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Medical Transcriptionist: Requirements, Duties, Jobs and More

Some people enjoy the science behind the medical field but just don’t want to come in contact with bodily functions and actually work with patients. Fortunately, jobs like becoming a medical transcriptionist exist where you work behind the scenes.

Before you decide this is the profession for you, it’s best to understand what medical transcription is and what it takes to work in this field.

What a Medical Transcriptionist Is

A medical transcriptionist, sometimes called a healthcare documentation specialist, is a person who listens to recordings from physicians and other healthcare professionals. The transcriptionist must dictate what’s said to form a report.

Some transcriptionists review and edit medical documents created by a speech recognition program.

The transcriptionist must interpret medical abbreviations and terminology when preparing someone’s medical history or discharge summary.

Daily Responsibilities of a Medical Transcriptionist

Medical transcriptionists must listen to the recorded dialog of doctors and other medical professionals. As a transcriptionist, you interpret the script and type the dialogue. You add what you transcribed to exam notes, operative reports, referral letters, discharge summaries, and patients’ medical histories, just to name a few.

In many places, the doctors or other medical professionals use dictation software that converts their conversations into a written script. As a transcriptionist, you review and edit the copy to ensure its accuracy. In some cases, you may need to find missing information to complete a report.

You’ll need to know how to translate medical abbreviations and jargon into long form, so it’s essential you have knowledge regarding medical terminology.

On a regular basis, you work with doctors to make sure the information you type is accurate. Once you complete an entire transcript, you must submit it to physicians for approval.

You must input information into the electronic health records (EHR) systems based on the information you gathered from your transcript.

If you work in a physician’s office, you may have other responsibilities such as greeting patients or answering phones.

Work Environment of a Medical Transcriptionist

medical transcriptionist

Most medical transcriptionists work full-time schedules. As of 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported only one-third of individuals in this field worked part-time.

Some medical transcriptionists work from home and may create their own schedule or work hours outside of a typical medical office schedule.

As of 2016, medical transcriptionists held 57,400 jobs. State, local, and private hospitals are the largest employers for this career. Many medical transcriptions work for administrative and support services, physicians’ offices, and medical and diagnostic laboratories. It’s also possible to work as a freelance contractor and have your own medical transcription business.

Qualities Needed by a Medical Transcriptionist

As a medical transcriptionist, you need to possess certain traits in order to find jobs and have success in your career.

You should have computer skills because you work with computers and word processing programs on a regular basis. You need to understand electronic health records (EHR) systems. You have to have fast typing skills.

Critical-thinking skills are necessary because you must assess medical reports. You have to detect inaccuracies and inconsistencies. To find the information you need, you must think critically to perform the necessary research.

Because much of your job consists of listening to audio recordings, you must have strong listening skills and possess the ability to hear and interpret what people say on the recordings.

You must have time-management skills because you have to perform much of your job quickly and on tight deadlines.

Another vital skill you must possess is the ability to write. You must understand the English language and grammar to create documents.

Education Required for Getting a Job as a Medical Transcriptionist


Generally, an employer wants to hire a transcriptionist who possesses a postsecondary education in transcription. You can complete a program in as little as one year and earn a certificate. On the other hand, you can choose to earn an associate’s degree.

You can find medical transcription programs in community colleges and vocational schools. Often, you can find distance learning programs that allow you to work at your own pace from your own home.

Programs in medical transcription allow you to learn about the healthcare field. You receive education about medical terminology, risk management, legal issues in regards to healthcare documentation, and anatomy. Part of your education requires you to learn proper grammar and punctuation.

If you already worked as a medical or nursing assistant or a medical secretary, you may only need refresher courses and training.

Licensure Required by a Medical Transcriptionist

Certification isn’t a requirement in any state, but some medical transcriptions opt to earn their certification. One option is from the Association for Healthcare Documentation (AHD). Through this organization, you can either earn your Registered Health Documentation Specialist (RHDS) certification or your Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist (CHDS) certification. Both certifications require you to pass an initial exam. In order to maintain your certification, you also need to retest and earn continuing education credits.

Only graduates with less than two years of experience who work in a single-specialty environment may earn their RHDS certification.

If you want to earn your CHDS certification, you must have at least two years of experience in acute care and have experience working in various specialties.

How Much Can a Medical Transcription Expect to Make

On average, a transcriptionist makes $35,250 per year as of May 2017. The lowest 10 percent of earners made less than $21,670 annually. The highest 10 percent made over $51,410 per year.

as of May 2017

lowest 10 percent of earners

less than $21,670 / year

 highest 10 percent

 over $51,410 / year

Your annual salary often depends upon your work environment. For instance, those who worked in medical and diagnostic laboratories earned an average of $41,540 per year. People who worked in hospitals made an average of $38,910 per year as a medical transcriptionist. The average annual wage for people who worked in physicians’ offices was $35,540.

Those who worked in this field in administrative and support services made the lowest average salary. They earned an average of $28,300.

Depending on where you work and if you work for yourself, you may work an hourly rate. It’s possible to receive a per-word fee or even an annual salary.

Where to Find the Highest Paying Jobs for Medical Transcriptionists

money on top of laptop

Top-Paying States

The top-paying state for this profession is Alaska. In this particular state, the average medical transcriptionist earned $45,400 per year or $21.83 per hour. The next highest-paying state is New Jersey. On average, you earn an average of $43,610 annually, which is the same as $20.97 per hour.

The third highest paying state is Rhode Island. In this state, a transcriptionist makes an average of $43,500 per year or $20.91 per hour.

Minnesota ranks as the fourth highest-paying state. In this particular state, the average person makes $20.68 hourly or $43,010 annually. The state that ranks as the fifth highest-paying state is Massachusetts. You can expect to make an average of $41,830 per year or $20.11 per hour.

Top-Paying Metropolitan Areas

The Dallas, Texas area ranks as the top-paying metropolitan area. In this region, the average transcriptionist makes $25.88 per hour, which is equivalent to $53,830 per year. Anchorage, Alaska ranks as the second highest-paying metropolitan area. In this particular region, the average transcriptionist earns $25.04 per hour or $52,090 per year.

The third highest-paying metropolitan area is Stockton, California. The BLS reports individuals in this area make an average of $24.35 per hour or $50,640 per year.

Where the Most Jobs for Medical Transcriptionists Are

None of the states with the highest pay have the most jobs for medical transcriptionists, meaning it’s difficult to find jobs in these states. The state with the highest level of employment for medical transcriptionists is Florida. In this state, the average person earns $17.08 per hour or $35,530 per year. Texas ranks as the state with the second highest level of employment. In this state, the average person earns $36,350 per year or $17.48 per hour.

Job Outlook for a Medical Transcriptionist

Since medical transcription often uses a program to transcribe the document and the transcriptionist just edits, the need for individuals in this field is slowly declining. The BLS projects a decrease in the number of jobs for transcriptionists. In fact, the BLS forecasts a three-percent decline in this field from 2016 until 2026.

Another reason for the reduction in jobs for transcriptionists is electronic health records (EHR) because it allows physicians to make some of the documentation during a visit.

Despite technology changing what a medical transcriptionist does, the aging population is keeping the medical field thriving. Since people still will require medical care, the need for medical transcriptions will still remain.

Although the BLS projects the number of jobs for people in this profession to decrease over the next few years, if you enjoy typing and want to play a role in the medical field, you may want to consider this field.

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