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Be a Credential Specialist: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a credential specialist. Research the education, training, and experience required for starting a career as a credential specialist. View article »

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  • 0:00 Becoming a Credential…
  • 0:36 Career Requirements
  • 1:38 Step 1: Earn an…
  • 2:39 Step 2: Gain Experience
  • 2:59 Step 3: Obtain Certification
  • 3:56 Step 4: Maintain Certification

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Video Transcript

Becoming a Credential Specialist

Credential specialists are medical services professionals who credential and re-credential doctors and other allied health personnel, as well as managing relevant educational, training and licensure data. Along with implementing policies, procedures and federal regulations, these workers may oversee continuing medical education programs. They work in a variety of settings, such as in ambulatory care, credential-verification organizations, group practices, hospitals and insurance companies.

Career Requirements

Degree Level None; associate's degree preferred
Degree Fields Health information technology, medical staff services science
Certification NAMSS certification is often required
Experience 3-5 years of credentialing experience
Key Skills Organization, editing, proofreading, and communication skills; familiarity with medical credentialing database software and electronic medical record management systems
Salary $40,081 (2016 median for credentialing specialists)

Sources: National Association Medical Staff Services, CareerBuilder.com job postings (November 2012), Salary.com, PayScale.com

There's not a specific degree that is required to work as a credentialing specialist. However, an employer may prefer to hire those with an associate degree. The degree fields to be considered for this line of work include health information technology or medical staff services science. The National Association of Medical Staff Services (NAMSS) certification is often required for this career. In addition to obtaining certification, 3-5 years of credentialing experience can be expected when applying for a credentialing specialist position. Some key skills that are often beneficial to workers in this include organization and communication skills, and proficiency in editing and proofreading. It can also be important to gain familiarity with medical credentialing database software and electronic medical record management systems. The website Payscale.com reports that, as of January 2016, the median annual salary for a credentialing specialist is $40,081.

Step 1: Earn an Associate's Degree

There are no strict education requirements for this career. However, employers tend to prefer applicants who hold an associate degree. Aspiring credential specialists might benefit from earning their 2-year degrees in health information technology, which prepares students to manage healthcare data in a variety of medical settings. Coursework may cover healthcare statistics, computer information systems, insurance billing and healthcare quality management. Select schools also offer associate degrees specifically in medical staff services science. Students in these programs have similar curricula to those who major in health information technology, though medical staff services science incorporates a couple of courses specific to the specialty.

Success Tip:

  • Pursue an internship. Experience is important for gaining employment in this field, so students may want to get a foot in the door of a company and bulk up their resumes by serving as interns during college. Internships may be available with healthcare facilities and credentialing organizations.

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Step 2: Gain Experience

While education may increase your chances of employment as a credential specialist, many positions in this field still require 3-5 years of experience related to credentialing. Individuals might gain such experience by starting out in lower-level health information management positions and then working their way up to credentialing specialist positions.

Step 3: Obtain Certification

Certification may not be required for some positions, though job listings reveal that employers usually require, or at least prefer, applicants with the Certified Provider Credentialing Specialist (CPCS) designation, which is offered by NAMSS. To qualify to sit for the CPCS exam, candidates must have at least three years of hands-on experience within the past five years, including one year of experience prior to sitting for the exam. Those who already hold the NAMSS' Certified Professional Medical Services Management designation are also qualified, though this designation also requires at least three years of experience.

When working to become certified, it is important to prepare for the credentialing exam. The NAMSS offers both online and in-person courses to prepare for the CPCS exams. These intensive and interactive courses consist of two days of activities that include an exam overview and individualized study plans.

Step 4: Maintain Certification

Once employed, a Certified Provider Credentialing Specialist needs to maintain certification by earning 30 continuing education credits every three years. Of those credits, 15 need to be approved by the NAMSS. Those who hold both of the NAMSS' certifications must earn 45 credits in the same time frame, 25 of which must be approved. The NAMSS organization offers a range of continuing education opportunities, including online and in-person courses, books for self-study and conferences.

If interested in becoming a credential specialist and work in an aspect of the medical field that involves maintaining medical records to ensure that the credentials and licenses of other medical staff are up to date, one must consider earning an associate's degree and gaining enough credentialing experience in order to become certified as a CPCS and sustain that certification.

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