How to Become a Medical Coder

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Medical coding classes are offered online.
Medical coding classes are offered online. (Image: Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

You can become a medical coder through different avenues. Certificate programs are offered at technical colleges and medical trade schools, and generally take anywhere from one to two years to complete. Associate degree programs are offered at community colleges and typically take about two years to complete. Many employers prefer graduates with associate degrees, and some even require candidates to be certified. In order to become certified, graduates must pass the Certified Professional Coder exam administered through the AAPC.

Complete either a medical coding certificate program or obtain an associate degree in medical coding. You will learn how to assign codes to each diagnosis and procedure for insurance purposes. Certificate programs are often offered at local technical and trade schools, and associate degree programs at community colleges. Depending on the school, many programs offer students the option of taking their courses in the classroom or online. If you plan on sitting for the CPC exam to become professionally certified, you'll need to obtain an associate degree.

Gain experience as a medical coder. In order to qualify to take the CPC exam, you must first work as a medical coder for two years. Oftentimes, schools offer internship and job placement assistance to students and graduates. If your school offers these benefits, take advantage of them. Otherwise, you'll need to search for entry-level medical coding positions on your own.

Register to take the CPC exam to become certified. You can register for the exam through the "Locate Exam" link on the AAPC website. Select your state from the drop-down list and click "Search." Choose the test location and date you'd like and click on "Details." Fill out the application and click to submit. You'll also need to pay the designated fee.

Take your CPC exam on your scheduled test date. Expect the test to take up to five hours and 40 minutes and consist of 150 multiple-choice questions.

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