The duties of a medical transcriptionist include listening to voice recordings made by doctors and other medical professionals and transcribing the recordings into written reports using specialized software. As a transcriptionist, you’ll produce documents like medical histories and discharge summaries that become part of patients’ permanent records, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You might also edit drafts created by speech recognition software.
You could work in a hospital or a lab, in a doctor’s office or a clinic, for a transcription service, for an insurance company or for agencies that provide home health care. You might eventually want to work as an independent contractor from home.
The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) – formerly the American Association of Medical Transcription – says you’ll find these characteristics valuable as a transcriptionist: excellent English grammar, knowledge of medical terminology, interest in medical subjects, good keyboarding skills, capacity to work and concentrate for long periods of time and ability to function under pressure.
You’ll need to learn about anatomy and physiology, diagnostic procedures, treatment assessments, diagnostic procedures and specialized software. If you work in a doctor’s office or in a clinic, you might also greet patients and vendors.
Most employers require some training after high school, ranging from one course to an associate’s degree in medical transcription. Some hospitals require five years of experience, as well as certification as a medical transcriptionist.
If this type of work sounds appealing, you might want to also consider these careers:
- Medical assistant
- Medical technologist
- Court reporter
- Medical records and health information technician
- Medical receptionist
- Administrative assistant
- Medical scheduler
- Voice recognition editor
Salary and Job Outlook
BLS estimates 6 percent job growth for medical transcriptionists between 2010 and 2020, a slower-than-average rate. While the amount of healthcare services should rise as the population ages, advances in technology such as voice recognition software will limit career growth.
As of 2010, the median hourly compensation was $15.82 per hour, or yearly earnings of $32,900.
As a transcriptionist, you might be paid one of several ways: annual salary, hourly or per report or page transcribed.
Although medical transcription requires specific knowledge, you won’t need a degree from a four-year college. You can complete training at community colleges, vocational/technical schools and proprietary schools. Many offer online courses.
You’ll take classes in areas like medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, medical coding, HIPAA management and health information systems and procedures.
The AHDI offers continuing education, has certification programs for medical transcriptionists and approves schools that meet its standards. This association awards successful applicants credentials as a Registered Medical Transcriptionist (RMT) or a Certified Medical Transcriptionist (CMT)
Steps to Become a Medical Transcriptionist
The quickest path starts with some detective work. Once you’re selected the area where you prefer to work, call at least half a dozen prospective employers to learn their hiring requirements. Then select an appropriate on-campus or distance learning educational program.
Since many large employers require certification and/or several years’ experience, consider working with a local physician as a part-time intern supervised by a medical transcriptionist. Some online transcription services also hire transcriptionists without experience.
Many transcriptionists specialize in practice areas like radiology. Advancing to a supervisory position with a transcription service and starting your own business are also popular options for experienced medical transcriptionists.