Training and Education
|Recommended Degree Level||Certificate or Higher|
|Number of Jobs, 2012||74,810|
|Annual Job Growth Rate||2.1%|
|Job Openings per Year (est.)||2,020|
What's needed: Medical transcriptionists must complete an intensive training course at either a dedicated educational institution or a community college. Aspiring transcriptionists can opt to take a certificate course that runs for one year or pursue a two-year associate degree. Since a wide range of educational institutions now offer medical transcription courses, prospective students should focus on the perceived quality of each program that they consider. Many transcription-specific online institutions that offer accelerated certificate programs may place their graduates at a disadvantage by providing inadequate instruction.
Prospective students are advised to seek out two-year associate degree programs with classes taught by experienced medical transcriptionists. In addition, many medical transcription programs are not accredited. To ensure that they receive high-quality instruction, students should gravitate towards accredited programs.
What you study:
Medical transcription students typically study the following subjects:
- Medical terminology
- Advanced grammar
- Medical law
Medical transcriptionists who have previously worked in the medical field may be able to take an accelerated transcription program before sitting for a certification exam.
A quick intro into the work of medical transcriptionists. Created for the US Dept. of Labor.
A Day in the Life
As a medical transcriptionist, your job is to use the dictations provided by doctors and other health professionals to make comprehensive, easy-to-understand patient records. The transcriptions that you perform will appear in patients' files and help doctors, nurses and clinicians make informed medical decisions.
You can perform this job at home or at a medical clinic. If you work in a doctor's office or clinic, you'll arrive for work and sit down at your desk. You'll don headphones and begin listening to the dictations that your employer provides. Using a foot pedal or computer software to control the speed of the playback, you'll use these dictations to craft straightforward medical records. Throughout the course of your day, you'll produce records that include information about pre-existing medical conditions, diagnostic tests, outpatient procedures and long-term prognoses.
As the day goes on, you'll need to employ your knowledge of proper English grammar and syntax. You'll have to translate any strange jargon or shorthand that you encounter into plain English. You'll also have to re-translate unclear transcriptions made by faulty speech-recognition software and medical transcriptionists based in foreign countries.
At several points during the day, you may need to consult a professional medical text to clarify an unfamiliar medical condition or drug that you encounter. At times, you may even need to consult the doctor on duty to ask a specific question. You'll hang up your headphones and call it a day when the other staff members at the clinic leave the office.
If you work at home, you'll have the added advantage of being able to choose at least some of the hours that you work. As such, your day will begin when you choose. Since you'll work through a transcription service that connects you with medical professionals around the country, you'll receive a certain number of dictations per day and be expected to complete them before a specified deadline. To ensure that you get all of your work done, you may have to work a little later than you would at a doctor's office. You'll "punch out" for the day when you've completed all of your dictations.
On any given day, you could receive dictations from hospitals and clinics in places as far apart as California, Maine and North Dakota. When you've finished transcribing a dictation, you'll submit it to your medically-trained superiors. They'll review it for accuracy and may ask you to make changes or improvements.
Whether you work at home or in a doctor's office, you'll soon learn how to work quickly and accurately. At the end of the year, you may receive a performance bonus for exceeding your quotas or producing excellent work. In the end, you'll be able to take pride in the fact that your work ensures that vulnerable patients receive accurate, high-quality medical treatment.
Certifications and Licensing
Medical transcriptionists are not required to hold a license or certification in order to work in the field. However, non-certified workers enjoy fewer career opportunities. The AHDI encourages those who aspire to work in the profession to pass the Certified Medical Transcriptionist exam within five years of receiving a diploma. This exam can only be taken by those with more than two years of experience in a variety of clinical settings, including hospitals, outpatient clinics and doctor's offices.
The AHDI also offers the entry-level Registered Medical Transcriptionist exam. This exam can be taken by those with one to two years of experience in the field. It serves mainly as a stepping stone for individuals who wish to sit for the Certified Medical Transcriptionist exam. Although both of these exams are currently voluntary, the AHDI may eventually require some form of certification for all active transcription workers. Finally, the AHDI confers the Fellow of AAMT designation on medical transcription "experts." Many Fellows of AAMT work as educators, hospital department managers or transcription business owners.
Full-time versus part-time:
Medical transcriptionists work in a variety of clinical and private settings. Most work full-time. Those who work in doctor's offices or hospital departments typically adhere to regular business hours. Thanks to vast improvements in secure broadband Internet technology, nearly half of the country's medical transcriptionists work from home. Although these workers also work full-time, they often have greater control over their schedules. This allows at-home transcription workers to schedule their hours around continuing-education classes, family outings and other obligations.
The following websites have excellent resources for those who wish to learn more about careers in the medical transcription field.
- American Medical Association -- This storied organization advocates on behalf of the nation's medical professionals and supports various legislative causes that could benefit its members. For aspiring medical transcriptionists, it provides detailed information on educational opportunities, salary ranges and other career-related resources. Although it lacks its own job search feature, it provides contact information for field-specific job boards.
- Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity -- The AHDI is a full-service advocacy and professional-support organization for current and prospective medical transcriptionists. For the latter, the AHDI's site offers multimedia resources that touch on certification programs, licensing exams and mentoring. It also has a "Career Connection" feature with job postings across the United States.
- MedicalTranscriptionist.org -- This no-frills service provides information tailored specifically to aspiring medical transcriptionists. It offers written primers on certification requirements, salary information and the industry's long-term jobs outlook. MedicalTranscriptionist.org also partners with educational institutions and medical transcription firms to provide access to certified training and exam-prep programs.
- U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Handbook -- The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides up-to-date information on the medical transcription field. Key resources that can be found here include salary information, educational requirements and certification protocols. The BLS also provides a long-term look at the field's potential for job and salary growth.