Medical transcriptionists transform dictated voice recordings from healthcare providers into detailed medical records, treatment plans, insurance claims and other key documents. Transcriptionists often use tape recorders, digital file players, or personal computers controlled by foot pedals or other specialized input devices. Those with experience may even work in real-time, notating conversations and commands during patient interviews and medical procedures. With ongoing technological developments, some transcriptionists take on an editorial role as they review and correct drafts prepared with speech recognition software.
Many medical transcriptionists are found in hospitals, doctors' offices, and medical or diagnostic laboratories, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov). In hospitals, these professionals may serve as a resource pool to handle service requests from multiple departments. In privately operated medical offices, transcription services help doctors focus on patient care instead of record keeping. Other transcriptionists work in centralized business support service centers or from home offices. Home-based transcriptionists may follow flexible schedules that can accommodate commitments outside of work.
How to Become a Medical Transcriptionist
Individuals interested in the field can find certificate or degree programs for medical transcriptionists. Healthcare professionals with related degrees or work experience can complete a one-year certificate program as an alternative to a full degree program. Medical transcription training programs educate students on subjects such as human anatomy, medical terminology and English grammar. Some certificate programs offer online study options.
The following steps can help individuals enter the field of medical transcription, although there is no guarantee of employment:
- Earning a high school diploma or the equivalent.
- Completion of an associate degree or certificate program in medical transcription, which typically include a combination of class instruction, independent medical transcription course work and clinical training.
- Professional certification through an examination from the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI).
- Application to entry-level medical transcription jobs in one's area.
- Maintenance of certification through continuing education courses and/or a re-examination.
Graduates of a medical transcription degree program can pursue professional certification, for example:
- Registered Medical Transcriptionist (RMT), for workers with less than two years of experience who focus on one specialty
- Certified Medical Transcriptionist (CMT), for those with more than two years of experience who work in diverse medical specialties
Certified medical transcriptionists take continuing education or undergo re-testing to keep their certifications current (bls.gov).
Medical transcriptionists may focus on a certain specialty such as the following:
- Emergency room care
Experienced professionals may also find specialized roles within the field. For example, medical transcription editors perform proofreading and provide feedback, and medical transcription managers track work volume and quality, in addition to supervising staff (ahdi.org).
Job Growth and Average Salary
The BLS expects medical transcription jobs to grow by 6 percent nationally between 2010 and 2020, which is slower than the average growth projected for all U.S. occupations during that period. Increased demand for healthcare services and strict oversight of patient records could lead to new opportunities for medical transcriptionists. The development of speech recognition technology is creating ongoing change in the occupation.
BLS.gov reports that the median annual wage of medical transcriptionists in the U.S. was $34,020 in May 2012, with the highest 10 percent earning more than $47,250 and the lowest 10 percent earning less than $22,400. Some medical transcription salary structures may reward fast turnaround time instead of measuring hours spent on tasks (bls.gov).
Potential Related Careers
Training in medical transcription could help prepare students interested in pursuing career avenues outside of this field. Related occupations such as the following may require additional experience or education:
- Court Reporter: Capture word-for-word transcripts of legal or government proceedings, or provide closed captioning services for television shows or public events.
- Medical Assistant: Facilitate clinical tasks and other daily operations at private physicians' offices.
- Health Information Technician: Maintain the quality and security of patient health records in settings such as hospitals or physicians' private practices.
Links to Sources and Associations
The following websites offer more information about medical transcription: