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Medword Resources: Medical Transcriptionist


Medical Transcriptionist Defined

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U.S. Department of Labor
©U.S. Government

U.S. Department of Labor

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
©U.S. Government

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement Back to Top

Post secondary training in medical transcription is preferred by employers; writing and computer skills also are important.

Education and training. Employers prefer to hire transcriptionists who have completed post secondary training in medical transcription offered by many vocational schools, community colleges, and distance-learning programs.

Completion of a 2-year associate degree or 1-year certificate program—including coursework in anatomy, medical terminology, legal issues relating to health care documentation, and English grammar and punctuation—is highly recommended, but not always required. 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.

Formal accreditation is not required for medical transcription programs. However, the Approval Committee for Certificate Programs (AACP)—established by the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) and the American Health Information Management Association—offers voluntary accreditation for medical transcription programs. Although voluntary, completion of an ACCP approved program may be required for transcriptionists seeking certification.

Certification and other qualifications. The AHDI awards two voluntary designations, the Registered Medical Transcriptionist (RMT) and the Certified Medical Transcriptionist (CMT). Medical transcriptionists who are recent graduates of medical transcription educational programs, or have fewer than 2 years experience in acute care, may become a registered RMT. The RMT credential is awarded upon successfully passing the AHDI level 1 registered medical transcription exam. The CMT designation requires at least 2 years of acute care experience working in multiple specialty surgery areas using different format, report, and dictation types. Candidates also must earn a passing score on a certification examination. Because medicine is constantly evolving, medical transcriptionists are encouraged to update their skills regularly. RMTs and CMTs must earn continuing education credits every 3 years to be re-certified. As in many other fields, certification is recognized as a sign of competence.

Graduates of an ACCP approved program who earn the RMT credential are eligible to participate in the Registered Apprenticeship Program sponsored by the Medical Transcription Industry Association through the U.S. Department of Labor. The Registered Apprenticeship program offers structured on-the-job learning and related technical instruction for qualified medical transcriptionists entering the profession.

In addition to understanding medical terminology, transcriptionists must have good English grammar and punctuation skills and proficiency with personal computers and word processing software. Normal hearing acuity and good listening skills also are necessary. Employers usually require applicants to take pre-employment tests.

Advancement. With experience, medical transcriptionists can advance to supervisory positions, home-based work, editing, consulting, or teaching. Some become owners of medical transcription businesses. With additional education or training, some become medical records and health information technicians, medical coders, or medical records and health information administrators.

Employment Back to Top

Medical transcriptionists held about 105,200 jobs in 2008. About 36 percent worked in hospitals and another 23 percent worked in offices of physicians. Others worked for business support services; medical and diagnostic laboratories; outpatient care centers; and offices of physical, occupational, and speech therapists, and audiologists.

Job Outlook Back to Top

Employment of medical transcriptionists is projected to grow faster than the average; job opportunities should be good, especially for those who are certified.

Employment change. Employment of medical transcriptionists is projected to grow 11 percent from 2008 to 2018, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Demand for medical transcription services will be spurred by a growing and aging population. Older age groups receive proportionately greater numbers of medical tests, treatments, and procedures that require documentation. A high level of demand for transcription services also will be sustained by the continued need for electronic documentation that can be shared easily among providers, third-party payers, regulators, consumers, and health information systems. Growing numbers of medical transcriptionists will be needed to amend patients’ records, edit documents from speech recognition systems, and identify discrepancies in medical reports.

Contracting out transcription work overseas and advancements in speech recognition technology are not expected to significantly reduce the need for well-trained medical transcriptionists. Outsourcing transcription work abroad—to countries such as India, Pakistan, Philippines, and the Caribbean—has grown more popular as transmitting confidential health information over the Internet has become more secure; however, the demand for overseas transcription services is expected only to supplement the demand for well-trained domestic medical transcriptionists. In addition, reports transcribed by overseas medical transcription services usually require editing for accuracy by domestic medical transcriptionists before they meet U.S. quality standards.

Speech-recognition technology allows physicians and other health professionals to dictate medical reports to a computer that immediately creates an electronic document. In spite of the advances in this technology, the software has been slow to grasp and analyze the human voice and the English language, and the medical vernacular with all its diversity. As a result, there will continue to be a need for skilled medical transcriptionists to identify and appropriately edit the inevitable errors created by speech recognition systems, and to create a final document.

Job prospects. Job opportunities will be good, especially for those who are certified. Hospitals will continue to employ a large percentage of medical transcriptionists, but job growth there will not be as fast as in other industries. An increasing demand for standardized records should result in rapid employment growth in physicians’ offices, especially in large group practices.

Projections Data Back to Top

Projections data from the National Employment Matrix
Occupation TitleEmployment
2008
Projected
Employment
2018
Change 2008-18Detailed statistics
NumberPercent
Medical transcriptionists 105,200 116,900 11,700 11PDF zipped XLS

Earnings Back to Top

Wage-and-salary medical transcriptionists had median hourly wages of $15.41 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $13.02 and $18.55. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.76, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $21.81. Median hourly wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of medical transcriptionists were as follows:

Medical and diagnostic laboratories $17.26
General medical and surgical hospitals15.88
Business support services14.52
Outpatient care centers15.46
Offices of physicians15.02

Compensation methods for medical transcriptionists vary. Some are paid based on the number of hours they work or on the number of lines they transcribe. Others receive a base pay per hour with incentives for extra production. Employees of transcription services and independent contractors almost always receive production-based pay. Independent contractors earn more than do transcriptionists who work for others, but independent contractors have higher expenses than their corporate counterparts, receive no benefits, and may face higher risk of termination than do wage-and-salary transcriptionists.

Related Occupations Back to Top

Workers in other occupations also type, record information, and process paperwork. Among these are court reporters; human resources assistants, except payroll and timekeeping; receptionists and information clerks; and secretaries and administrative assistants. Other workers who provide medical support include medical assistants and medical records and health information technicians.

For The Latest Wage Information Back to Top

The above wage data are from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey program, unless otherwise noted. For the latest National, State, and local earnings data, visit the following pages:

  • Medical transcriptionists

  • Sources of Additional Information Back to Top

    Disclaimer: Links to non-BLS and non-Medword Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.

    For information on a career as a medical transcriptionist, contact:

    State employment service offices can provide information about job openings for medical transcriptionists.

    Get more information from O*NET-the Occupational Information Network: Back to Top

    O*NET provides comprehensive information on key characteristics of workers and occupations. For information on a specific occupation, select the appropriate link below. For more information on O*NET, visit their homepage.


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    Statistics Citation: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Medical Transcriptionists, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos271.htm (visited April 19, 2010).







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