Medical Transcriptionists

Summary

medical transcriptionists image
Medical transcriptionists listen to recorded dictation from physicians and other healthcare workers.
Quick Facts: Medical Transcriptionists
2014 Median Pay $34,750 per year
$16.71 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Postsecondary nondegree award
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 70,000
Job Outlook, 2014-24 -3% (Decline)
Employment Change, 2014-24 -2,200

What Medical Transcriptionists Do

Medical transcriptionists, sometimes referred to as healthcare documentation specialists, listen to voice recordings that physicians and other healthcare workers 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 education. 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 $34,750 in May 2014.

Job Outlook

Employment of medical transcriptionists is projected to decline 3 percent from 2014 to 2024. The growing volume of healthcare services is expected to continue to increase demand for transcription services. However, employment is projected to decline because of increased productivity stemming from technological advances and outsourcing.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for medical transcriptionists.

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

medical transcriptionists image
Medical transcriptionists review medical reports for accuracy.

Medical transcriptionists, sometimes referred to as healthcare documentation specialists, listen to voice recordings that physicians and other healthcare workers make and convert them into written reports. They also may 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 worker
  • 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 consistent in 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 (EHR) systems
  • Perform quality improvement audits

Traditionally, medical transcriptionists used audio playback equipment or software that is connected to their computer. However, technological advances have changed the way 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, others 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. They use word-processing and other specialized software, as well as medical reference materials, as needed.

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 healthcare worker 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.

Transcriptionists may need to be familiar with EHR systems. They may 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

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 70,000 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most medical transcriptionists were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private 32%
Offices of physicians 23
Administrative and support services 21
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 3
Management of companies and enterprises 2

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-fourth worked part time in 2014. Medical transcriptionists who work from home may work outside typical business hours and may have some flexibility in determining their schedules.

How to Become a Medical Transcriptionist

Medical transcriptionists
Medical transcriptionists must be comfortable using computers.

Medical transcriptionists typically need postsecondary education. 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 education in medical transcription, which is offered by vocational schools, community colleges, and distance-learning programs. Medical transcription programs are typically 1-year certificate programs, although there are also associate’s degree programs.

Programs normally include 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. Both certifications require passing an exam and periodic retesting or continuing education.

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.

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 also may 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

Medical Transcriptionists

Median annual wages, May 2014

Total, all occupations

$35,540

Medical transcriptionists

$34,750

Other healthcare support occupations

$31,540

 

The median annual wage for medical transcriptionists was $34,750 in May 2014. 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 $22,220, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $49,290.

In May 2014, the median annual wages for medical transcriptionists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Medical and diagnostic laboratories $38,340
Hospitals; state, local, and private 36,480
Management of companies and enterprises 35,460
Offices of physicians 34,890
Administrative and support services 30,340

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-fourth worked part time in 2014. Medical transcriptionists who work from home may work outside typical business hours and/or have some flexibility in determining their schedules.

Job Outlook

Medical Transcriptionists

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Other healthcare support occupations

19%

Total, all occupations

7%

Medical transcriptionists

-3%

 

Employment of medical transcriptionists is projected to decline 3 percent from 2014 to 2024. Technological advances have changed the way medical transcription is done. Fewer transcriptionists are projected to be needed as speech recognition software and other technological advances make transcriptionists more productive.

The number of individuals who have access to health insurance is expected to continue to increase because of federal health insurance reform. The increasing volume of healthcare services will result in a growing number of medical tests and procedures, all of which will require transcription.

However, technological advances such as speech recognition software allow transcriptions to be prepared using fewer medical transcriptionists. And as healthcare providers seek to cut costs, some have hired transcription services to do transcriptions rather than do them in house. Some of those services are being contracted out to other countries which hampers employment growth domestically.

Job Prospects

Prospects should be better 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, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Medical transcriptionists

31-9094 70,000 67,800 -3 -2,200 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

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

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2014 MEDIAN PAY
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, in business meetings, or in classrooms.

Postsecondary nondegree award $49,860
Information clerks

Information Clerks

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

See How to Become One $31,500
Medical assistants

Medical Assistants

Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in the offices of physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities. Their duties vary with the location, specialty, and size of the practice.

Postsecondary nondegree award $29,960
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 that the information maintains its quality, accuracy, accessibility, and security in both paper files 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 nondegree award $35,900
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 $26,760
Secretaries and administrative assistants

Secretaries and Administrative Assistants

Secretaries and administrative assistants perform clerical and administrative duties. They organize files, prepare documents, schedule appointments, and support other staff.

High school diploma or equivalent $35,970
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Medical Transcriptionists,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-transcriptionists.htm (visited February 13, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015