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CCS Certification: Requirements, Cost and Where To Get It

CCS Certification: Requirements, Cost and Where To Get It

The CCS certification program awards health information technicians a medical coding certificate known as the coding specialist credential. Although certification isn’t a requirement for prospective medical coders, it can potentially increase job salaries and open up new opportunities in hospitals, clinics, and other medical settings. 

Understanding the costs and requirements of CCS certification training can help individuals decide whether it is the right fit for their needs. 

History of the Certified Coding Specialist (CCS)

In 1996, the CCS credential was improved in terms of testing experience and reputation. They addressed previous concerns related to the exam length, availability of space in testing centers, the difficulty of cases, and the readability of exam booklets. This was achieved through cooperation between the COC, SCC, and COCC, which was renamed Coding Policy and Strategy Committee in 1996.  

Every year, approximately 1000 participants take the CCS examination, and the majority of them maintain its renewal upon its expiry. In addition, an increasing percentage of medical facilities require the CCS credential for coding professionals. 

Requirements For CCS Certification

Although there are no strict requirements for the CCS certification program, extensive educational and professional experience is strongly recommended before sitting for the CCS examination. 

Educational CCS Requirements

As part of CCS certification training, you can take optional courses accredited by the CAHIIM:  

  • Anatomy & physiology
  • Pathophysiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Medical terminology
  • Reimbursement methodology
  • Intermediate/advanced ICD diagnostic coding
  • Procedural coding and medical services (CPT/HCPCS) 

You can also complete a certificate program in medical coding at a community college. Ideally, this would be supplemented by 1 year of hands-on coding experience through an internship or job. 

Professional CCS Requirements

Although work experience isn’t a prerequisite for CCS certification training, you can prepare yourself for the exam by obtaining a minimum of 2 years of work experience related to coding in a hospital, clinic, or physician’s office. 

Alternatively, you can also hold the CCA® credential plus one 1 year of coding experience directly applying codes; or hold a coding credential from another certifying organization plus one 1 year of coding experience directly applying codes; or hold a CCS-P®, RHIT®, or RHIA® credential. 

The Cost to Become CCS Certified

In addition to educational costs you may have to pay, the CCS certification cost can total around $1500 or more for the materials, books, and fees related to the exam. There are also renewal costs to keep in mind if you wish to keep your online CCS certification. 

Costs Pre-Exam

It is possible to apply for the CCS certification online with a high school diploma or its equivalent, although coursework in anatomy, pharmacology, and pathophysiology is recommended in addition to 3 years of relevant work experience in coding. Because of this, pre-exam costs can vary significantly depending on your level of education. 

CCS Exam Cost

The CCS certification cost of the exam is $399 for the non-member price on AHIMA but is only $299 for members. The cost of membership ranges from $49 for student membership to $199 for premier membership. You may also need to pay for an online or in-person review course to help you study, which can range between $500 - $1000. 

If you fail the exam, a candidate must resubmit a new application and pay the relevant examination fee. 

Costs Post-Exam

After passing the exam, CCSs need to complete at least 30 continuing education units (CEUs) every 2 years from the day the exam was passed and pay a renewal fee. 

CEUs are completed through a variety of different methods. This includes attending an AHIMA event, completing an AHIMA online education program, completing an AHIMA Journal quiz, completing AHIMA e-assessments, in addition to other accepted AHIMA activities.

If you have one credential, the recertification fee wil be $218. If you hold more than one, the first recertification fee is $218 and each additional certification is $50 from AHIMA. 

Where To Get A CCS Certification

For those wondering how to get a CCS certification, the best resource is the AHIMA website. The first step is to read the information in the CCS Candidate Guide to determine your eligibility. Those who don’t meet the requirements will receive a refund of the application fee minus a $75 processing fee.

You will need to apply and pay for the CCS certification online via credit card, but the test will be taken in a Pearson VUE proctored test center through a  computer-based delivery format.

After meeting the requirements, you will need to schedule an exam with Pearson Vue within your 120-day eligibility window beginning the day the ATT letter is created. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about the process of how to get a CCS certification and more. 

How hard is the CCS exam?

According to 2020 statistics, the CCS exam had an 83% pass rate for first-time test-takers. The exam can be difficult to prepare for since it consists of a Multiple-Choice Section and a Medical Scenario Section. However, candidates have 4 hours to complete the exam. 

Which is harder, CCS or CPC?

It is difficult to say. While the CCS exam provides exam takers with 4 hours to complete it, the CPC test actually takes five hours and 40 minutes. However, it only has 150 multiple-choice questions, while the CCS exam also has a Medical Scenario Section. 

What books are allowed for CCS?

It is important to remember that only original and updated codebooks are allowed during the CCS exam, while photocopies are banned. They should also be from the AMA (American Medical Association). 

CCS Certification In A Nutshell

At the end of the day, having a Certified Coding Specialist credential can demonstrate proficiency in inpatient and outpatient coding for those in the medical field. It can increase employer confidence in your skills and knowledge and increase your earning potential. In fact, 75% of AHIMA members earn $50,000 or more as of 2018. 

Read on to learn more about other professional certification opportunities that can help set you up for success on Reliable Certified today! 

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