Becoming a Transcriptionist: Careers, Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a transcriptionist? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary information to see if becoming a transcriptionist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Transcriptionist

A transcriptionist may transcribe physicians' dictation, caption television shows for hearing-impaired viewers or create legal records for judicial proceedings. Decide if this career is for you by examining the below pros and cons.

Pros of a Career as a Transcriptionist
Many career opportunities (court reporting, medical transcription, closed captioning)*
Variety of work environments (courthouses, physician offices, home)*
Only 2-year degree required*
Some jobs, such as those in both administrative services and outpatient care centers, tagged for faster than average growth*

Cons of a Career as a Transcriptionist
Technology may replace some workers *
Some states may require court reporters to be licensed*
Some workers, such as medical transcriptionists, make about $35,000*
May require continuing education training*

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

Career Information

Career Options and Job Descriptions

Your job description will depend on what line of work you choose, but basically, all types of transcriptionists write, document and record oral dictation or presentations. A medical transcriptionist creates documents from voice recordings of physicians and other health professionals. Court reporters use special machines to make exact transcriptions of legal proceedings, meetings and other events. You could serve the hard of hearing community through Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART). Reporters trained in CART accompany their clients to school, appointments or anywhere they may need communication services.

Career Prospects

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted employment of medical transcriptionists would grow by eight percent from 2012-2022, about average for all occupations, while employment of court reporters would grow by 10% during the same period, also average. The BLS stated that advances in voice recognition and digital recording technology could mean a slowdown in job creation in these occupations. However, the BLS also noted that reporters may be in demand outside the legal profession in fields such as closed captioning for television. Also, the expanding elderly population may need CART services during the upcoming decade, according to the BLS.

Salary Information

The BLS reported salary information for May 2014. A medical transcriptionist's median annual salary was nearly $35,000. A court reporter's median salary was around $50,000.

What Are the Requirements?

Education and Training

All types of transcriptionists need some postsecondary training. A medical transcriptionist usually holds a 1-year certificate or a 2-year associate's degree from a vocational school, community college or online school. They study anatomy, medical terminology and legal issues relating to medicine. A court reporter's training can last from a 6-month certificate program to a program leading to an associate degree. Most court reporters train at community colleges or technical schools where they study legal terminology and practice creating transcripts.

Certification

Many states require certification or licensing for court reporters who work in the legal system. The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) licenses court reporters and broadcast captioners. Many states use the NCRA's Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) designation for stenographic reporters in lieu of a state licensing test. Court reporters who work in the federal and some state judicial systems usually must hold the Federal Certified Realtime Reporter certification from the U.S. Court Reporters Association (USCRA) or Realtime credentials from the NCRA. Medical transcriptionists do not have to be licensed.

What Employers Are Seeking

In addition to formal training, you must have practical skills such as keyboarding speed and excellent spelling ability. Job postings from April 2012 show that real employers were looking for the following:

  • A hospital in Georgia needed an experienced transcriptionist who could transcribe a minimum of 65,000 characters per 8-hour shift and maintain 95% accuracy in editing documents.
  • A health care facility in Maryland sought a transcriptionist with obstetric/gynecological expertise to convert physician-dictated reports into text documents.
  • In Connecticut, a media company needed a closed captioning assistant to run a voice recognition system of captioning, making corrections to spelling when needed. The posting said this person must be able to stay calm in a sometimes-stressful atmosphere.
  • A federal court in New York needed a court reporter with at least four years of stenographic court reporting experience. Someone who had passed the NCRA's Certified Realtime Reporter Examination was preferred.

How to Stand Out

Since the transcription industry is constantly changing due to shifts in technology, you'll need to keep your skills up to date. Professional organizations such as the NCRA and the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) offer continuing education programs.

Optional Certifications

While earning credentials from professional associations are not mandatory, it will demonstrate your proficiency to potential employers. NCRA offers several certifications in various fields, including Certified Broadcast Captioner and Certified CART Provider, as well as several certifications for court reporters. Medical transcriptionist can earn credentials from AHDI based on their experience.

Other Fields to Consider

If you think a career in the transcription field might not be a good fit, here are some options that employ similar skills.

Interpreter

If you want a career in a rapidly growing field and are fluent in another language, you might want to consider becoming an interpreter. You can be a simultaneous interpreter, translating words as they are spoken, or you can translate written documents. You'll need at least a bachelor's degree. The BLS predicted that employment of translators and interpreters would grow by 44% from 2010 to 2020, much faster than average for all occupations. The median annual salary for interpreters was about $44,000 in May 2011.

Medical Records Technician

The BLS predicted there should be many job opportunities for medical records technicians, with job growth at 21% from 2010 to 2020. Medical records technicians organize health data, coding the information according to a standard system, categorizing and storing it. Most records technicians hold either a certificate or an associate's degree. The median annual salary was about $33,000 in May 2011.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
      • Master of Science in Health Informatics
  • Online Programs Available
    2. University of Saint Mary

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Health Care Management Concentration
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management
  • Campus Locations:
    3. Brightwood College

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Medical Office Specialist
      • Medical Billing and Coding Specialist - Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    4. 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
    5. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
    Master's
      • MS - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Science in Management - Healthcare Management
      • MS - Healthcare Management - Informatics
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Business Administration - Health Care Management
      • B.S. - Health Care Management - Health Informatics
      • B.S. - Health Care Management
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Utica College

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Health Care Management
      • Masters in Health Care Administration
      • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Acute Care
      • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Long Term Care
      • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Service Organization
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Queens University of Charlotte

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Health Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    8. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Healthcare Management
      • Master of Business Admin: Healthcare Admin
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Healthcare Management - HSA Mgt.
      • Bachelor of Healthcare Management
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Healthcare Management
  • Campus and Online Programs
    9. Fortis College

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Medical Billing and Coding
  • Campus Locations:
    10. Virginia College

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Diploma Program - Medical Office Specialist
      • Diploma Program - Medical Billing and Coding Specialist
      • Certification - Medical Billing and Coding Specialist

Featured Schools

George Mason University

  • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
  • Master of Science in Health Informatics

What is your highest level of education?

University of Saint Mary

  • MBA Health Care Management Concentration
  • Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management

What is your highest level of education completed?

Brightwood College

  • Medical Office Specialist
  • Medical Billing and Coding Specialist - Certificate

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?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
  • MS - Healthcare Management
  • BS - Business Administration - Health Care Management

Are you a US citizen?

Utica College

  • MBA - Health Care Management
  • Masters in Health Care Administration
  • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Acute Care

What is your highest level of education completed?

Queens University of Charlotte

  • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
  • Master of Health Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?

American InterContinental University

  • Master of Healthcare Management
  • Master of Business Admin: Healthcare Admin
  • Bachelor of Healthcare Management - HSA Mgt.
  • Bachelor of Healthcare Management

Are you a US citizen?