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How to Become a Medical Transcriptionist: Salaries, Certifications & Skills

For the past 60 years, healthcare has been among most rapidly growing industries. Many jobs since then have been invented to facilitate interaction process between doctors and patients. One of such professions is medical transcriptionist. If you have ever thought about how to become a medical transcriptionist or consider trying it as part-time job, it will be important to know a few things about this profession.

What Do Medical Transcriptionists Do?

In short, healthcare transcriptionists listen to audio recordings of healthcare specialists including doctors, nurses and transcribe them. In reality, however, their task is not limited merely to put audio tracks in written form. Medical transcriptionists engage in formatting recordings into documents following industry standards. They also proofread utterances and make sure that all terminology in document is used correctly. Main job of transcriptionists is checking that all records and reports of healthcare stuff in audio form are precise and correct in their written form.

The primary responsibilities of medical transcriptionists include:

  • Transcribing recordings of healthcare specialists and formatting them into documents.
  • Reviewing, proofreading, editing of speech put into documents produced by software.
  • Fact-checking of the reports drawn from field knowledge in healthcare terminology.
  • Standardizing existing formatted documents as per employer policies.

Additional responsibilities may be:

  • Training of the new transcriptionists and their supervision
  • Creating templates for documents that should be transcribed

Medical transcriptionists are needed in a wide range of settings. For the most part, they work in hospitals, private practices, laboratories, doctors’ offices. However, they are also needed in med schools, rehabilitation facilities, health and wellness centers, healthcare organizations, government sector. Some might have an opportunity to work from home if their work does not need frequent interactions with healthcare specialists. But the majority work with recordings on their computer, although some rare cases of traveling might also occur depending on employment place. 

Medical Transcriptionist Salaries

Salaries of medical transcriptionists may depend on several important factors. Apart from job experience, location and employer, medical transcription certifications are very important in wage-formation. As per the data provided by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, median medical transcriptionists’ pay across the country is US $33,380 per year, which is US $16.05 per hour as of May 2019. Highest wages are observed in diagnostic laboratories, while lowest-paid is transcriptionists in administrative and support services. Some healthcare transcriptionists are paid for the number of transcriptions they produce, which can make earnings uneven from month to month and depend on current demand. Others have specific hourly rate or an annual salary, which is more secure from financial standpoint.

Medical Transcriptionist Requirements

Medical transcriptionist work presupposes that one isn’t only able to transcribe recording correctly but also has decent knowledge of healthcare, anatomy, specific terminology, ethical principles, legal aspects. It makes becoming a medical transcriptionist in three months practically impossible. Formal training and certification may last for at least 1 year.

Education & Training

Minimum demands for starting medical transcriptionist career in postsecondary education, which could be a high school diploma, community college, GED, or distance-learning program. Once this education requirement is fulfilled, next step is getting certified. There are several possible options in this regard. Associate degree in medical transcription is one of them. Such training takes approximately 2 years and prepares specialists knowledgeable in all technical, medical, as well as legal aspects of healthcare transcription.

Another alternative would be taking an online program at an accredited institution. There are several good options for medical transcriptionist course on the web that provide training in all the necessary areas for medical transcriptionists. After completion of such a program, person must take a test that would lead to certification. Course duration for the most part is from 6 months to one year. The advantage of this option is that person may study remotely and have flexible studying hours.

Practical Training

In the US, if one wants to work as medical transcriptionist, person should take practical training. This might be part of learning program or internship. If not, an aspiring medical transcriptionist training in a real-life setting should take place under certified professional’s supervision. Practical training includes learning to use necessary tools for work including software for transcription, typing, proofreading, and documentation formatting, understanding terminology, and record context.

Medical Transcription Certification 

Certification demands for this profession in many states differ. For the most part, a medical transcriptionist certificate is necessary prerequisite to start career in the field. Certification could be obtained in different places including local higher education institutions, healthcare faculty, online program, or specialized organization. To find out whether person can work as transcriber without a license, one should study regulations in their state.

It’s also possible to get certified by the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI). They provide two major options for transcriptionist certifications – Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist (RHDS) and Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist (CHDS). The main difference between them is that RDHS medical transcription certificate is offered for specialists in a specific healthcare area or single-type healthcare facility. For example, it may be a private physician practice or pediatrics med institution. CHDS, on the other hand, is an advanced program. This certificate is available for transcribers who already have decent work experience that’s more than two years within the industry. CHDS allows medical transcription certification for a wide area of facilities with multiple specializations. It requires an applicant to have knowledge across all healthcare fields to transcribe records of different healthcare specialists accurately.

Skills & Qualities Needed for a Medical Transcriptionist

Work of medical transcriptionist incorporates several important aspects of working the audio recordings in healthcare area, text procession, legal concerns. It creates a unique skill set that a specialist in this field is required to have, including both technical matters of their job (hard skills) and necessary personal qualities that are crucial for working process (soft skills).

Hard Skills

  • Healthcare knowledge
    It’s crucial for transcriber to understand terminology when working with the records. It’s the only way that allows decoding the audio tracks accurately. If you decide to become a medical transcriptionist, advanced knowledge of anatomy, treatment procedures, and all applying of terminology is a must. Hopefully, one does not need healthcare education, all necessary vocabulary and understanding of healthcare processes can be drawn from online courses, specialized dictionaries, and during formal training.
  • Audial skills
    Transcriber just like an interpreter needs to have good memory and good audial skills. They often should get used to individual speech characteristics, such as tempo or articulation peculiarities, and retrieve every information piece. One must remember whole sentences and long utterances to transcribe at decent speed.
  • Language skills
    Mastery of language is vital for this profession. The main medical transcriptionist requirements are to write error-free, proofread and edit documents. If you are not confident enough, grammar books and spell-checking software can always help.
  • Computer skills
    The main requirements in this regard are to work with specialized software, audio playing programs, and text formatting applications such as MS Word. 
  • Typing
    There are two main metrics in this regard – typing rate and accuracy. Both should be at an advanced level that can be achieved with special learning software.

Soft Skills

  • Perseverance
    What is meant here is ability to focus on a specific task for a long time. Most transcriptionists spend hours in front of computer listening to records and transcribing them. This requires extra patience and peace of mind.
  • Attention to detail
    This applies to both listening and writing. The main metric of quality of medical transcription certainly is its accuracy. This often requires listening to records several times, re-reading, and double-checking every detail.

How to Become a Medical Transcriptionist in 2021?

In short, here are all the basic steps on one’s way to become a medical transcriptionist:

  1. Get a degree
    The first step is to meet a minimum educational requirement. There are plenty of options here to choose from.
  2. Adapt to the working environment
    After completion of formal education, depending on the program and institution an aspiring transcriptionist can be offered an internship or apprenticeship as final stage of obtaining a degree. At this point, it’s important to get accustomed to environment and working process.
  3. Practice and gain experience
    It is the inevitable part before one can actually apply for a job. Typical medical transcription training in working area is done under supervision of an advanced professional who will  share necessary knowledge and give feedback.
  4. Pass certification
    Certification in most cases is crucial for finding a good job and in some states it’s mandatory. There are different medical transcriptionist certificate program options from online to in-class that end with an exam leading to obtaining a certificate.
  5. Apply for a job
    Now you are at the point where you seek out employment. It is possible to find a job full time or work remotely on a freelance basis.

Go For It!

In conclusion, a medical transcriptionist is a profession that has good perspectives in contemporary healthcare. Probably soon decoding of transcripts might get even more facilitated with help of artificial intelligence. But still, human supervision will be required for control over process and editing. If you are into precision, accuracy, and listening, medical transcriptionist job might be a good fit for you. Use our tips, hang out with people who already work as transcribers, and can give you some valuable advice. Pursue your dream job, take new challenges, do not be afraid to leave your comfort zone. There’s always something exciting ahead!