Is there value in being credentialed?

Aug. 31, 2018 / By Kimberly Crear, CPC, CEMC, AAPC Fellow

Many people begin working in the healthcare industry before realizing the importance of obtaining a credential. Others opt to go through education/career programs and become credentialed prior to seeking employment. Individual career goals are unique, as are education and skill levels—all factors to consider in guiding decisions about obtaining credentials

The value of credentials depends on the career path you want to take. Working in a hospital setting or specialty clinic, for example, can often prompt someone to certify in that specialty. Do your research on credible organizations, such as AHIMA, AAPC or ACDIS, which all offer different certifications. You can even research job descriptions to get a general idea of job duties that come with being credentialed.

What about experience vs. certification? This is a catch 22. Many people will tell you, “Even if you have experience in the field, employers will require a credential.” What can be so disheartening is learning about great careers in health care, then investing time and resources to obtain degrees and certifications, only to be told “It’s great that you have the credential, but experience is needed to land the job.”

Some individuals are lucky and get hired with just one or the other. But most people are more marketable with both credentials and experience. We are well past the time when certification without experience is enough for employers. Healthcare organizations want experienced candidates who can take the bull by the horns and be proactive in supporting compliance structures, seeking education and finding opportunities for improvement. Certification alone does not prepare you for day-to-day real work. I am not saying that a credentialed candidate with no experience can’t be an awesome employee. The organization’s needs will come into play in making the decision to hire a credentialed vs. experienced candidate. If a credential-only candidate is given a job opportunity, the expectations will be high. He or she must be prepared to work in the trenches, absorbing and learning as much as they can.

Those of us who have worked in the field for some time must be mentors and advocates for higher education. It is our duty to equip individuals with information that will lead them to success. For those seeking career growth, know that higher education and credentials only have value when you put them to use. Continue to pursue education. Give yourself time to develop a skill set before moving on to the next credential. You do not want an alphabet soup (e.g. 10 credentials) behind your name if you cannot apply the knowledge that comes with the credential. Some people are very good test takers and able to attain many certifications, but this does not guarantee job placement or career success. With credentials, you are recognized as an expert and you will be called on to demonstrate the credibility that comes with the credential. Whatever career path you choose, embrace and own it. It takes a lot of hard work and an investment of significant time to build a successful career on the business side of medicine.

Your career path and the choices you’ve made (the good, the bad and the ugly) can be an inspiration to others.

Kimberly Crear, CPC, CEMC, AAPC Fellow, is a consultant with 3M Health Information Systems.