With medical coding things are no different. It takes a bit of time to become a medical coder and then it takes a lot of work to jumpstart your career.
If you are just out of high school or looking for a quick career change then there are ways to get into medical coding quickly but you will have to do some work and get a little lucky.
Becoming A Medical Coder In Short Order
There are few firm barriers to entry in this profession. You don’t have to be certified to work in medical coding and billing and you don’t have to have a college education. Despite this it is almost always easier to get a good job if you are certified and do have a degree.
The fastest way to become a medical coder is actually quite simple. You have to get hired by a medical facility with a coding and billing department. Chances are good however that that this will be very hard without any credentials of any kind.
Thankfully the CPC certification administered by the AAPC has few requirements which means it is possible to be certified in as little as a couple months.
The Fastest Way To Become A Certified Professional Coder
The fastest way is to simply bypass the degree programs, the associate’s degrees, and the Bachelor’s degrees and simply go for the certification. You need to register for a CPC exam at least one- month out so that leaves you one month to study for the certification exam, take it, and pass it.
To register for the CPC exam make sure you meet the basic CPC certification requirements (which are slim) and then get your hands on the official medical coding books for the current year. The exam will focus on your knowledge of general medical terminology and physical anatomy as well as the standardized codes as defined by CPT, ICD-9-CM, and HCPCS Level II code books.
Most people don’t do it this way but with intensive study over the course of a month and the successful completion of the CPC exam you can almost immediately attain your CPC-A credential. This is an apprentice level credential meaning you are not fully certified until you complete two years of on the job training.
Once you receive your CPC-A credential then you need to take a job in an entry level medical billing and coding office and build up 24 months worth of experience. This will give you a paycheck while you get closer to the full CPC designation.
Most entry level jobs of this nature will pay very low as most employers are looking for CPC credentials as opposed to CPC-A credentials as well as higher education credentials such as an associate’s degree. See this post for more on what type of salary medical coders make.
If you get your CPC-A in short order however you can get an entry level position to gain experience while you work on an Associate’s Degree in your spare time. By doing it this way you can have your full CPC certification, an Associate’s degree, and two years of working experience in just over 24 months. At that point you can then start testing for advanced CPC credentials like the CPC-H or specialty certifications like those aimed at Ambulatory Surgical, Dermatology, or any of the other numerous specialties.
Going at this career head on like this can be a lot of work up front and there will be a large learning curve. You won’t even be making much at first but after 24-30 months you can conceivably have the education, experience, and credentials to get just about any position you want.
Make sure to take a CPC certification practice exam before taking the real test. Practice tests will help you pass on your first try.
Click here to see the practice exams or to view the additional CPC exam study guides click here.
Click here for information on getting medical coding training, degrees, and/or certificates.