Career Development

How To Become a Medical Transcriptionist

February 22, 2021

if you are considering a career in the medical or healthcare field, medical transcription can be a fulfilling choice. In this article, we discuss what a medical transcriptionist does, average salaries, requirements and provide an example job description to help you determine if this is the right career for you.

What does a medical transcriptionist do?

Medical transcriptionists convert audio recordings of physicians into written documents. They format the documents according to industry standards, proof them for grammar and spelling errors and check that all medical terminology is used properly. Medical transcriptionists are responsible for making sure that all patient records and doctors' reports created by dictation are accurate and written correctly. Additional medical transcriptionist duties include:

  • Listening to recordings of doctors' dictations and typing what they say into a document
  • Reviewing and editing records that were created using a speech-to-text software
  • Drawing on their knowledge of medical terminology to accurately proofread reports
  • Curating and filing the finished documents according to their employer's policies

Read more: Browse Medical Transcriptionists Jobs

Average salary

Medical transcriptionist salaries vary depending on geographic location, training and experience.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $15.27 per hour
  • Some salaries range from $7.25 to $28.95 per hour.

Related: How To Choose a Career

Medical transcriptionist requirements

To find work as a medical transcriptionist, candidates must meet specific educational requirements and receive specialized training.

  • Education
  • Training
  • Certifications
  • Skills

Education

The minimum educational requirement for a medical transcriptionist is a high school diploma or GED. Upon meeting this requirement, an individual would then be qualified to start working toward certification.

One of the forms of acceptable certification is an associate degree with a specialization in medical transcription. This usually takes around two years to complete and includes a thorough overview of medical terminology, anatomy and transcription techniques.

Training

Specific practical training is necessary to become a medical transcriptionist in the United States. This training can come by way of a degree, an in-person course from an accredited institution or through an online program.

Several highly-recommended online courses can provide technical training, practical knowledge and certification in less than six months. Medical transcription training includes learning to use dictation software, understand medical terminology and improve typing skills.

Depending on the source of a medical transcriptionist's training, they may be able to complete several hours of on-the-job training under direct supervision. Medical transcriptionists who take online courses may seek out internships to gain practical experience before applying for jobs.

Certifications

In many states, medical transcriptionists are not qualified to work unless they have a medical transcription certificate. Medical transcriptionists can obtain certification through a local university, medical facility or by completing certain online courses.

The length of the certification process varies by location but typically lasts anywhere between six and 18 months. Most states do not require medical transcriptionists to hold a license but candidates should research the local regulations before applying for jobs.

The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) offers two important medical transcriptionist certifications:

1. Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist (RHDS)

The RHDS certification is for recent graduates of medical transcriptionist education programs or transcriptionists who specialize in single type healthcare, such as pediatrics or for a physician who owns a private practice. The RHDS is a good choice for individuals who have less than two years of work experience.

2. Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist (CHDS)

The CHDS certification is for medical transcriptionists with more than two years of experience in advanced care or who work for a practice with multiple specialties.

Skills

Medical transcriptionists use several unique skills while completing their daily tasks. Important skills for a medical transcriptionist include:

Medical knowledge

Medical transcriptionists must be able to understand and interpret advanced medical terminology and vocabulary. Familiarity with medical terms allows medical transcriptionists to transcribe recordings quickly and accurately. Many transcriptionists use medical dictionaries to supplement their knowledge but most employers are looking for candidates who have a reasonably extensive medical vocabulary.

Typing skills

Medical transcriptionists are often paid by the word rather than by the hour. Therefore, the faster they type, the higher their salary. Successful medical transcriptionists are typically able to type as fast or faster than the average rate. Typing accuracy is also crucial as there is no room for typing errors in medical documents.

Writing skills

Medical transcriptionists need to be proficient in spelling, grammar and syntax. Common errors can have significant consequences in a medical environment, so accuracy and excellent writing skills are valuable in this role.

Computer skills

Medical transcriptionists must be able to operate and use certain computer software programs to complete their assignments. This includes word processors, like Microsoft Word, and audio file editing equipment. These tools allow medical transcriptionists to complete their tasks quickly and to communicate directly with their supervisors and employers.

Attention to detail

Medical transcription is methodical work. Professionals must be able to listen to files carefully and precisely recreate what they hear. They must edit their documents rigorously to remove any errors and check both the doctors' words and their own for accuracy. Professionals who are focused, methodical and attentive are most likely to succeed in this career.

Read more: Impress Recruiters With These Desirable Professional Certifications

Medical transcriptionist work environment

Medical transcriptionists work in a variety of settings. These include hospitals, doctors' offices, medical schools, health and wellness centers and private practices. It is also possible to work remotely if you have the right equipment. Medical transcriptionists spend most of their work hours sitting alone at a computer, listening to recordings through headphones. They might occasionally be required to travel with a team and use their skills for a specific medical case.

Read more: Work-from-Home Jobs That Pay Well

How to become a medical transcriptionist

Here are the most common steps needed to become a medical transcriptionist:

1. Earn a degree

Anyone interested in this career needs to earn at least a high school degree before they can be certified. They also might pursue an associate degree or a bachelor's to increase their employment opportunities. Higher education degrees are available from a variety of institutions, including universities, community colleges, tech schools and trade schools.

2. Gain work experience

Depending on their chosen method of education, medical transcriptionists may be offered an internship or apprenticeship as part of their degree. If not, they may need to seek out opportunities to gain practical experience in a work environment. This could also include job shadowing, volunteering or working as a general transcriptionist.

3. Become certified

Certification is one of the most important steps in becoming a medical transcriptionist. Certification is voluntary but can be necessary for finding a job in the healthcare industry. To receive certification, medical transcriptionists must meet experience qualifications and pass an exam.

4. Apply for jobs

Medical transcriptionists can seek out employment at local healthcare facilities or by using an online job opening database like Indeed. Medical transcriptionists who wish to work remotely may be able to work on a freelance basis. Before they can be hired, applicants will need to submit a resume and proof of certification.

Create a Resume on Indeed

Medical transcriptionist job description example

In search of a full-time medical transcriptionist to work in a fast-paced environment at an Orthopedic practice in uptown San Francisco. Must be an accurate and skilled typist, dedicated to excellence and the mission of our practice. A high-school diploma and an RHDS certification are required. Hours include Monday-Friday, 8:00-6:00. Primary duties will involve:

  • Working with the physicians' medical assistants to aid in chart preparation
  • Aiding doctors in documenting and charting patient visits using our medical record system
  • Supporting the medical team by providing accurate records of past patient encounters
  • Actively creating and maintaining typed patient medical documents
  • Using their knowledge of grammar and spelling to edit and properly process the doctors' speech-to-text data
  • Possibly assisting the administrative assistants when necessary

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