Could I Pass the CPC or CCS Exam without a Two- or Four-Year Degree?

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By DeVry University

April 29, 2022
4 min read

While it is possible to sit for - and potentially pass the CPC or CCS exam without a two-or four-year degree. Enrolling in a formal program can be a critical step in helping you develop a better understanding of the concepts covered by both the CPC and CCS exams and the knowledge and skills needed to work in the medical billing and coding industry.

If you’re building a strategy for how to pass the CPC exam or CCS exam, pursuing an Undergraduate Certificate in Medical Billing and Coding may be a great place to start. Read on to find out more about this certificate and how it can help you learn concepts relevant to the CPC and CCS exams:

What are the CPC and CCS Exams?

The CCS and CPC exams are both geared toward people who wish to work, or already work, in the medical billing and coding industry. If you pass one of these exams, you will earn a professional certification that confirms your ability to apply the proper codes to a variety of circumstances.

It's important to keep in mind that while these exams are different, they do overlap in some areas. Here's a quick overview of each exam, what it covers and why you might wish to pursue one over the other:

CPC Exam

The CPC exam stands for the Certified Professional Coder examination. It is administered by the American Association of Professional Coders (AAPC) and consists of 100 multiple choice questions that evaluate your understanding of anatomy, medicine, pathology and medical terminology as they relate to medical coding. To pass the CPC exam, you need to achieve a score of at least 70%, which means answering at least 70 questions correctly.

CCS Exam

The CCS exam, or Certified Coding Specialist exam, is administered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). The test consists of two sections, a medical scenario section and a multiple-choice section. The entire test is administered via computer, and the total number of questions ranges from 115 to 140 depending on the year. To pass the CCS exam, you need to achieve a score of 300.

What Are the Differences Between the CPC and CCS Certifications?

The CPC and CCS certifications are both effective ways to validate your coding knowledge and experience, and each requires you to demonstrate a high level of coding proficiency. There are, however, a few differences between the two and your choice of which certification to pursue may hinge on the characteristics of the employment opportunities that best fit your career goals.

According to the employment website Indeed, the answer to the CCS vs. CPC question and the main differences between the CPC and CCS credentials lie in 3 categories:

  • Experience: While the CPC credential is a good fit for people just beginning their medical coding career, the CCS may be better suited to experienced medical coders, or those who are interested in advancing their careers.
  • Prerequisites: While the CPC certification requires fewer prerequisites, candidates looking to pursue the CSS credential typically need to fulfill a range of advanced requirements before they can begin earning this certification.
  • Work environment: CCS professionals are typically focused on diagnostic coding. They often work in hospitals or other inpatient healthcare facilities. In contrast, CPC professionals typically work with reimbursement-related coding. They may also work in outpatient facilities, like private medical practices.

What Should I Do to Prepare for the CPC and CCS Exams?

There are several ways to prepare yourself to pass the CPC or CCS exam. Here are just a few of the things you might consider:

Enrolling in an Undergraduate Certificate Program

Advancing your education is a great way to find support, and perhaps experience a more thorough approach to exam preparation. A certificate program like our Undergraduate Certificate in Medical Billing and Coding at DeVry is designed to give you hands-on experience that can help you develop a knowledge of medical billing and coding concepts from the ground up. It can also provide you with access to knowledgeable staff and exam prep content.

Take Practice Exams

Practice exams are an effective way to acclimate yourself to the types of questions you'll likely run into while taking the exam. You might even consider taking your practice a step further by replicating the environment and completing practice exams under the same time restrictions. You may be less likely to feel out of your comfort zone when it’s time to take the actual exam.

Study Relevant Medical Codes

When preparing for the CCS or CPC exam, you'll want to make sure you're studying relevant medical codes. Having a working knowledge of how different code systems are organized may reduce the amount of time it takes for you to find the correct answers.

Keep in mind that preparation is important when you’re working to pass the CPC exam or CCS exam. As with many professional certification exams, it can be helpful to have prior experience in an academic setting or through on-the-job experience, if possible.

Prepare for the CCS and CPC Exams with a Medical Billing and Coding Certificate from DeVry

If you're interested in taking the CCS exam or CPC exam, our online Undergraduate Certificate in Medical Billing and Coding can help you develop your understanding of essential medical billing and coding concepts. Online classes start every 8 weeks.

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