What is a CPC? A Guide to the Certified Professional Coder Certification

The CPC is a medical coding credential given by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). Individuals who have passed the CPC exam are known as CPCs (Certified Professional Coders).

Certified Professional Coders translate complex medical procedures into medical codes that form patients' health records.

The CPC is a medical coding credential given by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). Individuals who have passed the CPC (Certified Professional Coder) exam are known as CPCs (Certified Professional Coders).

What does a CPC Do?

A Certified Professional Coder, like other Medical Coders, makes the healthcare system work by translating complex medical procedures given by doctors, hospitals, and nurses into specific medical codes.

These codes determine how much the patient and the insurance company should be charged for medical care, and help the patient and care provider get reimbursed for the correct amount for the procedure.

What does a CPC Not Do?

A CPC is not a doctor, medical care provider, insurance company representative, salesperson, or accountant.

A CPC is a medical information professional who works in a doctor's office or a hospital to ensure that the procedures provided to patients are correctly reported and recorded, and that patients and insurance companies are billed correctly.

CPCs are often referred to as Healthcare Information Technology or Healthcare Information Management professionals. CPCs are also different from other medical coding professionals, such as CCAs, CCSs, CICs, and medical billing professionals.

What does a CPC have to know?

A CPC has to know how to manage information, multitask, and work with many types of healthcare providers and staff in the doctor's office or hospital.

Additionally, a CPC will need to know healthcare-specific information, such as:

  • Medical terminology
  • Medical coding guidelines and rules
  • Healthcare law and regulations
  • Patient records
  • Coding documentation
  • Diagnostic coding
  • ICD-10-CM and CPT code sets
  • HCPCS Level II for Medicare
  • Customer service skills

These skills needed are what you will learn in a CPC certification program or CPC preparation courses.

How much does a CPC pay?

Being a Certified Professional Coder pays quite well. In 2023, medical coders with a CPC certification made an average of $59,000, compared to $47,000 without any credential.

These salaries can vary greatly by state. For example, CPC holders in California make an average of $67,000, while CPC holders working in Colorado brought home an average of $59,500.

For more info, see our article on how much does medical coding make a year.

The official CPC Certification is offered by the American Association of Professional Coders (AAPC).

Do I need a degree to be a CPC?

No! Though an associate degree or bachelor's degree can help you obtain a leadership position in medical coding, there are no degree requirements to be a CPC. All you have to do is prepare for and pass the CPC exam.

How do I get CPC Certified?

To become a Certified Professional Coder (CPC), you have to take the CPC exam offered by the AAPC, and pass with a score of at least 70%.

Once you pass the exam, you will be considered a Certified Professional Coder. Read on to find out more about the CPC exam.

What is the CPC exam?

The CPC exam is the certification exam offered by the American Association of Professional Coders.

It is offered online and in-person. As of 2023, the AAPC is reducing the number of in-person exams, and taking the test online is preferred.

How much does the CPC exam cost?

Taking the CPC exam costs $399 for one attempt, or $499 for two attempts. You can book online or in person through the AAPC website. The price is the same for the online and in-person exams.

You'll also have to be an AAPC member to register for the exam. An annual AAPC membership costs $170, and comes with many benefits like networking events and a private job board..

How long is the CPC exam?

The CPC exam is 4 hours long.

How many questions are on CPC exam?

There are 100 questions on the CPC exam, drawn from 17 categories of medical coding knowledge, from medical terminology to coding proficiency and coding standards. You will need to answer 70 out of 100 correctly to pass.

For examples of the types of questions you'll see on the CPC, check out our free CPC practice exam.

Can you take the CPC exam without going to school?

Yes! There are no degree requirements or course requirements to take the CPC exam. All you have to do is prepare for the test, pay the fee, and take the exam online.

Is the CPC exam hard?

The CPC exam is not hard. Because it tests your medical coding skills, you will have to practice, which is where a medical coding certification course can help. The exam is extremely similar to what you will see in the course and the work you will do on the job.

You do not need to have any prior experience in healthcare to become a CPC. Everything you need to know, you can learn in the course or on your own.

Can you take the CPC exam online?

Yes! As of 2023, the CPC exam is offered primarily online. Find a test slot through the AAPC website.

What is a CPC-A?

A CPC-A is a Certified Professional Coder - Apprentice. It refers to any coder who has passed the CPC exam, but has less than 2 years' work experience.

After gaining 2 years' work experience (or equivalent education), the AAPC will upgrade you from a CPC-A to a full CPC.

Certified Professional Coders (CPC) can work remotely, especially in dedicated medical coding setting..

Is it hard to find a job as a Certified Professional Coder?

It is not hard to find a job as a CPC. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that medical billing and coding jobs will grow by 16% in the next 10 years, which means plenty of opportunities for medical coders, and the CPC is the most popular and most in-demand medical coding credential.

Together, this means that jobs for CPCs will continue to grow with the healthcare industry.

Can a CPC work remote?

Yes! Many medical billing and coding jobs allow remote work. In particular, positions with less customer interaction, such as jobs in private clinics or dedicated medical coding offices, promote and even encourage working remotely.

If working remotely is very important to you or your lifestyle, you may want to consider positions in these types of offices when looking for your next role.

How do I learn more about a career as a Certified Professional Coder?

To learn more about a career as a Certified Professional Coder, check out our articles on how to learn medical coding and medical billing and coding programs. For information on the job experience and taking the CPC, check out the official AAPC website.

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