How to Become a Medical Transcriptionist

Growth Trends for Related Jobs


Behind-the-Scenes in the Health Care Field

Becoming a medical transcriptionist requires 18–24 months of training beyond a traditional high school diploma or GED. Since some part-time and work-from-home opportunities are available, moms who want more family time may find this is an ideal career.

Job Description

Medical transcriptionists listen to dictation from physicians and other health care professionals, then use a word processing program to put the notes in written form for patient records, discharge summaries, letters of referral, consultations and related documents. Some transcriptionists use voice recognition technology, which can greatly enhance the number of documents they can produce on an hourly basis.

Education Requirements

To get started, you must first earn either a one-year certificate or a two-year associate’s degree in medical transcription. Programs are offered through vocational-technical schools, community colleges and for-profit career schools. Some programs can be completed online, but before you sign up, check to see if the program is accredited.

Coursework typically includes medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, information management, keyboarding, grammar and editing, and proofreading. Certification by exam, administered by the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI), is voluntary but may open the door to more opportunities and higher pay.

The promise of learning the business and working from home lures many prospective students each year to buy expensive training software or enroll in poor-quality programs. Do not rely on testimonials from students that are posted on a program’s website, as they may be planted. Look at independent reviews from online medical transcriptionist communities or talk to people already in the field. Unfortunately, no on-the-job training opportunities are available.

About the Industry

Most medical transcriptionists, also known as health care documentation specialists, work in hospitals and doctors’ offices and for third-party transcription services. Some transcriptionists are self-employed and work from home, but remember that it can take years to establish a professional reputation and client base.

Years of Experience

The average hourly wage for a medical transcriptionist is $16.96. Median annual salary for a full-time medical transcriptionist is $35,270, which means that half the people in the field earn more, while half earn less. Geographic location can affect pay, as can promotion to a supervisory position. Jobs in pathology and neurology tend to pay more. Experience does not have much impact on salary. Here are some expected ranges:

  • Less than 1 year of experience: $40,898–$43,699
  • 5–6 years of experience: $44,965–$47,985
  • 10–14 years of experience: $44,965–$47,985
  • 20+ years of experience: $44,965–$47,985

Job Growth Trend

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment opportunities for medical transcriptionists will decline by 7 percent over the next decade. While the health care industry is expected to grow, advances in technology will likely improve worker productivity, which means that fewer transcriptionists will be needed to do the work.