Medical transcriptionists are the record keepers of the medical industry. Those who study medical transcription learn to listen carefully to audio recordings that contain notes from doctors. Using knowledge of medical terminology, anatomy, and the English language, medical transcriptionists produce detailed and accurate reports that become a permanent part of a patient’s personal medical files.
Medical transcription is a critical component of the patient and healthcare experience, although transcriptionists do not directly interact with patients. Medical transcriptionists work entirely behind the scenes at healthcare facilities like hospitals and medical and dental clinics. Alternately, some work from home as independent contractors for medical transcription agencies.
Medical transcription attracts many students because jobs in this field are plentiful and they require minimal higher education. In fact, you can only study medical transcription at certificate and associate degree levels, and you may be able to find a job without any formal training at all, though a certificate or degree improves job prospects and gives applicants an edge in the job market.
Online vs. Traditional Education
There are many options available to earn a medical transcription certificate online.
A variety of schools offer online medical transcription training programs and, since this type of work is completed independently on the computer, the field is primed for online learning. There is no practical reason not to pursue a medical transcription certification online. If you decide to earn your certificate online, you should compare the courses in your online program to those that are offered in a traditional accredited medical transcription training program to make sure that you are getting a high-quality education.
Accreditation is a key factor to consider when looking for a medical transcription school. The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) accredits select medical transcription certificate programs that meet its standards for medical transcription education. Although you do not need to attend an accredited school to find employment, you can be sure that you are getting a high-quality education in an accredited medical transcription training program. Check out the Guide to Accreditation in Higher Education to learn more about accreditation and how to determine if the program you select meets the necessary standards.
Medical Transcription Training
Certificate in Medical Transcription
A certificate in medical transcription is the shortest educational path available in the field. Medical transcriptionist training certificate programs introduce students to important medical and computer skills to quickly prepare them for the workforce.
- Credit Hours/Length of Study
1 year (30 to 35 credit hours)
Medical transcription certificate programs include courses that improve knowledge of the medical field and teach technical skills. Examples include medical terminology, anatomy, and pharmacology (the uses and effects of drugs). Students will also take classes in computer skills, speech recognition software application, and technical writing. In addition, some medical transcription programs include an externship, which is a brief internship that can offer hands-on experience working with medical transcription equipment.
- Employment Prospects
A certificate qualifies students to work in general medical transcription or to specialize in a subfield like radiology or pathology. In addition, students may be qualified for entry-level clerical positions in the healthcare industry, like medical office administration.
Associate Degree in Medical Transcription
An associate degree is the highest level of study in medical transcription. While an associate degree is not required for most medical transcription positions, the additional training provided through medical transcriptionist schools including computer, language, and medical training, is designed to lead to broader work opportunities.
An Associate of Science (AS) in Medical Transcription encompasses scientific and mathematics classes that are designed to provide you with technical skills in the field. The AS is a good choice if you plan to enter the workforce right away or transfer your credits into a bachelor’s program in another major.
An Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Medical Transcription emphasizes practical job skills, but it is very similar to the AS degree. The AAS is the best option if you want to start a medical transcription job as soon as you graduate.
- Credit Hours/Length of Study
2 years (60 to 65 hours)
Associate degrees in medical transcription provide students with a more comprehensive knowledge of anatomy, medicine, and office skills than certificate programs. Classes typically offered in a medical transcription associate degree include word processing, English composition, medical terminology, anatomy, and pharmacology. Students may also take classes in medical billing and coding, office skills, accounting, and business communication or technical writing. Top programs offer hands-on internship opportunities in the final semester of study.
- Employment Prospects
An associate degree in medical transcription qualifies the student to work as a medical transcriptionist in a clinical office or from home, but is not required to perform these jobs. The additional coursework, however, provides a better understanding of business, allowing graduates to perform additional duties in a medical office. Such business skills may also make it easier for transcriptionists to work from a home office if they possess project management abilities.
Medical Transcription Certification and Licensing
The Association of Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) offers two levels of professional certification for medical transcriptionists. These certifications are optional, but some employers prefer certification as proof of your transcription skills, which can also lead to a pay raise. In order to become certified, you will need to pay a fee and pass the AHDI medical transcription exam.
Beginning transcriptionists can take the exam to become certified as a Registered Medical Transcriptionist (RMT). After RMTs have gained at least two years of transcription experience, they are eligible to take the CMT exam, which designates them as a Certified Medical Transcriptionist (CMT). The CMT certification indicates more advanced medical knowledge and experience than the RMT. Continuing education coursework is required to keep skills updated, otherwise both certifications expire after three years.
There are many other degrees in related specialities that could prepare those interested in entering the medical transcription field for a career in the industry. For example, health information management, medical billing and coding, and healthcare studies programs all qualify applicants for entry-level medical transcription jobs, without having to earn a medical transcription certificate or associate degree.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 70,000 medical transcriptionists employed in the United States in 2014. As technology continues to advance, there may be a shift in the role of medical transcriptionists toward new methods, but there will still be a need for transcriptionists with a variety of skills in healthcare services. While new software enables speech recognition programs to help decipher rough transcriptions, medical transcriptionists will still be needed to review the drafts and edit them as needed. Some jobs for medical transcriptionists include:
- Medical Transcriptionist
- Radiology Transcriptionist
- Pathology Transcriptionist
- Medical Records Clerk
- Medical Assistants
Highest Paying States for Medical Transcriptionists
|State/District||Employment||Hourly Mean Wage||Annual Mean Wage|
|District of Columbia||40||$23.19||$48,230|