Medical Transcriptionists

Summary

medical transcriptionists image
Medical transcriptionists listen to recorded dictation from a physician.
Quick Facts: Medical Transcriptionists
2016 Median Pay $35,720 per year
$17.17 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Postsecondary nondegree award
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2016 57,400
Job Outlook, 2016-26 -3% (Decline)
Employment Change, 2016-26 -2,000

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 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.

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 $35,720 in May 2016.

Job Outlook

Employment of medical transcriptionists is projected to decline 3 percent from 2016 to 2026. 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 About this section

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
  • Interpret and transcribe the dictation into patient history, exam notes, operative reports, referral letters, discharge summaries, 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 that reports are accurate
  • 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 to listen to an entire dictation in order to produce a transcribed report, and some transcription is still done this way. It has become more common for medical documents to be prepared using speech recognition technology, in which specialized software automatically prepares an initial draft of a report. The transcriptionist then listens to the voice file and reviews the draft for accuracy, identifying any errors and editing the report, when necessary. Transcriptionists use word-processing and other specialized software to prepare the transcripts, as well as medical reference materials when needed.

Medical transcriptionists must be 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. Medical transcriptionists also may need to be familiar with EHR systems.

Medical transcriptionists who work in doctors’ offices may have other duties, such as answering phones and greeting patients.

Work Environment About this section

Medical transcriptionists
Medical transcriptions must understand what the healthcare worker has recorded and correctly transcribe that information.

Medical transcriptionists held about 57,400 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of medical transcriptionists were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private 28%
Administrative and support services 28
Offices of physicians 24
Self-employed workers 5
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 3

Administrative and support services includes companies that provide transcription services.

Medical transcriptionists may work from home, receiving dictation and submitting drafts electronically.

Work Schedules

Most medical transcriptionists work full time, although about one-third worked part time in 2016. Medical transcriptionists who work from home may work outside typical business hours and/or may have some flexibility in determining their schedules. Their work can be stressful because they need to ensure that reports are accurate within a quick turnaround time.

How to Become a Medical Transcriptionist About this section

Medical transcriptionists
Transcriptionists listen to dictated recordings made by physicians and other healthcare professionals and transcribe them into medical reports, correspondence, and other administrative material.

Medical transcriptionists typically need postsecondary education. Some choose to become certified.

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 nursing assistant 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 hold the RHDS designation. In addition, CHDS candidates must have at least 2 years of acute care experience, including experience handling dictation in various medical specialties.

To maintain certification, medical transcriptionists must complete continuing education requirements every 3 years.

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. They also may need to know how to operate electronic health records (EHR) systems.

Critical-thinking skills. Medical transcriptionists must assess medical reports and spot any inaccuracies and inconsistencies in finished drafts. They must also think critically when doing research to find the information that they need and to ensure that sources are both accurate and reliable.

Listening skills. Medical transcriptionists must listen carefully to dictation from physicians. They need to hear and interpret the intended meaning of the medical report.

Time-management skills. Because dictation must be done quickly, medical transcriptionists should be comfortable working under short deadlines.

Writing skills. Medical transcriptionists need a good understanding of the English language and grammar.

Pay About this section

Medical Transcriptionists

Median annual wages, May 2016

Total, all occupations

$37,040

Medical transcriptionists

$35,720

Other healthcare support occupations

$33,170

 

The median annual wage for medical transcriptionists was $35,720 in May 2016. 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 $22,330, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $51,640.

In May 2016, the median annual wages for medical transcriptionists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Medical and diagnostic laboratories $40,120
Hospitals; state, local, and private 38,410
Offices of physicians 35,630
Administrative and support services 31,680

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-third worked part time in 2016. Medical transcriptionists who work from home may work outside typical business hours and/or have some flexibility in determining their schedules. Their work can be stressful because they need to ensure that reports are accurate within a quick turnaround time. 

Job Outlook About this section

Medical Transcriptionists

Percent change in employment, projected 2016-26

Other healthcare support occupations

22%

Total, all occupations

7%

Medical transcriptionists

-3%

 

Employment of medical transcriptionists is projected to decline 3 percent from 2016 to 2026. Technological advances have changed the way medical transcription is done. Speech recognition and electronic health records (EHR) software advances often allow physicians to create some of this documentation in the moment, reducing the need for transcriptionists.

The aging population and growing rates of chronic conditions will continue to increase demand for healthcare services. This 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 by fewer medical transcriptionists. 

As healthcare providers seek to cut costs, some will contract out transcription services and not do transcription in-house. Some of this work may be outsourced to other countries, which would reduce domestic employment.

Employment projections data for medical transcriptionists, 2016-26
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Medical transcriptionists

31-9094 57,400 55,400 -3 -2,000 employment projections excel document xlsx

State & Area Data About this section

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.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop 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 About this section

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

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2016 MEDIAN PAY Help
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 $51,320
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 $32,920
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 $31,540
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 $38,040
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 $27,920
Secretaries and administrative assistants

Secretaries and Administrative Assistants

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

High school diploma or equivalent $37,230
Interpreters and translators

Interpreters and Translators

Interpreters and translators convert information from one language into another language. Interpreters work in spoken or sign language; translators work in written language.

Bachelor's degree $46,120
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Medical Transcriptionists,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-transcriptionists.htm (visited November 28, 2017).

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2017

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2016 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2016

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2016, which is the base year of the 2016-26 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2016-26

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

2016 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.