Getting a CPC exam isn’t just a matter of completing the CPC exam with a score of 70 percent or higher. In order to earn certification from the AAPC, you need to have at least two years of professional coding experience.
That would seem to preclude new coders from taking the CPC exam, but that doesn’t have to be the case. The AAPC helpfully offers an “apprentice” program attached to their CPC certification. If you complete the CPC exam with less than two years of professional experience, you get a CPC-A certification.
The CPC-A certification allows you to work as a certified coder while working toward a full certification through either on-the-job experience or the completion of continuing education units (CEUs).
In order to earn a full certification through on-the-job experience, you need to send two letters of recommendation, demonstrating two years of experience to the AAPC. One of these must be from your employer, and must be written on your employer’s letterhead. The other may be from a co-worker. These letters should confirm your work experience and capability using the ICD-9-CM, CPT, and HCPCS code sets.
In order to earn a full certification through CEUs, you must provide documentation of 80 contact hours of instruction in the CPT, ICD-9-CM, and HCPCS code sets. ‘Contact hours’ is just a fancy way of saying an hour of scheduled instruction. An hour-long class would be one contact hour. You can take coding classes at many community colleges, and there are also instruction programs that are not affiliated with a school, though you should be at least a little skeptical of these, as some of them are scams.
Confirmation of these 80 hours of instruction must be sent from an instructor on school letterhead. You may also send a diploma or certificate stating the completion of 80 hours of schooling, or a school transcript that describes same.
Once you’ve submitted the requisite documentation of instruction or work experience, the AAPC should grant you a full certification within two to four weeks. To see the contact information and learn more about the CPC Apprentice program, visit the AAPC website.