Medical Transcriber: Job Description and Education Requirements

Medical transcription work requires little formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and certification options to see if this is the right career for you.

A medical transcriber is a person who listens to audio dictation from a health care provider and types it into reports for patients' records. Most transcribers need to complete formal college programs in order to work in this field. Medical transcribers have job opportunities in a variety of work environments, including doctor's offices, hospitals, insurance agencies, and even working from home.

Essential Information

When healthcare professionals dictate notes for patients' charts, a medical transcriber listens to the dictated audio and types (transcribes) it into a form suitable for storing in medical records. Transcribers must have strong command of the applicable language and familiarly with medical jargon. They're expected to avoid errors in spite of audio that may sometimes be hard to hear or understand. Training can usually be completed in two years or less. Registration and certification, though not required, are available and desired by many employers.

Required Education Certificate or degree programs in medical transcription are available and preferred by employers
Other Requirements Optional registration or certification available
Projected Job Outlook (2014-2024) -3%*
Average Salary (2015) $35,720 annually*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Medical Transcriber Job Description

Medical transcribers (MTs) are responsible for interpreting dictated audio from health care providers, such as doctors, nurses and physician assistants, into accurate patient medical records or correspondence. In order to provide the best medical care for patients, the health care team and insurance companies rely on these errorless medical records. Medical transcription is a skilled field requiring fluency of the medical language, since MTs will be transcribing reports in a wide variety of medical fields. These reports include, but are not limited to, the following specialty areas:

  • Operation and procedure notes
  • Clinic notes
  • OB/GYN
  • Pediatrics
  • Plastic surgery
  • Emergency room
  • Gastroenterology
  • Gastrointestinal
  • Ears, nose and throat (ENT)

In addition to creating impeccable health documents for patients' files, MTs may also find themselves creating correspondence for insurance companies or patients. MT job duties include downloading or uploading audio, researching, proofreading and typing.

Skills

MTs transcribe reports that end up in a patient's file, and it is an absolute requirement that they are precise. There are times when health care providers do not enunciate or speak clearly, or the quality of the audio is poor, and it is possible for the MT to transcribe incorrect wording. Therefore, a keen ear and a quiet work environment are necessary for this field.

The field of medical transcription is tightly wound around medical terminology, and it is crucial that students learn and retain their medical knowledge and have the ability to perform research when necessary. In addition, strong proofreading and typing skills are required.

Employment

There is a wide range of employment settings open to the MT. Some MTs have found positions within hospitals, doctor's offices, insurance agencies or transcription companies. There are also employers that will allow their employees to work from home. In fact, there are transcription companies that will specifically hire MTs to work from home.

Career Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) listed the average annual salary for medical transcriptionists at $35,720 as of May 2015. Jobs in the profession are predicted to decline 3% between 2014 and 2024, according to the BLS. It's largely due to technological advances that allow transcription work to be done more efficiently with fewer workers.

Education Requirements

Prospective students should evaluate the courses offered prior to applying to an MT program. Unfortunately, there are programs that concentrate more on the typing aspect versus hands-on transcribing experience. Therefore, it is advised by the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) that potential MT students work toward a 2-year certificate or degree program that offers in-depth medical terminology and overall medical-related education, in addition to hands-on transcription training at or above 100 hours.

Curriculum

A potential MT student should look for programs that cover the following course subjects, at minimum, based on the AHDI's curriculum recommendations:

  • Medical terminology
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Medical transcription practicum
  • Disease processes
  • Pharmacology
  • English grammar and punctuation

In addition to covering the above course topics, a strong program will equip students with communication and keyboarding skills, including training in common medical transcription software.

Credentials

While it's not required, credentialing is beneficial and often preferred by employers. MTs may either become a Registered Medical Transcriptionist (RMT) upon successful completion of their schooling or a Certified Medical Transcriptionist (CMT) after working two years as an MT. To achieve either one of these credentials, MTs must successfully pass an examination.

Medical transcribers must have good ears, good grammar and the ability to proofread their work; they also need be very familiar with different medical terminology. Postsecondary education through either a certificate or associate's degree program is typically required, and certification may be preferred by some employers.


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