How Can I Become a Transcriptionist?

Explore the career requirements for transcriptionists. Get the facts about salary, job outlook and training requirements to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Medical Transcription degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Transcriptionist?

Transcriptionists take audio files, usually from dictation, and turn them into text files. As the technology develops, this is increasingly done with the use of speech recognition software. This software automatically creates a first text draft of an audio recording, and a transcriptionist's job is then to go through and edit the draft for errors.

Transcriptionists may interpret many types of data. Medical transcriptionists could work on operative reports, referral letters, diagnostic test results, and anything else produced by a physician while seeing patients. They must be incredibly detail-oriented and precise, in order to identify and correct errors and consistencies. Medical transcriptionists also need to be familiar with the medical terminology and procedures in the area in which they work in order to accurately transcribe.

The information below profiles medical transcriptionists training requirements and certification.

Training Required Postsecondary medical transcription program
Key Skills Computer literacy, attention to detail, time management, writing
Certification Certification is voluntary
Projected Job Outlook (2014-2024) -3% (for all medical transcriptionists)*
Median Salary (2015) $34,890 (for all medical transcriptionists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Get Your Postsecondary Transcriptionist Training

The term transcriptionist generally refers to the field of medical transcription, which involves producing reports and other written materials and correspondence from dictated recordings made by healthcare professionals. In order to work in this field, you typically need to complete some form of postsecondary training, although this isn't required in every case. Medical transcription programs are offered at many community colleges and vocational schools, and distance-learning programs are also available.

You can complete your training in two years or less via a certificate program, technical diploma program or associate's degree program in medical transcription; certificate and diploma programs can generally be completed in nine months to one year or more, whereas an associate's degree program typically requires two years of study. Such programs include coursework in essential medical terminology and human anatomy. You also learn about keeping healthcare records, including content, formatting and legality. Additionally, you typically take English courses that focus on grammar and editing, as well as technology courses that focus on typing, computer applications and using transcription equipment. Some transcription programs also require supervised experience in the field.

You can find a list of accredited medical transcription programs via the Approval Committee for Certificate Programs (ACCP), which is a product of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI), although graduation from an accredited program isn't necessarily required to obtain employment.

Consider Certification

Certification isn't required to become a transcriptionist, but, because it demonstrates competence, it could help you in the job market. You can earn voluntary certification through the AHDI, which offers two main credentials; Registered Medical Transcriptionist (RMT) is the first level and level two is Certified Medical Transcriptionist (CMT). Each credential has its own education and experience requirements, with the CMT level requiring more specialty experience in the field. Both credentials require you to pass an exam. To maintain your certification at either level, you need to complete certain requirements every three years, which include earning continuing education credits.

What Might My Job Be Like?

As a transcriptionist, you typically spend most of your workday in a comfortable office environment. You might work in a physicians' office, hospital, clinic, or laboratory or even from your own home. A typical 40-hour workweek is standard for this field, but some self-employed transcriptionists maintain part-time schedules, which can include weekend or evening hours. The nature of this job requires that you generally spend most of your time using a desk and a computer, wearing a headset to listen to a recording created by a doctor or other medical professional and typing up various documents based on this dictation. Beyond just typing, this career requires you to properly format documents and edit dictation for clarity and grammar.

Some transcriptionists are also medical secretaries, and some transcriptionist positions may require you to perform other office duties, such as answering the phone or receiving patients. Advances in technology impact this field, and modern transcriptionists may increasingly receive dictation via the Internet or using speech recognition technology. The latter translates recorded dictation into text electronically, eliminating part of the transcription process, but you're still responsible for formatting and editing the electronically transcribed documents. Speech recognition technology is increasingly sophisticated and has come in to widespread use by transcriptionists, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are a number of careers that are possible to pursue after completion of a certificate program, and have similar job duties to that of a medical transcriptionist. One, if you are interested in working in a clinical setting, is to become a medical assistant. This position could vary from place to place, but generally involves doing administrative tasks to help physicians in the clinic or hospital in which they work. Another option is to become a court reporter. These professionals create verbatim transcriptions of court proceedings. They could also provide live translation for deaf attendees at meetings or events.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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