How to Become a Medical Transcriptionist in the US

Medical transcriptionists translate audio recordings dictated by doctors and other medical personnel during ward rounds, medical procedures and patient visits into medical reports. In doing so, transcriptionists free up medical personnel to focus on giving patient care and not also have to worry about attendant formalities. These professionals are employed in hospitals, health care agencies and practitioners' offices.

What does a medical transcriptionist do?

The specialized transcriptionists listen to recordings full of abbreviated wordings and medical jargon and transcribe them into documents that are then archived according to the institution's record management practices. Their specific duties include:

  • Listening to dictated audio recordings and transcribing them into examination and progress reports and discharge summaries.
  • They may also listen to dictations of correspondence including letters to the hospital management and referral letters, transcribe and format them.
  • Follow up with the medical practitioner in case of any inconsistencies.
  • Present the finished work to the originator for correction and signature.


Since transcriptionists usually have to understand the medical jargon used in the recordings, they need formal training to prepare them for the job. To work as a medical transcriptionist you will need to attend an accredited training course such as a certificate, diploma or associate degree program covering topics such as:

  • Medical terminology.
  • Basic human anatomy, physiology and pharmacology.
  • English composition, grammar, punctuation and formatting.
  • Transcriptions skills and practice.
  • Proofreading and keyboarding.
  • Operation of equipment used in the profession including headsets, dictaphones, voice recognition software and foot pedals for pausing during transcription.

Additional requirements for the job include:

  • Knowledge of the prescribed standards for medical records.
  • Although certification is optional, obtaining credentials such as Certified Medical Transcriptionist or Registered Medical Transcriptionist will enhance your chances of landing a job.
  • Knowledge of body posture and ways in which you can mitigate occupational injuries such as wrist strain, lower back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome.


To succeed as a medical transcriptionist you will need the following skills:

  • Active listening, excellent memory and typing skills.
  • Ability to pay keen attention to detail.
  • Multi-tasking abilities.
  • Technical writing and time management skills.


Medical transcriptionists are paid according to the volume of work they produce. The faster your typing spends and output, the more you earn. The average annual salary of a transcriptionist ranges from:

Entry level 



Mid Career






Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Work environment

Medical transcriptionists may work regular hours or rotate on shift depending on the size and the requirements of the healthcare facility where they are stationed. The work calls for long periods of sitting, typing and blocking out all other sound, which can be repetitive and exhausting. However, pausing transcription to take regular breaks helps ease the adverse effects. In view of the increasing advancements in technology, transcriptionists can now telecommute and even work from home as they receive recordings through digital files that are encrypted for security. They do not have to be employed and can work as independent contractors. Resultantly, the profession offers great flexibility.

Career growth and job outlook

As healthcare reforms continue to emphasize the importance of electronic health record keeping, medical transcriptionists are benefitting from increased job opportunities. There is also opportunity for upward career mobility because from this position you can rise to becoming a medical office administrator. Thereafter you can be promoted to supervise the administration and records functions of the healthcare facility. These opportunities are open to those who are diligent and precise in their work.

If you would like to work in healthcare sector but not have to work with patients, have excellent typing and active listening skills and always pay attention to detail, then this job would provide great career prospects for you.


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