Facing the fork in the road: Choosing Between the CPC & CCA Certification Exam

Coding and Billing2 Comments

Choosing Between the CPC & CCA Certification Exam? This blog post reviews the reasons to pick one over the other.
You decided a few months ago to change careers, and after a lot of research you selected the growing and dynamic field of health care. After finding that coding might be an excellent fit and making it the career of your choice, you researched available medical coding and billing schools that could offer you training in the field. After considering a number of options, you selected Career Step as the provider for your education. Then, you arrive at the day when you pass the final exam and you heave a sigh of relief. In the midst of the practicum and wrapping your brain around “late effects,” you thought the day would never come.

You’ve made so many decisions up to this point to get you here, and now that you’ve graduated, you face one more decision, one that will help you make that last step toward finding employment in the industry. You’ve heard of AAPC and AHIMA, but you are unsure which certification exam is right for you.

I’m still a student, and I don’t need to worry about membership until after I graduate.
Even if you’re still a student, it’s a great time to start thinking about your credentials. AAPC offers a student discounted membership of $70 (a big savings when compared to the standard membership price of $120). As a Career Step student you qualify for that discount, and if you want to save some money and reap the benefits of a membership early, we’d encourage you to look into membership to either AAPC or AHIMA while you are still finishing up your training.

I don’t need to certify.
Many employers will only hire certified graduates. Certified graduates are in high demand. They also tend to find jobs more quickly and tend to have higher salaries than graduates that are not certified.

It doesn’t matter which certification exam I take.
Career Step graduates are prepared to take either the CCA exam through AHIMA or the CPC exam through AAPC. Many coders after obtaining their CCA and CPC and gaining a few years of experience on-the-job go on to earn a specialty certification or mastery-level certification (CPC-P, CPC-H, CCS, CCS-P, etc.)

So what’s the answer? Which one should you take?
That decision, like the others you have already made, is up to you. Both the CCA and the CPC are nationally recognized certification exams that will help you in your efforts to find employment as a coder, and students have been successful after joining either organization and taking either of the two exams. We want to help and assist you as much as possible in making an informed decision as to which exam is right for you.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Research the benefits of membership in each organization
  • Consider the differences in price, format, and exam availability
  • Consider your future goals and talk to potential employers in your area

We are happy to help you make a decision and provide information and resources to help you choose a medical billing and coding certification exam, register, and prepare for it. We would suggest logging onto the forum and chatting with past graduates to see what their preferences have been, and getting in touch with graduate support here at Career Step.

Leave a comment below »

  1. Joyce June 25, 2012

    After taking CS’s medical billing and coding course, is it possible to take BOTH the certification exams and be certified as a CCA and CCP at the same time? Or do I really just have to choose one over the other?

  2. codingblog June 26, 2012

    It is possible and in my opinion beneficial to become credentialed with both AAPC and AHIMA. It is always good to have been able to demonstrate your skills in more than one arena.

  3. Tonia August 04, 2015

    Do I have to test out on the CCA exam on ICD-9 before testing out on the ICD-10 CCA exam. The organization that I am currently with is AHIMA.

  4. Coding Support August 05, 2015

    The CCA exam only needs to be taken once.  Currently it references ICD-9 codes. AHIMA has stated they will update the test to ICD-10 on October 12th, as long as ICD-10 implementation occurs on the 1st of that month. 
    If you certify in ICD-9, AHIMA asks us to show proof of education in ICD-10 to maintain your credential for ICD-10. Check out AHIMA.org for more details.

  5. Anne October 23, 2015

    Is it mandatory to be a member of each organization to be able to maintain your Certification?

  6. Instructor Michelle Malquist October 28, 2015


    It is highly recommended to become a member of the organization as a way of maintaining your credential. Being a member allows you to receive industry updates, as well as discounted prices on CEU’s. It also allows you to go to the local chapter meetings, as you can only attend 3 before needing to purchase a membership. If you still have questions regarding the benefits of a membership, contact the organization.

  7. Sharon June 20, 2016

    For tuition reimbursement purposes where I am employed, a grade is required.  Does the Career Step Medical Billing and Coding program issue grades?

  8. Sharon,
    It is a pass/no pass system on the final exam.  We can provide you with a percentage score from your exam. From that you could determine a grade break down, but we do not issue a letter grade. Hope this helps and best wishes!



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