What is the difference between the AAPC and AHIMA certification exams?

Many of you have inquired about the cost of the medical coding certification exams.  While others are trying to determine which exam is right for them.  Is it the AAPC?  Or AHIMA? In this article, I will provide you a comparison between the AAPC and AHIMA exams along with the exam requirements and pricing.

If you have no experience in medical coding and are interested in taking an AAPC exam, listed below is information for you:

  • The CPC exam is the recommended credential for you because there is no educational requirement
  • Without the required 2 years coding experience, you will be designated as a CPC-A (Apprentice) until you gain the required experience
  • CPCs work at physicians’ offices, other outpatient settings, hospitals, billing companies and health insurance companies
  • Requires AAPC Membership of $175
  • The exam cost if taken at home is $299 and is scheduled in two sessions
  • The exam cost if proctored at an AAPC Local Chapter site is priced at $399 but you receive one free re-take
  • The current year coding manuals are essential because an older version may result in an incorrect answer selection
  • The AAPC offers financing through Affirm to cover the exam costs, membership and coding manuals with approved credit

If you have no experience in medical coding and are interested in taking an AHIMA exam, you may follow this route:

  • The CCA is for entry level medical coders who have met the educational requirements by taking courses in anatomy & physiology, medical terminology, basic ICD-10-CM and CPT coding
  • The CCS or CCS-P is best for you if the educational requirements are met by taking the following courses:  anatomy & physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology, medical terminology, reimbursement methodology, intermediate/advanced ICD-10-CM, and procedural coding and medical services (CPT/HCPCS)
  • CCAs and CCSs work at hospitals, physicians’ offices, other outpatient settings, billing companies and health insurance companies
  • CCS-Ps work at physicians’ offices and other outpatient settings
  • Membership is not required but is set at $79 for “New to AHIMA” members
  • The Non-member price for the CCA is $299; Member price is $199
  • The Non-member price for the CCS and CCS-P is $399; Member price is $299
  • The coding manuals must be the same year as your exam version.  AHIMA usually changes to the current year version in May; however, COVID-19 has altered this schedule.

Prior to purchasing the coding manuals, please check the AAPC and AHIMA websites for the required coding manuals or contact us at 855-996-PPMC.  The cost of the coding manuals varies and may be purchased from the AAPC, AHIMA, American Medical Association (AMA), Optum or through online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes and Nobles.  You may also find used books on reseller sites, such as Amazon, at a lower price.  The average price for the bundles, which include the ICD-10-CM, CPT, and HCPCS is $220 for new books. Remember, these costs may be financed with approved credit if purchased from the AAPC.

Overall, the AAPC CPC exam will allow you to work in any setting and there are no educational requirements.  Other perks are the ability to take the exam at home and the option of financing your costs.  On the other hand, the AHIMA exams have educational requirements but the total cost of taking the exam is lower than the AAPC exams, especially since membership is not required; however, you will save $20 if you join as a member and then take the exam.

I hope this comparison provided some clarity.  Keep in mind, whether you want to take an AAPC or AHIMA exam, PPMC Academy has an affordable course for you.  Feel free to reach out to us for more details.



© CPT is a registered trademark of the American Medical Association. All rights reserved.  The CPC® and CPC-A® credentials are registered trademarks of the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC).  The CCS-P®, CCS®, CCA®, RHIT®, and RHIA®, are registered trademarks of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).  The use of these credentials on this website does not imply ownership rights by PPMC Academy Inc. nor does it constitute an endorsement by these organizations.