists of questions regarding the correct application of ICD-10-PCS procedure codes and ICD-10-CM diagnosis codes used for coding and billing inpatient facility/hospital services to insurance companies. So, you must know all the procedure and diagnosis codes. 

Best Suited for: The certification is best suited for professionals who want expertise in inpatient coding.

Offered by: American Academy of Professional Coders – AAPC

6. Registered Health Information Technician – RHIT

Most of the RHITs work in hospitals but they can also be found in office-based physician practices, nursing homes, home health agencies, mental health facilities, and public health agencies. The major responsibility of RHIT in any organization is that it uses patient data or health information, such as pharmaceutical companies, law firms, insurance companies, and health product vendors. They frequently focus on coding diagnoses and procedures in patient records for reimbursement and research. Other roles for RHITs may include cancer registrar, trauma registrar, stroke registrar, and so on — compiling and maintaining patient data.

Required Prerequisites: To apply for the RHIT certification exam, you must have one of the following eligibility requirement

  • 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 

Best Suited For: The certification is best suited for anyone who wants to work in an office-based physician setting. 

Offered by: American Health Information Manager Association – AHIMA

7. Certified Medical Coder – CMC

The Certified Medical Coder is the trending certification for medical coding professionals who work with outpatient claims. The certification training program aids candidates with advanced knowledge of the reimbursement cycle, from patient encounter to claim. These abilities are required for proper claim submission and payment for services rendered.

Required Prerequisites: All candidates are encouraged to complete PMI’s free online Medical Coding Assessment in advance of the course to test their base knowledge and identify areas of deficiency where training may be beneficial. Candidates with little or no experience should take the two prerequisite courses that come with CMC training: Medical Terminology for Coders and Principles of Coding.

Best Suited for: This certification is intended for experienced coders with one year of work experience in outpatient medical coding. 

Offered by: Practice Management Institute- PMI 

8. Certified Outpatient Coder – COC

The Certified Outpatient Coder credential demonstrates your proficiency in outpatient hospital coding, including working knowledge of ambulatory payment classifications (APCs), payment status indicators, and Medicare severity diagnosis-related groups (MS-DRGs). The COC professionals can work in a variety of settings such as hospital emergency departments, outpatient hospital clinics, outpatient therapy departments, outpatient cancer centers, radiology departments, and ambulatory surgery centers. 

Required Prerequisites: A strong understanding of medical terminology, anatomy, and pathophysiology, as well as CPT procedure codes, HCPCS Level II procedure and supply codes, and ICD-10-CM diagnosis codes.

Best-Suited For: The certification is the best fit for professionals who want to work in an outpatient hospital setting over private practices. 

Offered by: American Academy of Professional Coders – AAPC

9. Certified Professional Medical Auditor – CPMA

The Certified Professional Medical Auditor certification demonstrates your proven knowledge and expertise in coding and documentation guidelines to improve the revenue cycle of all healthcare practices. The CPMAs understand when and where an organization is vulnerable to noncompliance. They also assist providers in avoiding liability and obtaining proper reimbursement for their patient care.

Required Prerequisites: Keep in mind that the CPMA certification exam is a difficult, high-level examination that is not intended for people who lack training or experience. Examinees should have CPMA training and/or experience auditing physician services, as well as knowledge of various types of audits, such as evaluation and management (E/M).

Best Suited For: This certification is designed for professional medical auditors with years of experience and proven knowledge. 

Offered by: American Academy of Professional Coders – AAPC

10. Registered Health Information Administrator- RHIA

The aspirants with RHIA certification have a comprehensive knowledge of medical, administrative, ethical, and legal requirements and standards for healthcare delivery and privacy of protected patient information. Simply put, they act as a bridge between care providers, payers, and patients. 

RHIAs work in a variety of healthcare settings, such as hospitals, multispecialty clinics and physician practices, long-term care, mental health, and other ambulatory care settings.

Required Prerequisites: You must meet one of the following eligibility requirements before applying to take the RHIA exam:

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

Best-Suited For: Anyone who wants to start a career in health care management and work multi-dimensionally. 

Offered by: American Health Information Manager Association – AHIMA

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

The Certified Coding Specialist – Physician-based certification validates expert-level proficiency in the coding of health services beyond the hospital setting. The certification assesses a professional’s abilities to perform coding in physician offices, group practices, multi-specialty clinics, or specialty centers.

Required Prerequisites: While not required, it is recommended that you take one of the following courses before sitting for the CCS-P exam: 

  • Complete courses in anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology, medical terminology, reimbursement methodology, intermediate/advanced ICD diagnostic coding, and procedural coding and medical services (CPT/HCPCS), as well as one year of direct coding experience; OR
  • A minimum of two years of directly applying codes in a related field; OR
  • Hold the CCA credential plus one  year of direct coding experience; OR
  • Hold a coding credential from another certifying organization plus one year of direct coding experience; OR
  • Have a CCS, RHIT, or RHIA certification.

Best Suited For: Candidate who wants to become a coding specialist in a physician-based setting. 

Offered by: American Health Information Manager Association – AHIMA

12. Certified Professional Biller - CPM

The Certified Professional Biller (CBP) certification validates your skills in maintaining and keeping all aspects of the revenue cycle, particularly patient and payer billing and collections. The certification also proves that the individual possesses proven knowledge of how to submit claims complaints with government regulation and private payer policies. This certification is considered vital to the financial success of the professional healthcare services claims process. 

Required Prerequisites: The certification demands high-level knowledge of medical terminology, and pathophysiology, along with an understanding of the proper application of payer policies; compliance rules; healthcare regulations; CPT procedure codes, HCPCS Level II procedure and supply codes, and ICD-10-CM diagnosis codes.

Best-Suited For: The certification is intended for individuals who want to earn advanced skills in managing revenue cycles and build a strong career as a professional biller. 

Offered by: American Academy of Professional Coders – AAPC

13. Certified Risk Adjustment Coder – CRC

The Certified Risk Adjustment Coder certification established expertise in the complexity of diseases associated with chronic conditions and comorbidities, along with mastery of ICD-10-CM guidelines and risk adjustment guidelines. The Certified Risk Adjustment Coders ensure that they have expertise in establishing accurate risk scores for patients, that give optimal patient care and ethical payer reimbursement for providers and health plans. 

Required Prerequisites: Substantial knowledge of medical terminology, anatomy, and pathophysiology, as well as an understanding of the proper application of ICD-10-CM diagnosis codes used for risk adjustment coding. 

Best Suited for: The CRC certification is ideal for billing and coding personnel with years of experience. 

Offered by: American Academy of Professional Coders – AAPC

Follow up: 9 Best IT Audit Certifications

Which Medical Coding Certification You Should Opt for?

Generally, there isn’t one certification that is considered the “best” and no one-size-fits-all answer to which is the best certification to opt for. Each medical coding certification has its benefits and perks. Choosing a certification predominantly depends on your interest and that best fits your goals. Moreover, choose the certification that you’re qualified to take. However, if you’re still confused, the following key points will help you to make an informed decision.

You’re Qualified to Take the Certification

If you’re dipping your toes to get the medical coding, ensure that you’re qualified to take this certification. You are meeting the eligibility requirements, education, and desired experience. Before pursuing a certification, consider the three E’s:

  • Education: Every certification demands prior education. Most of the above medical coding certifications prefer that you complete the education in the medical coding and billing domain and have a college degree from an accredited university, such as an associate degree. So, first, check that you have the required education. 
  • Experience: Medical coding is a tough field. Many certifications require you to have prior working experience in the medical and coding field to get along with the latest advancements and terminologies. The experience showcases that you understand the basics of this field and its requirements. 
  • Exam: To get any certification, you have to pass the required exam. Make sure that you have enough knowledge and information to pass the exam. 

It is the Best Fit for Your Career

Before considering taking a certification, thoroughly study the certification goals and content it covers to ensure that it falls in your area of interest and is the best fit for your career. Don’t follow the rat race, select the medical coding certification that helps you accomplish your career goals. 

It falls In Your Budget

Certification cost is not the matter here but for some reasons, it can be. Apparently, it seems that you have to pay only the exam cost but it is not true there are so many hidden costs such as training costs, learning resources costs, and retake fees. Some certification demand training as a requisite so you can’t run away from that cost. So, before obtaining any certification ensure that it is budget-friendly and falls in your budget. Don’t go for the most expensive one unless there is no other option left behind. We have gathered and listed down all certification exam costs. Take a look!

Medical Coding Certifications Exam Cost
Certified Coding and Billing Specialist – CBCS $125
Certified Coding Specialist - CCS Non-members: $399; Members: $299
Certified Coding Associate - CCA Non-members: $299; Members: $199
Certified Professional Coder – CPC $399
Certified Inpatient Coder – CIC $399
Registered Health Information Technician – RHIT Non-members: $299; Members: $229
Certified Medical Coder – CMC $1,250 (Including exam material and prep resources)
Certified Outpatient Coder – COC $399
Certified Professional Medical Auditor – CPMA $399
Registered Health Information Administrator - RHIA Non-members: $299; Members: $229
Certified Coding Specialist – Physician-based (CCS-P) Non-members: $399; Members: $299
Certified Professional Biller - CPM $399
Certified Risk Adjustment Coder – CRC $399

Moreover, some vendors also provide training for their respective certification. For instance, AAPC provides training for CPB certification that includes learning resources and the CPB exam. The price starts from $1,499. The need to appear in the training depends on your learning requirements. So, check the certification training cost first and if you feel like appearing in it, then give it a go.

Follow up: Most Popular IT Certifications 

It Expands Your Networking and Job Opportunities

The certification helps you to connect with other professionals who have the same expertise. Go for certification you’re sure brings the best opportunities on the table and also has the potential to help you grow your network. The best medical coding certification may serve you with the opportunity to link with aspiring coding specialists who already have extensive experience.

How Much Do You Earn by Having the Best Medical Coding Certification from the List?

Certification does elevate the earning potential significantly. Depending on the certification, those extra letters on your resume could mean a $5,000 or more difference in your paycheck. Are you not believing? Buckle up, the below statistic will make you believe and be surprised. 

Job Outlooks: According to BLS, medical records and health information employment is expected to grow by 7% from 2021 – 2031. As of 2021, there were 186,400 of these professional employees and the BLS expects to increase to 12,300 positions by 20231. 

Salaries: Medical coding certification aids you in salary rise but several reasons also account for salary hikes including certifications, experience, job titles, industry, and geographical location. AAPC dictated that medical billers and coders earned an average annual salary of around $56,000 which is 17% more than the non-certified ones.

Salary by Type of Certifications

Which certification you’re acquiring is one of the prominent factors in elevating salary. The below list consists of the salary medical coding certification.

Medical Coding Certifications Salary Range
Certified Coding and Billing Specialist – CBCS $31k – $57K
Certified Coding Specialist - CCS $34k - $79k
Certified Coding Associate - CCA $31k - $53k
Certified Professional Coder – CPC $31k - $66k
Certified Inpatient Coder – CIC $52k - $121k
Registered Health Information Technician – RHIT $33k - $78k
Certified Medical Coder – CMC $29k - $61k
Certified Outpatient Coder – COC $69k - $104k
Certified Professional Medical Auditor – CPMA $43k - $96k
Registered Health Information Administrator - RHIA $37k - $93k
Certified Coding Specialist – Physician-based (CCS-P) $43k - $69k
Certified Professional Biller - CPM $35k - $54,076
Certified Risk Adjustment Coder – CRC $41k - $79k
medical coding certifications salaries

Salary by Location

Another factor that determines your salary is location. Some geographical areas such as West Coast and Northeast, tend to pay higher salaries. According to Indeed, the following locations had the following average salaries: 

  • Alaska: $58,007
  • California; $61,308
  • Florida: $50,615
  • Hawaii: $56,563
  • Minnesota: $60,679
  • New York: $57,954
  • Ohio: $51,773
  • Washington: $56,031

Salary by Different Industries

Which industry you’re working in also determines how much salary you going to earn. Some sample industries and average salaries are as follows:

  • General hospitals – $51,120
  • Outpatient care centers – $47,730
  • Physicians’ offices – $40,540
  • Insurance carriers – $64,170
  • Office administrative services – $49,360

Read more: IT Certifications that pay well in 2024

Bottom Line

Launching a lucrative career in a tough field like medical coding and billing is difficult as it requires in-depth knowledge and best practices. Hopefully, you’re now convinced certification brings such practices and other advantages. The best medical coding certification listed above will pave your way to getting paying jobs, expanding networks, and developing the best services in health care and more of the above getting accomplish your career goals. So, grab out the top-notch certification and see you becoming a better version of yourself. 

Frequently Asked Questions

The certifications listed above to your repertoire are all lucrative and make you earn well. However, earning potential shouldn’t be your main focus here, take the certification that brings the best out of you and helps you in career advancement. 

Depends. There is no-size-fits-all answer to this question. There are several ways through which you can prepare for the medical coding certification. Generally, every certification provider has a training program and material that is best curated to enhance the learning ability and prepare according to the certification exam. Some candidates prefer enrolling in the training program, and some also prefer self-paced. For self-paced you can obtain resources from official websites such as study guides, textbooks, and practice tests. In addition, Dumpsgate provides exam dumps for almost all medical coding certifications and is also a pocket-friendly and effective way of preparing for the exam.

If you’re a novice or just starting your career in the medical coding or healthcare industry, you should go for associate-level or entry-level certification. AAPC’s Certified Professional Coder certification or AHIMA Certified Coding Associate is the best one to start with. Moreover, you can earn many more online certifications listed above, depending on your qualifications.

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