CCS-P is not the same as the CPC

The CCS-P certification exam and the CPC certification exam are not created equal. These test/certifications have a lot of similarities but they have equally as many differences.

CCS-P is Certified Coding Specialist-Physician based. This is an AHIMA credential therefore it is a Health Information Management Credential.

CPC is Certified Professional Coder. This credential is offered through AAPC (American Academy of Professional Coders). CPC is considered the gold standard. It is a prerequisite to working in coding. Most hospitals and clinics won’t even consider you without this credential. CPC is recognized more often than the CCS-P depending on where you live.

CCS-P and CPC are similar in that they both will allow you to work in a Physician’s office. Both credentials will allow you to code outpatient records (Emergency department, ASC (Ambulatory Surgery Center), Provider’s office). CPC and CCS-P both require the use of a CPT code book, ICD-10 code book and HCPCS code book.

Both exams require mastery coding skills however both credentials are for entry level coding positions.

“The CCS-P is also an expert in health information documentation, data integrity, and quality (AHIMA, 2018).”

The CCS-P exam is broken into domains:

DOMAIN 1 Health Information Documentation (8–12%)

DOMAIN 2 Diagnosis and/or Procedure Coding (60–64%)

DOMAIN 3 Regulatory Guidelines and Reporting Requirements for Outpatient Services (8–12%)

DOMAIN 4 Data Quality and Management (5–7%)

DOMAIN 5 Information and Communication Technologies (2–4%)

DOMAIN 6 Privacy, Confidentiality, Legal, and Ethical Issues (4–6%)

DOMAIN 7 Compliance (3–5%)


The CPC covers:

10000 Series 10 Questions

20000 Series 10 Questions

30000 Series 10 Questions

40000 Series 10 Questions

50000 Series 10 Questions

60000 Series 10 Questions

Evaluation and Management 10 Questions

Anesthesia 8 Questions

Radiology 10 Questions

Laboratory and Pathology 10 Questions

Medicine 10 Questions

Medical Terminology 8 Questions

Anatomy 8 questions

ICD-10-CM 10 Questions

HCPCS Level II 5 Questions

Coding Guidelines 6 Questions

Compliance and Regulatory

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CCS-P is a 4 hour exam. CPC is a 5 hour 40 minute exam.  CPC is 150 questions. CCS-P is 97 multiple choice and 8 medical scenarios.

A few other differences is the cost. The CPC is $380. You have to be a member of AAPC if you want to take the exam. The CCS-P is $299 if you are a member of AHIMA and $399 if you are not.

So how do you know which one to take? Well it depends. If you completed an HIM (Health Information Management) degree then CCS-P is the obvious choice. However, if you graduated with a Certificate or diploma with a concentration in Medical Coding and Billing then CPC would be where you should start.

CCS-P and CPC are both great credentials to have. Based on the above criteria you can determine what is best for your needs. I have both credentials but I don’t have an HIM degree. I really had to study to pass this exam on the first time. At least one of these credentials should be on your to-do list if not both. These credentials say you have Mastery level Coding. These exams are tough but well worth the effort.