Are you a fast and accurate typist? Are you good at meeting deadlines? Do you have excellent listening skills? Then perhaps a home-based career as a medical transcriptionist is right for you.
What is Medical Transcription?
Medical transcription is the process of listening to audio files from medical professionals and transcribing them into written documents. Once the audio file is in written format, it becomes part of the patient's permanent medical record.
There are also medical transcriptionists, called medical transcription editors, or dictation editors, who correct and edit written reports generated by speech recognition software. So when you search for medical transcription jobs, remember to search by all three terms.
Do You Need Special Training?
While there’s not a license that is required to be a medical transcriptionist; individuals need to be familiar with medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, and medical reporting; plus transcription companies prefer hiring professionals who are certified in the field. Most medical transcription training programs can be completed in as little as four to nine months. There are many community colleges and career institutions that offer medical transcription training – but the one I recommend is CareerStep.
CareerStep has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, they're endorsed by Dave Ramsey, and their program can be completed 100 percent online in just four months. They also offer tuition assistance, special funding for military families, and they offer graduate support to help you land a job. Once you've completed your training, you'll want to take the Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist (RHDS) exam. This exam is voluntary and needs to be retaken every three years, but it's a great way to establish your credibility in the field, especially when you're starting out.
What Skills and Equipment Do You Need?
To make it as a medical transcriber you'll need to have top-notch listening skills, fast and accurate typing skills, and excellent written communication — after all, what you're typing is going to be in someone's medical record, and their life could depend on the information you're transcribing.
Here's some of the equipment you'll need:
- Reliable computer or laptop
- High-speed internet connection
- Good quality headphones
- Transcription software and foot pedal to playback the audio files
Some hiring companies will supply the appropriate equipment that is needed for the job.
How Much Do Medical Transcriptionists Earn?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical transcriptionists earn an average of $16.72 per hour or $34,770 annually. Ironically, most companies want transcriptionists with experience — so be prepared for lower pay rates when you first start out. The good news is … because most medical transcriptionists are paid upon production (how many documents are completed), you can quickly increase your hourly pay rate as your speed and performance increases.
One thing to take into consideration about this career, is many doctors' offices, clinics, and hospitals are moving away from recorded records to digital documentation, so they need for medical transcriptionists is declining. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the job outlook for MTs has a -3% decline from 2016-2026. If this outlook concerns you, try looking into general transcription or medical coding and billing, both have positive career outlooks.
Where Do I Find Medical Transcription Jobs?
Medical transcriptionists are generally hired by hospitals, doctors' offices, and business support companies. Here are some of the companies that regularly hire home-based medical transcriptionists:
Do You Want to Be a Freelance Medical Transcriptionist?
Like any other freelance business, you will need to educate yourself on the best business practices, file all of the appropriate paperwork, and get your legal and financial ducks in a row. Once you set up the preliminary business framework, you can start working on the fun parts of your business.
1. Create an Online Presence
Having a website as an MT isn't necessary, but you should have an online presence which can help to attract more clients. Having a well-written LinkedIn profile is a good place to start, but you can also list your services on freelance portals like Upwork and Guru.
2. Educate Yourself
Even though you'll have formal training as an MT, if you decide to go the freelance route, you'll have a new set of skills and practices to learn. Skills like marketing, keeping track of your finances as a 1099 contractor, organization, and productivity — will all be part of your life as a freelancer. Be sure to brush up on these areas and join groups and organizations that can help you be successful.
Here are a few resources to check out:
- American Healthcare Documentation Professionals Group
- Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity
- Medical Transcription For Dummies
- Ten Great Online Resources for Medical Transcriptionists
3. Market Your Business
There are lots of ways to promote your MT business, but the thing you need to remember is consistency is key. Choose a few methods that you think you'll enjoy doing and spend time each day working on those methods. This post below covers nine ways to market yourself and get clients:
If you enjoy typing and would like to work in the medical field, working from home as a medical transcriptionist may be a viable option for you. Be sure to research the industry in-depth and to reach out to local medical establishments to see if they still hire for these sorts of positions. It will also be beneficial to connect with other MTs so that you can ask questions and find out more about this profession.
Good luck and keep us posted!
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Originally published February 25, 2009. Content updated in August 2019.
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