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How to Become a Certified Coding Specialist

Majors Overview December 14, 2012

Certified coding specialists are given training in medical coding and billing. Insurance companies and healthcare facilities employ them to ensure that patient’s medical procedures are billed and reimbursed. Usually, those employed as certified coding specialists have a two-year degree in a discipline such as coding and billing, or other similar majors. In this article, we will discuss how students can become a Certified Coding Specialist.

Stage One: Completion of High School

In order to obtain certification to work as a coding specialist, students must have a high school diploma, GED, or other equivalent qualification. Coursework in high school should include algebra, basic accounting, physiology and anatomy. Basic computer knowledge including familiarity with computer software such as databases and spreadsheets will be an asset for an individual aspiring to be a coding specialist.

Stage Two: College Courses

While a college course is not among the pre-requisite requirements for a potential coding specialist, many recruiters seek a college education such as a bachelor or associate degree in medical coding and billing, even a certificate course may suffice in some cases. A college education will improve a certified coding specialist chances in landing a job. By completing a degree, certificate program or other college courses, a potential coding specialist can obtain valuable knowledge about commonly used coding systems such as ICD-9 and CPT, pathophysiology, reimbursement methods, and medical terminology; they can learn details relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Stage Three: On the Job Experience

Work experience is not a strict pre-requisite to get a job as a coding specialist, but two to three years of on the job experience will help boost your chances of getting employed. Medical coders are likely to become employed by insurance companies, office of physician, clinics and hospitals. Those who are in the middle of a degree course could seek some job experience by enrolling in an internship program.

Stage Four: Taking an Examination

The certification exam is overseen by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). The Certified Coding Specialist-Physician-based (CCS-P) and the Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) are among the various certification designations offered by the AHIMA. The CCS is particularly relevant for coding professionals based in hospitals.

In either test, there are two parts, and the content comprises patient-case scenarios related to medical coding, separately from multiple-choice questions. Questions on CPT and ICD-9 coding systems pre-dominate in both the CCS-P and the CCS exams. HSCPCS coding is emphasized in the CCS-P exam.

Stage Five: Staying Current

A potential coding specialist can expect a career boost in the medical information field, if they complete a bachelor program, graduate program, or a specialized certification program (source: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (

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