How to Become a Medical Transcriptionist

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3 Steps to Becoming a Medical Transcriptionist

Step 1 Complete a medical transcription degree program

Employers typically prefer to hire transcriptionists who have completed an associate degree, diploma or certificate program in medical transcription. These programs provide students with an introduction and foundational understanding of medical terminology, body systems, healthcare documentation and transcription, and transcribing methods in various healthcare settings, such as urology, orthopedics, neurology or gynecology. These programs are typically offered at vocational or career schools, and there are many colleges that offer online MT programs as well.

Step 2 Gain real world experience

Many medical transcription education programs include supervised on-the-job experience where students gain additional knowledge about medical terminology, formatting reports, transcription style, professional issues, and other important facets of the industry. Students in programs that don’t offer real-world experience often seek medical transcription internships or apprenticeship positions at nearby transcription firms or healthcare facilities.

Step 3 Earn key industry certifications

Certification for medical transcriptionists is voluntary; however, earning these certifications helps transcriptionists boost their career options since employers know candidates are qualified transcription experts. The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) offers two important industry certifications: Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist (RHDS) and Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist (CHDS). The RHDS certification is for recent graduates of MT education programs or transcriptionists who work in a singular specialty of healthcare, such as radiology or for a private-practice physician, and have less than two years of work experience. The CHDS certification is for working professionals with more than two years of transcription experience in acute care or a multi-specialty practice setting. Note: These two credentials were formerly known as Registered Medical Transcriptionist and Certified Medical Transcriptionist.

FAQ on Getting your Medical Transcriptionist Degree or Certification

After completing a medical transcription degree or diploma program, aspiring transcriptionists still have questions about what it takes to be successful in the industry. Following are five commonly asked questions about working as a medical transcriptionist.

  • Unlike clinical healthcare professions, such a registered or licensed practical nurses, medical transcriptionists are not required to complete regular continuing education credits. However, transcriptionists who earn the CHDS certification are required to complete 30 continuing education credits in order to be recertified. Transcriptionists who earn the RHDS certification do not need to complete any continuing education credits to maintain their credential. Both credentials are valid for a three-year period.

  • The AHDI outsources administration of its credentialing exams to Kryterion, a third-party test development, delivery and online proctoring company. The RHDS exam consists of 130 multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank questions and a transcription portion. The CHDS exam consists of 120 multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank questions designed to test candidates’ interpretive judgment and editing skills.

  • MTs must be proficient in the use of computers and word-processing software – they are the primary tools of the trade. They also need to be comfortable with transcription gear such as headsets and foot pedals that allow for easy stopping and starting of dictation. They must be able to spot errors or inconsistencies in medical reports, and they should be comfortable conducting high-level research to ensure reporting is factually correct. They’ll need to accurately transcribe recorded dictation from physicians, and be able to glean pertinent information from medical reports despite some physicians’ thick accents or difficult speaking styles. Lastly, they’ll need a strong command of English and the rules of grammar and punctuation.

  • The AHDI assists newcomers to the field of medical transcription in many ways. Students receive free memberships that can connect them to peers in the field through local AHDI chapters, state associations and special interest group alliances. Students also can attend the AHDI’s annual conference.

  • The AHDI offers many accredited programs that accept a variety of payment methods, including federal Pell Grants. Students should check with their prospective school about funding options prior to enrollment.

Medical Transcriptionist Salary & Job Growth

In 2016 there were more than 57,400 medical transcriptionists employed in the United States. Hospitals employed 28 percent of all transcriptionists, with an equal amount of transcriptionists employed in administrative and support positions. Just under a one-quarter of all transcriptionists were employed at physicians’ offices. Keep reading to learn more about medical transcriptionist salaries, employment and other relevant data.

Medical Transcriptionist Salaries

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical transcriptionists earned median annual salaries of $35,250 in May of 2017. However, the top 10 percent of workers in the field earned more than $51,000 per year. Where they work affects pay – wages for medical transcriptionists were higher than the national average at the following places of employment:

  • Medical and diagnostic labs $41,540
  • Hospitals $38,910
  • Physicians’ offices $35,540

The pay structure varies by location as well – some medical transcriptions are paid by the hour, while others are paid by the volume of work they produce. According to Payscale.com, medical transcriptionists also earn slightly more depending upon the field or department in which they work as well. Transcriptionists who work in oncology, radiology, pathology and orthopedics all saw a slight uptick in their wages. Transcriptionists who worked in larger cities such as Dallas, Chicago or Atlanta also brought home increased earnings.

The following chart shows mean annual wages and employment data for medical transcriptionists in your state.

Alabama Mean wage annual: $35,090
Currently Employed: 480
Change in Employment (2016-2026): -10%
Alaska Mean wage annual: $45,400
Currently Employed: 110
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 17%
Arizona Mean wage annual: $29,990
Currently Employed: 1,000
Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A
Arkansas Mean wage annual: $32,190
Currently Employed: 470
Change in Employment (2016-2026): -9%
California Mean wage annual: $41,340
Currently Employed: 4,990
Change in Employment (2016-2026): -7%
Colorado Mean wage annual: $38,390
Currently Employed: 690
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 15%
Connecticut Mean wage annual: $35,850
Currently Employed: 630
Change in Employment (2016-2026): -13%
Delaware Mean wage annual: $30,630
Currently Employed: 140
Change in Employment (2016-2026): -10%
Florida Mean wage annual: $35,530
Currently Employed: 6,620
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 13%
Georgia Mean wage annual: $33,370
Currently Employed: 1,710
Change in Employment (2016-2026): 2.10%
view more

Job Outlook for Medical Transcriptionists

When it comes to future jobs, the field of medical transcription is unlike many healthcare support positions. Due to technological advances that are changing the way medical transcription is performed, the field is expected to contract by 3 percent, or a loss of 1,900 jobs, through 2026, the BLS reports. These technologies include electronic health records, speech recognition software, and new software programs that allow doctors to create real-time medical records that will reduce the demand for medical transcriptionists.

However, the BLS notes, the country’s rapidly aging population of Baby Boomers is expected to create strong demand for medical procedures and services that will still require medical transcription. Some physician offices may outsource their transcription services, further impacting demand, and transcription work may even move overseas in coming years.

Finding a Medical Transcriptionist Program

Students can find medical transcription education programs at community colleges and vocational schools, or they can enroll in an online program. These programs typically vary in length from about nine months to two years. Students should consider the following points before making an enrollment decision.

Before enrolling in a healthcare administration program, students should carefully consider these three primary points:

  • Type of culminating degree. Certificate programs last about nine months, while diploma programs usually take approximately one year to complete. Programs that culminate in an associate degree take roughly two years to finish for full-time students. Putting in the extra time can result in graduating with more well-rounded skill set since associate programs delve deeper into key medical transcription subject matter, as well as important general education requirements such as English, composition and other relevant coursework.
  • Delivery format. MT programs are delivered either on campus or online, although some programs may be offered in a hybrid format that blends classroom instruction with learning in a digital environment. Students should be familiar with which delivery format best suits their learning style.
  • Cost. Tuition expenses vary by institution and program length. Costs for a nine-month online certificate program may be greater than those for an associate’s degree program at a nearby community college. Students also should consider funding options for tuition, such as student loans, federal grants, or employer tuition assistance.

Other key considerations include class size, graduation rate, and location. Students searching for a medical transcriptionist program can use the search tool below to find programs separated by state, type of degree offered and field of study.

State
Degree Level
School Type
Environment

Professional Medical Transcriptionist Associations & Groups

The adoption of electronic health records has altered the entire transcription processes and the role of medical transcriptionists. Improvements in speech recognition software eventually may entirely eliminate the need for typed medical records, long a mainstay of the medical transcription industry.

Staying connected is of utmost importance for both current and future medical transcriptionists. As the industry continues to be buffeted by unprecedented change and fragmentation, more and more transcriptionists are joining industry associations and groups to ensure they remain at the forefront of these changes. These groups help ensure relevancy in the field through certification and education. Medical transcriptionists can find these and many other resources through the following five trade groups and industry associations:

  • Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity

    Founded in 1978, the AHDI originally focused on educating medical professionals about the transcription industry but has since grown to include more extensive responsibilities and services. AHDI provides leadership and standards for industry best practices, career development, credentialing and re-certification. Student memberships are free.

  • American Health Information Management Association

    The premier industry group for health information professionals. AHIMA has more than 130,000 members. It provides credentialing and online education, newsletters, a trade journal, advocacy and a student and career center.

  • MyMT

    This online community of medical transcriptionists provides many different resources for transcriptionists, including online forums, industry news, connections to other medical transcriptionists, technical resources, health information and more.

  • Medical Transcription Coalition

    This online forum for home-based transcriptionists and editors is geared toward improving performance, compensation and working conditions through online networking and teleconferencing about various topics. Focus-action forums include employer lobbying, transcription cooperatives, licensing and accreditation, and legislative and legal positions.

  • MTStars

    This free online community of medical transcriptionists began in 2001 and has grown to more than 40,000 members. It offers a variety of industry-related discussion boards, as well as a job board and resume bank.

Additional Resources for Medical Transcriptionists

Professional groups aren’t the only place where medical transcriptionists can find support and career development resources. Here are some additional sources for professionals in the medical transcription industry.

  • Alfatyping

    Not that medical transcriptionists have loads of free time, but Alfa Typing’s online typing tutorials can help turn speedy typists into experts and boost productivity.

  • American Healthcare Documentation Professionals Group

    Provides transcription services, as well as training, continuing education, and credentialing programs.

  • Book of Style for Medical Transcription

    This volume produced by the AHDI is the industry standard for data capture and documentation benchmarks. Available in print or online.

  • Drugs.com

    Never confuse a drug name again with this comprehensive online source of information on more than 24,000 prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines and supplements.

  • MTJobs.com

    Comprehensive job board devoted to the medical transcription industry.

  • Stedman’s Medical Dictionary

    This essential reference tool for healthcare support professionals defines more than 107,000 medical terms.

  • TranscribeMe!

    The makers of this widely used transcription service offer an iPhone app that provides easy-to-read raw text for medical transcriptionists.

  • TranscriptionGear.com

    A leading source for professional medical transcription equipment, including headsets, foot pedals, software, reference books, speech recognition software, and full transcription solutions.