Medical Transcriptionist Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

About this article
A medical transcriptionist's median annual salary is around $35,000. Is it worth the education and training requirements? Get the truth about job descriptions and career prospects to see if becoming a medical transcriptionists is for you.
View available schools

The Pros and Cons of a Medical Transcriptionist Career

Medical transcriptionists are talented professionals who can decipher and articulate doctors' orders, medical terminology and reports into understandable and proper formats. Reading the pros and cons of being a medical transcriptionist may help you decide if this is the career for you.

Pros of a Medical Transcriptionist Career
Certificate or associate's degree sufficient for entry-level positions*
Can work in various healthcare settings*
May work from home or choose flexible hours*
Help ensure patients receive high-quality care*

Cons of a Medical Transcriptionist Career
Average employment growth (eight percent between 2012 and 2022)*
Low to average wage (median annual wage of about $35,000 in 2014)*
Must be able to sit and type for long periods*
Career advancements may require additional training*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Info

Job Description

As a medical transcriptionist, you'd listen to voice recordings made by doctors and other medical staff and transform them into typed reports. With your knowledge of medical abbreviations and terminology, you'd interpret the speaker's dictation and transcribe it into a typed medical report while maintaining the context and meaning intended. These reports typically include histories, physicals, discharge summaries and treatment plans. You'd usually use a headset and foot pedal that are connected to your computer to listen to the dictation. You could adjust the playback speed of the recording when necessary as well as stop and start the recording with your feet to make typing easier.

You'd also use medical reference materials and word processing software. In an office environment, you may perform other duties as well, such as greeting clients and answering phones.

Job Growth and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), only 6,400 new medical transcriptionist jobs are expected to be created between 2012 and 2022. Despite the expected increase in healthcare services and medical tests performed, technological advances, such as back-end speech recognition, were expected to decrease the workload for medical transcriptionists. The industry that employed the highest number of medical transcriptionists was local, private and state hospitals. As of 2014, medical transcriptionists earned a median annual wage of around $35,000, with the top 10% making about $49,000 or more.

What Are the Requirements?

Education and Training Requirements

To become a medical transcriptionist, you typically need to complete a formal training program. These are usually offered as certificate, diploma or associate's degree programs, and can be found at technical schools or community colleges. Online medical transcription training programs are also available. The curricula offer courses in drug and medical terminology, information technology, medical transcription, medical administrative procedures, health and disease, medical business issues and pharmacology. You could also participate in internships where you'd obtain hands-on training working in medical-related environments. Your internships may also require you to complete work-related projects.

Top Skills for Medical Transcriptionists

You'll need to have great attention to detail to notice inconsistencies and possible errors, and you could need to consult with the healthcare provider to make sure your reports are accurate. Furthermore, you'd require knowledge of laws regarding patient confidentiality and familiarity with diagnostic procedures, anatomy and physiology, treatment plans and pharmacology. Accuracy is very important in this profession. Other skills you should possess for this career include:

  • Strong writing skills
  • Computer knowledge
  • Time-management
  • Organization
  • Typing/keyboarding abilities

Job Postings from Real Employers

Aside from the necessary education and preparation, employers often require transcription experience, including proven accuracy and typing speed rates. Although this doesn't represent the medical transcriptionist job market as a whole, here are a few samplings of job postings from April 2012:

  • A healthcare system in Georgia sought an experienced medical transcriptionist to fill a full-time position. Applicants needed a high school diploma, computer proficiency and at least three years of experience working as a medical transcriptionist. Job duties included transcribing dictated health information and editing reports generated through voice recognition. Candidates were expected to maintain 95% accuracy in editing documents and transcribing.
  • A Minnesota healthcare service provider was looking for an experienced medical transcriptionist to work in an area hospital. In addition to being able to work under pressure, candidates were expected to have at least one year of training (beyond high school) in either the medical transcription or medical secretary field. Although not required, certification as a medical transcriptionist was preferred.
  • A Dallas healthcare educational provider was seeking a medical transcriptionist to transcribe documents, such as letters, surgical reports and chart notes, for healthcare facilities. Candidates could work from home via an Internet server and choose part- or full-time work. Although at least one year of experience was preferred, applicants who lacked experience could learn easily through a home-training course arranged by the employer.

How to Stand Out

Once you've completed your training program, you may want to take extra steps to make sure you enhance your resume and stand out among other applicants. One important step you can take is obtaining certification. Although not a requirement, certification demonstrates your knowledge and commitment to potential employers. The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) offers two certifications for medical transcriptionists.

After meeting eligibility requirements, you'll need to pass examinations to become certified. The Registered Medical Transcriptionist (RMT) certification is for a medical transcriptionist who works in a single environment (physician's office or clinic) and has less than two years of experience. The Certified Medical Transcriptionist (CMT) is for medical transcriptionists who complete dictation for more than one medical specialty. Continuing education is required to maintain certifications.

Alternative Career Paths

Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse

If you're more interested in interacting with patients and providing health care, you can become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN). Under the supervision of registered nurses and doctors, LPNs provide medical care to patients. The academic requirements aren't considerably higher for LPNs and LVNs than it is for medical transcriptionists; you can usually qualify for these jobs with a 1-year vocational program. The BLS anticipated much higher job growth for LPNs and LVNs from 2010-2020, with an expected 168,500 new jobs during that time period. Additionally, your salary could be a bit higher, too; the median income for this profession was just over $41,000 in 2011. However, as a regulated profession, you'll need to pass a licensing exam and maintain your license with continuing education.

Medical Assistant

Another career in the medical field that offers higher job opportunities is that of a medical assistant (MA). This job allows you to work in a medical setting where you can have hands-on contact with patients while still performing important administrative duties. To land an entry-level job, you might not need any education after high school, though you might need to complete specific training and testing to perform some tasks. Training programs typically include courses and clinical education where you obtain hands-on experience working with patients. The BLS anticipated nearly 163,000 new medical assistant jobs from2010-2020. The salary for this job was a little less than medical transcriptionists in 2011, with a median of around $29,000.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Health Informatics
      • Master of Health Information Management
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Health Information Management
      • Bachelor: Healthcare Admin
      • Bachelor: Health Science
    Certificate
      • Medical Office Administration Certificate
      • Medical Billing and Coding Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    2. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Penn Foster

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Career Diploma - Medical Transcriptionist
  • Online Programs Available
    4. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSHS Clinical Operations & Healthcare Management
      • MSHS in Biomedical Informatics
    Bachelor's
      • Dual Degree: BSHS in Clinical Research Administration/MSHS in Regulatory Affairs
      • BSHS in Clinical Operations and Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration
      • MS - Healthcare Admin and Management
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Healthcare Admin and Management
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Organizational Leadership: Health Care Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Regent University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Public Administration - Healthcare Policy and Ethics
  • Online Programs Available
    8. The University of Scranton

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Health Administration
  • Campus Locations:
    9. American National University

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Medical Office Professional - Diploma
      • Medical Billing and Coding - Diploma
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Colorado Christian University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Health Care Administration, B.S.
    Associate's
      • Health Care Administration, A.S.

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master of Health Informatics
  • BS in Health Information Management
  • Medical Office Administration Certificate

Which subject are you interested in?

American University

  • Master of Science in Healthcare Management

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster

  • Career Diploma - Medical Transcriptionist

What is your highest level of education?

The George Washington University

  • MSHS Clinical Operations & Healthcare Management
  • MSHS in Biomedical Informatics
  • Dual Degree: BSHS in Clinical Research Administration/MSHS in Regulatory Affairs
  • BSHS in Clinical Operations and Healthcare Management

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

  • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration
  • MS - Healthcare Admin and Management
  • BS - Healthcare Admin and Management

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • MS - Organizational Leadership: Health Care Administration

What is your highest level of education?

Regent University

  • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
  • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Healthcare Management
  • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management

What is your highest level of education completed?

The University of Scranton

  • MBA - Healthcare Management
  • Master of Health Administration

What is your highest level of education?