How to Become a Medical Transcriptionist

If working in the medical field from behind a computer sounds appealing, then a career in medical transcription may be perfect for you. Most training programs take two years to complete and offer the chance to specialize as you gain more experience, allowing you to progress your career once you enter the workforce.

As the medical field continues to grow, the demand for medical transcriptionists will grow alongside it. Many private practices utilize medical transcriptionists, as do many medical facilities. Some even have the option to work from the comfort of their own home.

Keep reading to learn the steps that will help you become a medical transcriptionist.

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Steps to Become a Medical Transcriptionist

Step 1: Graduate High School

Almost all medical transcriptionists have a high school degree or a GED equivalent. This is a standard precursor to applying for any medical transcription program. If you did not finish high school, you may need to pass the GED to receive entry into a medical transcription program.

Employee Requirement
Most employees will not hire you without a high school diploma or equivalent.

Typing Courses
If you are currently in high school and planning for your future, consider taking formal typing courses to increase your WPM, as this will help you in a career as a medical transcriptionist.

Step 2: Enroll and Finish a Medical Transcription Program

Most employees require completion of a medical transcription program or certification to be considered for a job position.

Types of Degrees
Typically, students choose between an associate degree, certificate program, or diploma program.

How Long Do They Take?
Certificate programs and diploma programs take 18 to 24 months to complete, while adult two-year colleges offer associate degrees. While an associate degree takes slightly longer to obtain, many employers prefer it because the program introduces a deeper understanding of the healthcare system and its specific needs.

What Courses Do You Take?
During the program, students learn about medical terminology, healthcare documentation, transcription methods, and different healthcare settings, such as private practice versus clinical. Additionally, they learn the many different body systems and individual fields, such as gynecology, urology, neurology, cardiology, etc.

Medical transcription projects are offered in-person via many career or vocational schools and a handful offer online programs.

Step 3: Get Experience in the Field

While entry-level positions are available to newly certified medical transcriptionists, all employers appreciate the experience, and pay accordingly. Therefore, it is wise to volunteer in a hospital or patient care setting while earning your certification.

If possible, attempt to choose a medical transcription program that allows on-the-job supervision, so you can cite real life experience while learning about formatting reports, professional and privacy issues, and medical terminology.

Internships with Transcription Companies
If your program does not offer any real world experience as part of the training process, consider looking for apprenticeships or internships at transcription firms while you are training. Any experience in the healthcare world will help you when it comes time to apply for a job.

Step 4: Pursue Industry Certifications

Better Pay
Medical transcriptionists are not required to obtain certification, but having some industry-accepted certifications can help boost earning potential and make you a more competitive candidate when applying for jobs. Therefore, many medical transcriptionists choose to sit for several certifications after they are hired or begin the hiring process. It is up to you which pathway you take towards boosting your credentials.

There are two primary certifications offered by the AHDI (Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity). The first is the CHDS (Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialists), which is designed for progressions who have over two years of experience working in the field of medical transcription within a multi-specialty practice setting or acute care.

The second is the RHDS (Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist) and it is designed for transcriptionists who are new graduates of a program or work within single modularity of healthcare, such as gastroenterology or a private practice doctor. This certification is specifically designed for medical transcriptionists with less than two years of experience.

It is important to note that while medical transcriptionists are not required to earn continuing education credits, unlike other administrative positions within healthcare, those who choose to obtain the CHDS certification will need to complete ten continuing education credits every year if they want to be re-certified. The CHDS certification must be renewed every three years.

What is a Medical Transcriptionist?

A medical transcriptionist is responsible for listening to physicians’ dictated notes and converting them into written reports. They typically work at a computer with a headset and foot pedal and work through dozens of doctors’ reports each day. For this reason, medical transcriptionists must have excellent auditory skills and a penchant for listening carefully to the spoken word. They often work in-house at hospitals and physicians’ offices, but some may work for third-party transcription services that serve a variety of doctors’ offices.

Typically a medical transcriptionist obtains post-secondary education that can take 18 to 24 months and involves learning about medical terminology, physiology, anatomy, grammar, and how to quickly and efficiently use word processing software.

Job Duties

Process the Notes
A medical transcriptionist is tasked with transcribing doctors’ notes and turning them into a written document that is entered into the patients’ records. Most doctors record their notes at the end of the day, at which point it becomes the medical transcriptionists’ job to convert them into a software document.

Review the Notes
The medical transcriptionist is tasked with looking for errors throughout the transcription process. They must also use proper grammar and punctuation, which is often challenging when working with some doctors.

Medical transcriptionists can work for a hospital, individual practice, or third party transcription company.


How Much Do They Get Paid, on Average?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average median pay for medical transcriptionists is $30,100 per year. However, it should be noted that experience and certifications can help boost your earning power within this position.

Personal Skills

What Personality Traits Do You Need?
Medical transcriptionists are highly proficient with technology and comfortable working online all day. They primarily work with computers and word processing software for the bulk of their day. In addition, most medical transcriptionists utilize foot pedals and headsets and are comfortable with extra gear.

The job is extremely detail-orientated, so an eye for detail and a perfectionist personality are ideal. One of the medical transcriptionist’s main duties involve spotting inconsistencies or errors within the medical documents they are transcribing. If they find a problem, they must be comfortable researching and speaking to physicians to correct the issue with confidence. An ability to speak with a variety of people is a plus.

Good Hearing
In addition, auditory learners are typically the best fit for medical transcription positions, since the bulk of information is processed through the auditory system and transcribed into documents. What if your physician has a thick accents or odd speaking style that you would have to become comfortable with?

Good Writer
Finally, medical transcriptionists need to understand English and basic grammar, as the material they transcribe will often not be grammatically accurate and require appropriate formatting. Patience and a firm understanding of grammar are a virtue for medical transcriptionists.

Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that there may be a 7% decline in the number of medical transcriptionists needed over the next ten years, but this decline should not alarm those considering a career in medical transcription. Despite the decline, over 6,600 openings should be available each year in the coming decade as workers retire, leave the labor force, or change jobs. In addition, the growth of the healthcare industry may increase the number of openings in the coming years.

If you are ready to start an exciting new career as a medical transcriptionist, learn more about nearby schools and programs that offer medical transcription programs.

Search Medical Transcription Programs

Get information on Medical Transcription programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

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