Medical Transcriptionists

Summary

medical transcriptionists image
Medical transcriptionists listen to recorded dictation from a physician.
Quick Facts: Medical Transcriptionists
2012 Median Pay $34,020 per year
$16.36 per hour
Entry-Level Education Postsecondary non-degree award
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2012 84,100
Job Outlook, 2012-22 8% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 6,400

What Medical Transcriptionists Do

Medical transcriptionists listen to voice recordings that physicians and other healthcare professionals make and convert them into written reports. They may also review and edit medical documents created using speech recognition technology. Transcriptionists interpret medical terminology and abbreviations in preparing patients’ medical histories, discharge summaries, and other documents.

Work Environment

Most medical transcriptionists work for hospitals, physicians' offices, and third-party transcription service companies that provide transcription services to healthcare establishments. Others are self-employed.

How to Become a Medical Transcriptionist

Medical transcriptionists typically need postsecondary training. Prospective medical transcriptionists must have an understanding of medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, grammar, and word-processing software.

Pay

The median annual wage for medical transcriptionists was $34,020 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of medical transcriptionists is projected to grow 8 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The growing volume of healthcare services is expected to continue to increase demand for transcription services. However, employment growth will be limited due to increased productivity stemming from technological advances.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of medical transcriptionists with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about medical transcriptionists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Medical Transcriptionists Do About this section

medical transcriptionists image
Medical transcriptionists review medical reports for accuracy.

Medical transcriptionists listen to voice recordings that physicians and other healthcare professionals make and convert them into written reports. They may also review and edit medical documents created using speech recognition technology. Transcriptionists interpret medical terminology and abbreviations in preparing patients’ medical histories, discharge summaries, and other documents.

Duties

Medical transcriptionists typically do the following:

  • Listen to the recorded dictation of a doctor or other healthcare professional
  • Transcribe and interpret the dictation into diagnostic test results, operative reports, referral letters, and other documents
  • Review and edit drafts prepared by speech recognition software, making sure that the transcription is correct, complete, and has a consistent style
  • Translate medical abbreviations and jargon into the appropriate long form
  • Identify inconsistencies, errors, and missing information within a report that could compromise patient care
  • Follow up with the healthcare provider to ensure the accuracy of the reports
  • Submit health records for physicians to approve
  • Follow patient confidentiality guidelines and legal documentation requirements
  • Enter medical reports into electronic health records systems
  • Perform quality improvement audits

Medical transcriptionists use audio playback equipment or software that is connected to their computer. This equipment often includes a headset and foot pedal, which are used to control the recording playback speed. They use word-processing and other specialized software, as well as medical reference materials, as needed.

Technological advances have changed the way some medical transcription is done. In the past, medical transcriptionists would listen to an entire dictation to produce a transcribed report. While many transcriptionists still perform these traditional transcription services, many are taking on additional roles. Today, many medical documents are prepared with the use of speech recognition technology, in which specialized software automatically prepares an initial draft of a report. The transcriptionist then reviews the draft for accuracy, identifying any errors, and editing the report, when necessary.

To do their work, medical transcriptionists must become familiar with medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, diagnostic procedures, pharmacology, and treatment assessments. Their ability to understand what the health professional has recorded, correctly transcribe that information, and identify any inaccuracies in the transcript is critical to reducing the chance that patients will get ineffective or even harmful treatments. They are part of the team that ensures high-quality patient care.

Transcriptionists may need to be familiar with electronic health records (EHR) systems. They may need to enter reports, create templates, help develop documentation policies, and train physicians on how to use EHR systems.

Medical transcriptionists who work in doctors’ offices may have other duties, such as answering phones and greeting patients.

Work Environment About this section

Medical transcriptionists
Many transcriptionists receive dictation over the Internet and are able to quickly return transcribed documents to clients for approval.

Medical transcriptionists held about 84,100 jobs in 2012. The industries that employed the most medical transcriptionists in 2012 were as follows: 

Hospitals; state, local, and private34%
Offices of physicians24
Administrative and support services21

Most medical transcriptionists work for hospitals or in physicians' offices. Some work for companies that provide transcription services to healthcare establishments, and others are self-employed. 

Many transcriptionists work from home offices, receiving dictation and submitting drafts electronically.

Work Schedules

Most medical transcriptionists work full time, although about one-third worked part time in 2012. Medical transcriptionists who work from home may work outside typical business hours or have some flexibility in determining their schedules.

How to Become a Medical Transcriptionist About this section

Medical transcriptionists
Transcriptionists listen to dictated recordings made by physicians and other healthcare professionals and transcribe them into medical reports, correspondence, and other administrative material.

Medical transcriptionists typically need postsecondary training. Prospective medical transcriptionists must have an understanding of medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, grammar, and word-processing software.

Education

Employers prefer to hire transcriptionists who have completed postsecondary training in medical transcription, which is offered by many vocational schools, community colleges, and distance-learning programs.

A 1-year certificate program or 2-year associate’s degree normally includes coursework in anatomy, medical terminology, risk management, legal issues relating to healthcare documentation, and English grammar and punctuation. Many of these programs include supervised on-the-job experience. Some transcriptionists, especially those already familiar with medical terminology from previous experience as a nurse or medical secretary, become proficient through refresher courses and training.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although certification is not required, some medical transcriptionists choose to become certified. The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity offers the Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist (RHDS) and the Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist (CHDS) certifications.

The RHDS certification, formerly known as the Registered Medical Transcriptionist (RMT), is for recent graduates with less than 2 years of experience and who work in a single specialty environment, such as a clinic or a doctor’s office.

The CHDS certification, formerly known as the Certified Medical Transcriptionist (CMT), is for transcriptionists who have at least 2 years of experience and those who handle dictation in several medical specialties.

Both certifications require passing an exam and periodic retesting or continuing education. While the RMT and the CMT exams are no longer offered, transcriptionists who hold those certifications may choose to maintain them or to complete a bridge course to earn the RHDS or the CHDS.

Important Qualities

Computer skills. Medical transcriptionists must be comfortable using computers and word-processing software, because those tools are an essential part of their jobs. Transcriptionists may also need to know how to operate electronic health records (EHR) systems.

Critical-thinking skills. Transcriptionists must be able to assess medical reports and spot any inaccuracies and inconsistencies in finished drafts. They must also be able to think critically when doing research to find the information that they need and to ensure that sources are both accurate and reliable.

Listening skills. Transcriptionists must listen carefully to dictation from physicians. They must be able to hear and interpret the intended meaning of the medical report.

Time-management skills. Because dictation must be done quickly, medical transcriptionists must be comfortable working under short deadlines.

Writing skills. Medical transcriptionists need a good understanding of the English language and grammar.

Pay About this section

Medical Transcriptionists

Median annual wages, May 2012

Total, all occupations

$34,750

Medical transcriptionists

$34,020

Other healthcare support occupations

$30,620

 

The median annual wage for medical transcriptionists was $34,020 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $22,400, and the top 10 percent earned more than $47,250.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for medical transcriptionists in the top three industries in which these transcriptionists worked were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private$35,540
Offices of physicians34,180
Administrative and support services29,650

Some medical transcriptionists are paid based on the volume of transcription they produce. Others are paid an hourly rate or an annual salary.

Most medical transcriptionists work full time, although about one-third worked part time in 2012. Medical transcriptionists who work from home may work outside typical business hours and/or have some flexibility in determining their schedules.

Job Outlook About this section

Medical Transcriptionists

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Other healthcare support occupations

23%

Total, all occupations

11%

Medical transcriptionists

8%

 

Employment of medical transcriptionists is projected to grow 8 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Federal health legislation will expand the number of patients who have access to health insurance, increasing patient access to medical care. The increasing volume of healthcare services will result in a growing number of medical tests and procedures, all of which will require transcription.

At the same time, technological advances have changed the way medical transcription is done. Speech recognition software and other technological advances may make transcriptionists more productive and, therefore, limit employment growth.

In addition, as healthcare providers seek to cut costs, some have hired transcription services in other countries. However, concerns about patient confidentiality and data security suggest a continued need for transcriptionists within the United States.

Job Prospects

Prospects should be good for transcriptionists with formal education and for those with experience in electronic health records (EHR) management, training, and quality assessment. Job opportunities will stem from transcriptionists who retire over the next decade, creating opportunities for new transcriptionists.

Employment projections data for medical transcriptionists, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Medical transcriptionists

31-9094 84,100 90,500 8 6,400 [XLS]

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of medical transcriptionists.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2012 MEDIAN PAY Help
Court reporters

Court Reporters

Court reporters create word-for-word transcriptions at trials, depositions, and other legal proceedings. Some court reporters provide captioning for television and real-time translation for deaf or hard-of-hearing people at public events, at business meetings, or in classrooms.

Postsecondary non-degree award $48,160
Information clerks

Information Clerks

Information clerks perform routine clerical duties such as maintaining records, collecting data, and providing information to customers.

High school diploma or equivalent $30,650
Medical assistants

Medical Assistants

Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in the offices of physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors, and other health practitioners. Their duties vary with the location, specialty, and size of the practice.

Postsecondary non-degree award $29,370
Medical records and health information technicians

Medical Records and Health Information Technicians

Medical records and health information technicians, commonly referred to as health information technicians, organize and manage health information data. They ensure its quality, accuracy, accessibility, and security in both paper and electronic systems. They use various classification systems to code and categorize patient information for insurance reimbursement purposes, for databases and registries, and to maintain patients’ medical and treatment histories.

Postsecondary non-degree award $34,160
Receptionists

Receptionists

Receptionists perform administrative tasks, such as answering phones, receiving visitors, and providing general information about their organization to the public and customers.

High school diploma or equivalent $25,990
Secretaries and administrative assistants

Secretaries and Administrative Assistants

Secretaries and administrative assistants perform routine clerical and administrative duties. They organize files, draft messages, schedule appointments, and support other staff.

High school diploma or equivalent $35,330
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Medical Transcriptionists,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-transcriptionists.htm (visited November 01, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014