Certified Coding Specialist Education Requirements and Job Duties

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a certified coding specialist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and certification requirements to find out if this is the career for you.

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Certified coding specialists work in medical settings, translating medical terminology into the associated codes for those processes and procedures. This coding is then used for insurance and statistical information. They usually hold an associate's degree and pass a certification test.

Essential Information

Certified coding specialists, also known as medical records or health information specialists, are responsible for interpreting medical terminology in order to record numerical codes for insurance and medical statistics purposes. Education requirements usually include an associate's degree program, though a few employers prepare medical coders purely through on-the-job training. Certification from a professional organization is required for many positions. Certification generally calls for graduation from an accredited program and a competency examination.

Required Education Associate's degree in health information technology recommended
Other Requirements Many employers require professional certification
Projected Job Growth 15% from 2014-24 (medical records and health information technicians)*
Median Salary (2015) $34,970 (medical records and health information technicians)*

Sources: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

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Certified Coding Specialist Job Requirements

A certified coding specialist is a member of hospital or clinical support staff who can translate medical terminology into a numerical code used for insurance and statistics information. Certified coding specialists must understand the surgical section of Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) and the International Classification of Diseases Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) in order to properly convert the terminology into numerical codes. Diseases, pharmacology and general medical terminology are also important for certified coding specialists to understand.

The codes that are created by the certified coding specialist are required by insurance companies in order to reimburse providers for services, particularly in the case of Medicaid and Medicare. Such codes are also utilized by public health experts and other researchers to track infection, diagnosis and treatment rate statistics among medical institutions. Certified coding specialists are an integral part of the medical documentation process and the health industry as a whole.

Educational Requirements

Certified coding specialists are typically required by employers to have graduated from a two-year associate's degree program in medical coding and billing. Though many health care professionals still fill this role through on-the-job experience, certified coding specialists can be certified by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Certification is quickly becoming the standard for entry into a career as a certified coding specialist.

The exam to become a certified coding specialist is a 2-part test. The first part consists of 60 multiple choice questions, while the second part is composed of 180 hands-on medical case records to be examined and coded, all of which must be completed within four hours. In order to qualify for this exam, students must be graduates from a school accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM). There are more than 200 CAHIIM-accredited schools throughout the country.

Certified coding specialists may learn through on-the-job-training, but most employers require an associates degree in this field. Certification is usually required by employers and includes completing an accredited program as well as passing an examination.

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