Medical Transcription Careers - The Facts

A good bet? See why a medical transcription career could be a wonderful new opportunity for you.

Medical transcription is one of the fastest growing fields in the healthcare industry. It's an in-demand, IT-enabled service in US and other western countries where healthcare largely depends on insurance claims and detailed medical records.

If you're a medical transcriptionist who finished secondary school with a postsecondary training program, then a lot of employers are looking for you!

But first, let's take a look at what a medical transcriptionist does, and what medical transcription careers are all about...

Job description

As a transcriptionist, you'll convert dictated doctors' notes into text

A medical transcriptionist transcribes recordings dictated by physicians and health care specialists. These dictations include:

  • the patient's medical history
  • laboratory reports
  • clinic notes
  • psychiatric evaluations
  • autopsy reports
  • diagnoses
  • referral reports
  • and other relevant medical information related to the patient.

The physician usually records these notes using a digital recording system. To accurately hear the recordings, the medical transcriptionist uses a headset, and types the transcription using a word processor. They'll probably also use some kind of medical transcription software to help them be more productive.

During the process, the transcriptionist edits grammatical errors and clarifies some data. After the whole process, the reports are returned to the specialist for further approval and verification.

To be able to become a medical transcriptionist and succeed in the field, you must have an understanding of the medical language. This includes:

You should also have knowledge of the terms that are abbreviated or shortened, since they have to be transcribed in their full form.

While working as a medical transcriptionist, you'll have access to standard healthcare references which are either printed out or available online.

To be an effective medical transcriptionist, you must always ensure confidentiality by complying with certain requirements, and following the standard format in transcribing.

See this article on the common equipment used by transcriptionists.

Educational requirements

To become a medical transcriptionist you'll have to finish postsecondary training through a distance-learning program, community college, or vocational school.

To kickstart your medical transcription career, we advise you to enroll in a 1-year program or a 2-year associate degree program. The programs should include medical terminology, anatomy work, healthcare documentation legality, and most importantly, English grammar and punctuation.

Transcriptionists are supervised while training in these programs. If you've come from another medical field, such as administration or nursing, you'll be more qualified and have an easier time completing the course.

This guide to medical transcription schools should help you decide where to study.

There's also the option to study transcription online - our guide outlines what you need to know before you start.

Certification and qualifications

After you graduate there are 2 steps:

1. Registered Medical Transcriptionist

ADHI logo

The exam is based on the AHDI core competencies and AHDI model curriculum. This voluntary exam is taken to ensure the basic knowledge and skills to properly practice medical transcription in today's healthcare system.

A recent graduate of the 2-year medical transcription education should take this exam. The 130 numbered exams contain both multiple choices and fill in the blanks.

The RMT certification is valid for a three year use. You can then redo your credentials by taking another exam or completing the RMT re-credentialing course offered by AHDI.

2. Certified Medical Transcriptionist

After the medical transcription education, transcriptionists usually take the CMT exam. This exam, like the RMT examination, is based on the AHDI core competencies and AHDI model curriculum.

The CMT exam tests the skills and knowledge of medical transcriptionists to practice in multispecialty acute care facilities. A higher level of clinical knowledge and interpretation is needed in this kind of facility.

An RMT with 2 years experience in an acute care facility should take this examination. The 120 numbered exams contain multiple choices. They involve filling in the blanks and SRT editing against audio.

The CMT certification is valid for 3 years. Over the 3 year validity of the certification, a CMT should take 30 units of continuing medical transcription education to keep the certificate.

See this guide to passing the medical transcription certification test for more information.

Medical transcription career growth

Medical transcriptionists who have relevant experience can be promoted to supervisory positions, and also quality analysis positions. They can opt to work from home, or to go into consulting, editing or teaching.

Interested in working from home? See this guide to setting up a home-based transcription business and how to start.

For those who have advanced training and education, they can become health record technicians, medical information administrators, or health encoders.

Future projection of medical transcription careers

Medical record-keeping and transcription will continue to be in-demand fields

The employment of medical transcriptionists is expected to expand faster than the average rate of expansion for most other occupations, according to statistical research conducted by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Employment rate will increase by 11% between 2008 and 2018, so job opportunities will likely be available, especially for those with certification.

Due to the ageing population, there is a continuing demand for medical transcription services. Older age brackets require increasing amounts of treatments, medical tests, and procedures which need documentation.

There will also be an expanding demand for automated record-keeping that can easily be accessed by health care professionals, health care agencies, third-party consumers, and health care information systems.

Because of this, large numbers of medical transcriptionists are needed to attend to patient's medical records, edit documents, and correct discrepancies in medical reports.

Worried that the future of medical transcription is being threatened by improvements in speech-recognition software? Read this article on medical transcription and voice recognition.

Want to increase your skill and professionalism as a medical transcriptionist? Follow these tips.


The pay rate for medical transcription varies, depending on factors such as the location of the doctor and their specialty.

A medical transcriptionist's pay is based on the character lines of a report. The reports generated by transcriptionists range from a few lines for a chart note, to many pages in detailed test results.

The average salary is from $13 - $15 per hour during the first year. If you want to earn more, you can improve your typing speed by using tools such as a text expander.

See this article on how to increase your medical transcription salary.

By typing a few characters, the tool helps you by outputting sentences and full paragraphs. You can get more work done in less time. With years of experience and by using the expander, you can earn an average of $16 - $19 an hour or more.

You can earn a very satisfactory yearly salary as a medical transcriptionist!

After earning your certificate as a Medical Transcriptionist, you can now start contacting medical establishments and companies who need medical transcription services.

Mostly, these medical companies are subcontracting their medical transcription jobs, so it's very likely that they'll hire you. If you have doctors and medical practitioners in the neighborhood, ask them if they're hiring a medical transcriptionist. The lowest rate you can get is $10.75 per hour, while the highest pay for giving transcription services rockets up to $22.00 an hour, or potentially even more.

Medical transcription is not for everyone - take the time to examine both the pros and cons of working as a medical transcriptionist. If you decide this is a career you'd like to pursue, you'll find it incredibly interesting and rewarding.

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