How to Become a Medical Transcriptionist

by TBS Staff

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Medical transcriptionists review medical reports for accuracy and transcribe voice recordings from physicians. This article explains how to become a medical transcriptionist, including education and certification options.

Essential Career Information

Median Annual Salary $34,770
Employment Growth Forecast from 2018-2028 -3%
Annual Salary of the Highest 10% $51,780
Number of New Jobs from 2018-2028 -2,000
Annual Salary of the Lowest 10% $21,840
Average Entry-Level Education Requirements Postsecondary Nondegree Award

Source: BLS

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Alternate Job Titles

What is a Medical Transcriptionist?

Medical transcriptionists listen to recorded dictations from physicians and other healthcare professionals, interpret and transcribe dictations, and correct records created with speech recognition technology.

Medical transcriptionists need several skills to succeed, including computer skills. Medical transcriptionists use word processing software and speech recognition programs to complete their jobs. In addition, medical transcriptionists rely on critical thinking and listening skills to identify inaccuracies and transcribe physician dictation.

Most entry-level medical transcription positions require some postsecondary education, such as a certificate, diploma, or associate degree. During medical transcription programs, learners study topics like medical terminology, healthcare documentation, and anatomy. Students may also complete an internship to gain hands-on experience.

Medical transcriptionists can work in settings such as administrative services, doctors' offices, and hospitals. They may also work from home. Additionally, some medical transcriptionists work as self-employed, freelance professionals.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the cost of medical transcription training?

The cost of medical transcription training varies by program. A one-year online medical transcription certificate can cost as little as $2,000, while a degree may cost several thousand dollars more. The average medical transcriptionist salary exceeds $34,000 per year.

What is the difference between medical transcription and coding?

Medical transcriptionists transcribe doctors' notes to create patient records, while medical coders assign billing codes to different procedures.

Are medical transcriptionist still in demand?

Many healthcare organizations rely on medical transcriptionists to create patient records. As the demand for healthcare services increases, medical transcriptionists enjoy stronger job prospects.

How fast do you have to type to be a transcriptionist?

Medical transcriptionists generally prioritize typing accuracy over speed; however, transcriptionists may increase their earnings if they can type at least 50 words per minute.

How long does it take to become a medical transcriptionist?

Prospective medical transcriptionists can earn a certificate or diploma in as little as one year. An associate degree typically takes two years of full-time study to complete.

What do medical transcriptionists do?

Medical transcriptionists help maintain patient records by transcribing dictations from physicians and checking for accuracy.

What Does a Medical Transcriptionist Do?

Hospitals and doctors' offices rely on medical transcriptionists to keep accurate records. Medical transcriptionists help create patient histories, exam notes, discharge summaries, and operative reports. They ensure these reports accurately reflect physicians' notes and identify any errors or missing information. The position requires training to understand medical abbreviations and jargon.

Medical transcriptionists can perform their duties in different ways. Some professionals use audio recordings to transcribe doctors' reports, while others rely on speech recognition technology, which creates a draft copy of dictation that they review for accuracy.

Medical transcriptionists can specialize their training to work in roles such as pathology transcriptionist or radiology transcriptionist. All medical transcriptionists need training in medical terminology to effectively transcribe doctors' notes and create accurate records. They must also understand physiology, diagnostic procedures, treatment assessment terminology, and pharmacology.

Some medical transcriptionists pursue certification to demonstrate their skills. Certified medical transcriptionists perform the same job functions as non-certified transcriptionists; however, some employers prefer to hire certified medical transcriptionists.

How to Become a Medical Transcriptionist

Medical transcriptionists must meet education and training requirements. Most medical transcriptionists complete some postsecondary training through certificate or associate programs. Prospective students should ensure they attend an accredited program. Accreditation indicates that a school meets the highest standards in health education. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools both accredit medical transcriptionist programs.

During a medical transcriptionist program, students complete classes on topics like anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, and transcription technologies. Prospective transcriptionists with a background in healthcare, including nurse assistants and medical assistants, can draw on their knowledge and skills to become medical transcriptionists. Many medical transcriptionist jobs also include on-the-job training, where new transcriptionists learn from experienced professionals.

After earning a certificate or degree, medical transcriptionists can pursue medical transcription certification to demonstrate their skills. The next section introduces certificate programs, associate degrees, and certifications for medical transcriptionists.

Certificate Programs

Medical transcriptionist certificate programs typically take one year or less to complete. Students take classes on topics like transcription, medical terminology, and pharmacology. Many programs incorporate specialized classes to prepare graduates for careers in a particular medical field, such as pediatrics, pathology, or radiology. After earning their certificate, graduates qualify for entry-level medical transcription opportunities.

Prospective medical transcriptionists can also pursue a diploma in medical transcription. Many students choose online medical transcriptionist schools, which offer a flexible learning format that appeals to working professionals.

Associate Degree Programs

Some community colleges offer an associate degree in medical transcription. During the program, students take medical transcription classes on topics like medical terminology, physiology, and transcription technology in addition to general education courses. The program may also incorporate an internship or practicum to give students hands-on experience.

Earning an associate degree generally takes two years for full-time students to complete. Associate degree graduates stand out in the job market as most medical transcriptionists only hold a certificate or diploma. The degree also prepares graduates for advanced roles in medical transcription.

Medical Transcriptionist Professional Licensure and Certification

Medical transcriptionists do not need a professional license to practice; however, some employers prefer to hire registered or certified medical transcriptionists. These voluntary credentials recognize skilled medical transcriptionists who meet certain education and experience requirements.

The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity provides the registered healthcare documentation specialist (RHDS) and certified healthcare documentation specialist (CHDS) credentials. The RHDS credential recognizes recent graduates with fewer than two years of experience, while the CHDS credential requires at least two years of acute care experience.

Candidates must meet minimum education requirements and pass an exam to become a registered or certified medical transcriptionist. They must also meet continuing education requirements to maintain the credential.

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