Medical Transcription: Certificate, Associate's & Online Degree Info

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What will you learn in a medical transcription degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a certificate and associate degree and potential careers.
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Medical Transcription Certificate and Associate Degree at a Glance

Medical transcriptionists use a headset to listen to the audio recordings of physicians and other medical professionals and convert the audio into a written report. Discharge summaries, radiology reports, physical examinations, pathology reports, correspondence and medical histories are examples of the reports that a medical transcriptionist will produce. These medical reports and documents may be added to the permanent records of the patient.

As a student in this field, you will learn about medical terminology, anatomy, laboratory procedures, pharmacology, keyboarding and grammar. After you graduate from a medical transcription degree program, you will be prepared for employment in physicians' offices, hospitals, outpatient care centers and medical laboratories. Telecommuting and working from home is also a possibility for many medical transcriptionists, in addition to self-employment and working for private clients. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for medical transcriptionists are expected to increase by sex percent. In comparison to other career fields, this rate is slower than average.

Certificate Associate
Who is this degree for? Students who know that they want to enter the medical transcriptionist career field Students who wish to continue their training in medical transcription and improve their employment options
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Medical transcriptionist ($34,000)*
Receptionist ($27,000)
- Medical transcriptionists working in diagnostics ($38,000)*
-Transcriptionists working in speciality hospitals ($38,000)
Time to Completion 1 year full-time 2 years full-time
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED
- Computer knowledge and experience helpful
High school diploma or GED
- Computer knowledge and experience helpful
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Certificate in Medical Transcription

Certificate programs in medical transcription prepare you for entry-level employment as a medical transcriptionist. In addition to medical terminology, grammar, keyboarding, anatomy and physiology, these programs allow you to study medical office management, medical office ethics and customer service training.

While some medical transcription certificate programs allow you to transfer your credits earned to an associate degree in medical transcription, there are other schools where you can transfer your credits to other types of programs, including medical assisting and health information technology. A limited number of certificate programs allow you to gain valuable work experience as part of their curriculum. You may need to continue your education to improve job prospects, and you will compete with associate's degree holders for entry-level positions.

Pros and Cons


  • You will gain skills that will allow you transcribe many types of medical records
  • Prepares you for employment in a variety of work environments
  • Credits can be applied towards continuing your education and pursuing an associate degree


  • Need to stay up-to-date with advancing technology
  • In a certificate program, you may be ineligible for financial aid
  • Slow typing speed can affect income

Common Courses and Requirements

Your required coursework will include keyboarding, transcription, medical terminology, English grammar, computer applications and anatomy. You will also learn how to use reference materials and produce accurate medical documents. Topics in common core courses include:

  • Computer concepts and applications
  • Medical law & ethics
  • Business communications
  • Word processing
  • Medical terminology

Online Course Info

Online options are fairly common for certificate programs in medical transcription. Many schools offer flexibility in courses as you can choose to take a few classes online or complete the entire certificate program over the Internet. In an online program, students can study on their own schedule and as time allows.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Technological advancements have changed the way that medical transcriptionists work. Traditionally, a medical transcriptionist would use a C-phone or cassette tapes to produce transcripts. Recently, there has been a trend towards digital audio files that are received over the Internet. To better improve job prospects and available opportunities, you must become familiar with computer technology and learn how to transcribe from digital audio.

Since some employers pay medical transcriptionists based on the amount of transcripts they can provide and how many words they can type per minute, you can also benefit from increasing your typing speed. Taking extra keyboarding classes can help increase your words per minute and improve salary prospects. The option of working from home and being self-employed is an additional employment opportunity that is available to medical transcriptionists. By taking a few business classes, you can learn how to market yourself as a self-employed medical transcriptionist and gain the knowledge necessary to attract private clients.

Associate in Medical Transcription

Associate degree programs in medical transcription offer a curriculum that is quite similar to certificate programs, although the courses for associate degree programs are often more in-depth and provide advanced training opportunities. You will also take general education courses when enrolled in an associate degree program.

Some schools offer field experiences or internships as part of their curriculum. It may also be possible for students to transfer their credits earned in an associate program to a bachelor's program if they decide to continue their education. If you want to work in another medical or health-related area, you may need to continue your education at the bachelor's degree level to expand your career options.

Pros and Cons


  • Self-employment opportunities are possible
  • Internships are often available in associate degree program that can provide you with work experience
  • Opportunity to take advanced courses in the field


  • You would be applying for the same jobs as someone with a certificate
  • Advances in technology can limit employment opportunities by making individual transcriptionists more efficient
  • Deadlines can make the job stressful

Courses and Requirements

In addition to general education courses in psychology, interpersonal communication, English composition and mathematics, your courses within the major will cover medical terminology, anatomy, physiology, business, ethics and keyboarding. Some schools also provide internships and field experiences as a component of their curriculum. Common courses include:

  • Advanced computer applications
  • Medical office procedures
  • Document formatting
  • Medical transcription
  • Business communications

Online Degree & Course Info

You can find many associate degree programs that offer individual classes or entire programs related to medical transcription online. The online curricula for these classes and programs are quite similar to traditional classes that are taken on-campus.

Stand Out with This Degree

Although you are not required to become certified in order to work as a medical transcriptionist, pursuing voluntary certification can improve employment opportunities. Through the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI), you can achieve certification as either a Registered Medical Transcriptionist (RMT) or Certified Medical Transcriptionist (CMT). The RMT credential is intended for medical transcriptionists with less than two years experience and who work in a single specialty, while the CMT certification is for medical transcriptionists who work in a variety of medical specialties.

AHDI offers memberships for current students, new graduates and professionals. These memberships offer numerous benefits such as networking with industry experts, information on the latest news within the industry and opportunities for continuing education. An additional way you can enhance employment opportunities and salary prospects is by taking keyboarding courses that will let you increase your typing speed, learning how to find private clients and becoming comfortable with computer software and technology.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Keiser University

    Program Options

      • Associate of Arts - Health Services Admin
      • Associate of Science - Medical Administrative Billing and Coding
  • Rapid City, SD

    Western Dakota Technical Institute

  • Scottville, MI

    West Shore Community College

  • Paterson, NJ

    Passaic County Community College

  • Bloomfield Hills, MI

    Oakland Community College

  • Holbrook, AZ

    Northland Pioneer College

  • Coeur d'Alene, ID

    North Idaho College

  • Gresham, OR

    Mt Hood Community College

  • Williston, ND

    Williston State College

  • Miles City, MT

    Miles Community College

Featured Schools

Keiser University

  • Associate of Arts - Health Services Admin
  • Associate of Science - Medical Administrative Billing and Coding

What is your highest level of education?

Western Dakota Technical Institute

West Shore Community College

Passaic County Community College

Oakland Community College

Northland Pioneer College

North Idaho College

Mt Hood Community College