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Transcriptionist Job Description

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Transcriptonists create written copies of live speech or dictated audio, and they work in all kinds of environments, including court rooms, law offices, physician practices and hospitals. They can also work from home. Transcriptionists typically work in one of two fields: medical, in which they transcribe diagnostic test results, referrals and operative reports for patient files, and legal, in which they act as court reporters to transcribe dialogue at hearings and depositions.

Transcriptionist Job Duties

These professionals create written records of audio and video recordings, meetings and live conversations. Their finished products must demonstrate clear formatting and easy-to-read content, which businesses often use for quick distribution of information. For this reason, transcriptionists must be able to comprehend audio quickly and type as they listen -- especially important for those transcribing live conversations, such as those in court hearings. Professionals who transcribe pre-recorded video or audio content may use software to speed up or slow down the content as needed to suit their comprehension and typing skills.

Specialized transcriptionists typically work in the medical or legal field, but they may also work with museums, historical archives or companies in the business world. Museums and historical archives often employ transcriptionists to create accessible renditions of historical documents and journals that are fragile and are therefore not portable.

Education and Experience Requirements

Most employers require transcriptionists to hold some type of certification or degree. Ideally, prospective medical transcriptionists should have some knowledge of medical terminology, for example, so they should seek a certificate program providing training in document preparation, keyboarding, ethics, anatomy and terminology. They might also pursue an associate's degree with courses in formatting, English, business, software, medical office procedures and pharmacology. Aspiring legal transcriptionists, on the other hand, should pursue certification in legal transcription or court reporting, in which they should receive training in legal research, systems, documentation and terminology. They might also consider an associate's degree in legal administrative assistance, which should provide education in legal ethics, formatting, transcription and software applications.

Some companies also prefer transcriptionists to hold prior transcribing experience, so prospective transcriptionists should seek internship experience as they pursue certification or an associate degree.

Credential Requirements

Moreover, many states require court reporters to obtain certification or licensure. Aspiring court reporters can seek licensure through the National Court Reporters Association, which offers the registered professional reporter credential. Other potential designations include certified verbatim reporter or realtime verbatim reporter, offered through the National Verbatim Reporters Association.

Medical transcriptionists, on the other hand, may obtain voluntary certification if they want to advance their careers. The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity offers these certifications, including levels one and two of the registered healthcare documentation specialist designations. Designees must pass an exam to obtain these credentials, and must complete continuing education credits to maintain their credentials.

Earning Potential for Transcriptionists

Transcriptionists in the United States earn a median annual wage of $29,000, or $15.16 per hour. Those in the lowest 10th percentile on the earning spectrum make about $20,000 per year, while those in the 90th percentile can bring home as much as $52,000 annually. Transcriptionists may progress in their careers to become executive assistants, office managers, executive secretaries or senior administrative assistants. Medical transcriptionists can advance to become medical secretaries, senior medical transcriptionists, registered nurses or lead medical transcriptionists.


Brenna Swanston is a freelance writer, editor and journalist. She previously reported for the Sun newspaper in Santa Maria, California, and she holds a bachelor's in journalism from California Polytechnic State University.

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