Medical transcription is the process of converting voice-recorded reports into written texts that become permanent medical records. Physicians or other medical professionals dictate information – such as that acquired during patient encounters – and medical transcriptionists (MTs) listen to the recording and transcribe it according to industry protocols. Training for the job – and the job itself – are usually quite flexible, and professionals may be able to set their own hours and work from home. Following is a look at how to train to be a medical transcriptionist, and what to expect on the job.
|What is a medical transcription?||Medical transcription is the process of converting voice-recorded reports into written texts that become permanent medical records. Physicians or other medical professionals dictate information – such as that acquired during patient encounters – and medical transcriptionists (MTs) listen to the recording and transcribe it according to industry protocols.|
|What are medical transcription programs like?||Training for the job – and the job itself – are usually quite flexible, and professionals may be able to set their own hours and work from home. Following is a look at how to train to be a medical transcriptionist, and what to expect on the job.|
|Is medical transcription a good career path?||The growing use of speech recognition software, combined with a competitive job market overall, have created a challenging career outlook for medical transcriptionists. Nevertheless, the need for MTs remains, as doctors and other medical professionals will continue to need their dictated notes transcribed. In addition, a steady increase in healthcare services means more tests and procedures for patients and, in turn, more documents to be transcribed. Several factors contribute to successful employment as an MT, including specific clients and employers, geographic location, and experience.|
|Where are medical transcription jobs mostly found?||The five states with the most current medical transcribers are: Florida (5,220), Texas (4,290), California (3,990), Pennsylvania (3,000), and New York (2,870).|
Find Medical Transcription Programs
Students interested in a career as a medical transcriptionist have several educational pathways available to them. To find a program that suits your particular needs, use the search tool below to narrow the options using criteria such as program type and location.
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Medical Transcriptionist Schools & Training
While not required, most employers prefer that medical transcriptionists have some postsecondary education to train them specifically in the practice. Generally speaking, students can choose from two options. A traditional, two-year associate degree program will include basic liberal arts education along with specialty training in medical transcription. Those wishing to accelerate their entry into the field may prefer a one-year certificate program. Here's a closer look at each:
Medical Transcriptionist Certificate
- Time to Complete
- Six months (full-time) to 18 months (part-time)
- Credential Earned
- MT certificate programs are normally available through public community colleges, as well as vocational and technical schools. Several offer online options. Students typically need a high school diploma or GED for admission.
- Students learn how to transcribe dictation into test results, operative reports and other documents; translate medical terms and abbreviations into their proper form; identify and report missing information and inconsistencies; and submit transcriptions to physicians for review and approval.
Coursework for MT certificate programs centers on two major areas: training in transcription itself, and a comprehensive understanding of the medical terminology integral to the process. Below are descriptions of several sample courses offered by MT certificate programs.
Covers the functions of word processing software, including creating, formatting and merging documents. Coursework may be completed entirely outside of class if the student has access to the software.
An introduction to the basics of allied health including careers, ethical and legal issues, and the role of information management in the healthcare industry.
The study of medical terminology includes the spelling, pronunciation, and definitions of medical root words, prefixes, and suffixes, as well as rules regarding their usage. Also covers terminology used in medical subfields such as anatomy, symptomatology, and diagnostic and surgical procedures.
Introduction to medical transcription itself. Students learn to transcribe, edit and proofread reports; flag material if required; and identify and format different types of reports.
- Time to Complete
- Two years of full-time study; part-time students may need longer
- Credential Earned
- Associate degree (AA, AS or AAS). These degree programs typically require students to choose medical transcription as a specialization.
- An associate degree offers a more broad-based education in addition to medical transcriptionist training. Associate degree programs are commonly found on two-year community college campuses, but may also be offered by vocational and technical schools and four-year state colleges. Some online programs are also available. A high school diploma or GED is a prerequisite for admission.
- In most associate degree programs, students take some general education classes in English, math, humanities, natural and social sciences, communications and analytical thinking. Degree programs that include medical transcription training will further focus on courses similar to those found in a medical transcriptionist certificate program (see above), as well as include coursework in office administration or other related subjects. In some cases, students will be required to complete an externship following their coursework.
In addition to coursework specific to medical transcription itself, as outlined above, associate degree programs with medical transcription training often include courses such as:
Introduction to basic English language skills; the fundamentals of writing and editing; and their practical application to business office practices.
Overview of modern medical office procedures. Topics include medical records management, filing procedures, appointment scheduling, insurance form completion, medical coding and transcription, and keeping financial records.
Study of medical software applications used in the operation and management of healthcare information systems.
A review of medical terminology as it relates to the anatomical systems of the human body, including basic principles of pronunciation and use of medical terms, and the study of common diseases and procedures.
Timeline to a Medical Transcription Career
Individuals interested in medical transcription must undertake a few key steps on their way to starting a career. Here’s a look at what to expect:
- Earn a High School Diploma or GED
- Although not strictly necessary, a diploma or GED is a prerequisite to enroll in most postsecondary MT training programs, and provides the foundation needed to succeed in an MT course.
- Make Career Plans
- Knowing your goals is important in deciding whether to enroll in a medical transcription certificate program – which is focused only on that skill – or in an associate degree program that can prepare you to work in a greater variety of medical office jobs.
- Choose an MT Training Program
- Choose a program that fits with your career goals, as well as suits your needs in terms of cost, location, duration, and type of study (online or on-site).
- Join a Professional Association
- Membership in a professional association such as the Association of Health Documentation Integrity (AHDI) can help students stay up to date on issues and events relevant to medical transcription.
- Get Experience
- After graduating from an MT program, build work experience, ideally through a formal internship program with a nationally-recognized medical transcription service.
- Land a Job
- Although many medical transcriptionists work as freelancers, rookie MTs would do well to hone their skills and contacts by working for an established medical transcription service.
- Get Certified
- Professional certification is not a requirement to work as an MT, but earning certification documents your skills and is desirable to employers and clients.
Medical Transcription Careers At-a-Glance
When patients go to a doctor or the hospital, their symptoms, diagnoses, and treatment plans must all be documented. This process can be complex, as patients often see a number of medical professionals who contribute information. Many professionals – doctors in particular – save time by recording their observations and directions verbally, dictating a voice recording that must be transcribed into written form by a medical transcriptionist. MTs typically work for hospitals, physicians in private practice, or transcription services businesses. Approximately 10 percent of MTs, especially those with a number of years’ experience, work from home. Here's a detailed look at the medical transcriptionist career:
Medical Transcription: Career Basics
Until recently, medical transcriptionists used audio playback equipment to listen to voice recordings, and computer software to transcribe them into written form. Today, however, many transcriptionists employ speech recognition software to produce an initial written draft of a record, and then review and edit that draft for accuracy to create a final record.
Medical Transcription: In Depth
Medical transcription work requires a number of skills, including a command of English language and grammar, attention to detail, and excellent typing and computer skills. Accuracy is vital to the jobs of medical transcriptionists, as the documents they produce become part of a patient's official medical records, and other medical professionals rely on them. When listening to recordings, they must be able to:
- Expand medical terms, abbreviations and jargon into their proper medical forms.
- Understand the differences between various medical documents (diagnostic test results, operative reports, referral letters, etc.) and create each in its proper form.
- Identify and report errors, inconsistencies and mission information to the appropriate person or entity for review and correction.
- Understand and follow applicable patient confidentiality regulations and legal documentation requirements.
Medical Transcription Career & Salary Outlook
The growing use of speech recognition software, combined with a competitive job market overall, have created a challenging career outlook for medical transcriptionists. Nevertheless, the need for MTs remains, as doctors and other medical professionals will continue to need their dictated notes transcribed. In addition, a steady increase in healthcare services means more tests and procedures for patients and, in turn, more documents to be transcribed. Several factors contribute to successful employment as an MT, including specific clients and employers, geographic location, and experience.
Industries with the Most Medical Transcriptionists
|Industry||Total Employment ('15)||Mean Hourly Wage ('15)||Annual Mean Wage ('15)|
|General Medical and Surgical Hospitals||18,540||$18.73||$38,950|
|Business Support Services||13,420||$15.22||$31,650|
|Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories||1,880||$19.28||$40,100|
TOP 5 STATES WITH THE HIGHEST NUMBER OF MEDICAL TRANSCRIPTIONISTS
HIGHEST-PAYING STATES (AND DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA) FOR MEDICAL TRANSCRIPTIONISTS
Boosting Salary with Professional Certifications
While professional certification is not a requirement to work as an MT, it can nonetheless be a big plus when seeking employment. Certification verifies that an MT's skills have been tested and validated by a reputable professional association.
There are two major professional certifications for MTs in the U.S., both offered by the AHDI:
Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist (RHDS)
The RHDS credential is available to recent healthcare documentation/medical transcriptionist program graduates; working professionals with fewer than two years’ experience in acute care; and experienced practitioners working in a single specialty such as radiology, pathology or private practice. RHDS candidates must pass a 130-question exam consisting of both multiple-choice questions and fill-in-the-blank transcription against audio.
Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist (CHDS)
The CHDS credential is designed for RHDS credential holders with a minimum of two years’ experience in acute care transcription or a medical-specialty equivalent. The CHDS exam consists of 120 questions, a combination of multiple-choice questions, and transcription and editing against audio. CHDS candidates may either take and pass the RHDS first, before completing the CHDS exam, or sit for both in a combined qualifying exam.
American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)The AHIMA is a professional association of health information management professionals worldwide. It advocates for the implementation of electronic health records, as well the promotion of ethical and appropriate use of health information.
Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (ADHI)The ADHI is the principal association in the U.S. for professionals working in the healthcare documentation field, including medical transcriptionists. ADHI advocates for members through education and professional development, and offers professional credentialing.
Bureau of Labor StatisticsSponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, the MT Occupational Handbook provides a clearinghouse of governmental facts and stats on the MT profession, including data for job growth, estimated salaries, work environment, and training and education requirements.
CareerOneStop - Medical Transcriptionists Occupation ProfileThis federal government site provides comprehensive information on the MT profession. Includes a brief career video.
O*NET OnLine Summary Report for Medical TranscriptionistsA database of occupational information, the MT page on O*NET offers data about MT education, careers, job tasks, and required skills.