Career Profile: Medical Transcriptionist

Nurse Anesthesiologist

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Job Description:

Medical transcriptionists transcribe correspondence, medical reports, and other materials as dictated by physicians and health care professionals. Generally, this involves listening to recordings on a headset, and keying the text into a personal computer. These documents eventually become part of patients' permanent files.

In order to accurately complete their tasks, medical transcriptionists must understand medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, diagnostic procedures, pharmacology, and treatment assessments as described by physicians or other care providers. They also must be able to translate medical jargon and abbreviations into their expanded forms for the permanent record. Seasoned transcriptionists are valuable proofreaders, and are able to spot mistakes or inconsistencies in a medical report, double-checking office records.

In certain environments (such as physician's offices), medical transcriptionists may have other office duties, such as greeting patients, scheduling appointments, sorting the mail, and answering the phone.

Working Environment:

Medical transcriptionists work in a variety of comfortable office settings, from hospitals and physicians' offices to clinics, laboratories, medical libraries, or transcription service offices. Many transcriptionists telecommute from their home offices, working either through transcription services or as a self-employed contractor in medical transcription.

Office-based transcriptionists usually work a standard 40-hour week. Self-employed medical transcriptionists are more likely to work irregular hours, depending on their schedule - they can work part-time, during evenings, or on an as-needed basis.

Education and Training Requirements:

Those who have completed training in medical transcription tend to land most transcriptionist opportunities. Post-secondary training in medical transcription can be found at many vocational schools and community colleges. Training in a certificate program takes as little as one year; while a two-year associate degree is highly recommended, but not required. Coursework includes anatomy, medical terminology, and English grammar and punctuation. Many of these programs include supervised on-the-job experience.

In addition to education, transcriptionists should demonstrate proficiency with computers and word processing software.

Salary Range:

Pay is hourly for transcription services. Some professionals are paid based on the number of hours they work or on the number of lines they transcribe. Others receive a base hourly salary, with incentives for extra production. Among industries employing the greatest number of medical transcriptionists, were the following median hourly wages:

  • General medical and surgical hospitals: $13.20
  • Offices of physicians: $13.00
  • Business support services: $12.42
Job Outlook:

Good. Employment of medical transcriptionists is projected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2012. The demand for transcription services as high, especially as the population ages, and the number of tests and procedures that require proper documentation rises.

Contracting out transcription work abroad -- to countries such as India -- has grown more popular. However, hospitals, physicians' offices, and other health practitioners will continue to employ domestic medical transcriptionists, and contracting out transcription work is seen as supplementing domestic transcribing services.

Medical transcriptionists can advance in their careers to supervisory positions, home-based work, editing, consulting or teaching.

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Quick Fact
In 2018, workers with a bachelor's degree or higher had almost twice as much
median earnings per week than workers with only a high school diploma.*
*Bureau of Labor Statistics