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Medical Transcription Career

Career Description

A Medical Transcriptionist uses transcribing machines with headset and foot pedals to listen to recordings by physicians and other healthcare professionals dictating a variety of medical reports, such as emergency room visits, diagnostic imaging studies, operations, chart reviews, and final summaries. Transcribe dictated reports and translate medical jargon and abbreviations into their expanded forms. Edit as necessary and return reports in either printed or electronic form to the dictator for review and signature, or correction.

Common Work Tasks

  • Listen to recordings on a headset, using a foot pedal to pause the recording when necessary, and key the text into a personal computer or word processor, editing as necessary for grammar and clarity
  • Produce discharge summaries, medical history and physical examination reports, operative reports, consultation reports, autopsy reports, diagnostic imaging studies, progress notes, and referral letters
  • Return transcribed documents to the physicians or other health care professionals who dictated them for review and signature or correction
  • Translate medical jargon and abbreviations into their expanded forms
  • Receive dictation over the Internet and quickly return transcribed documents to clients for approval
  • Distinguish between homonyms and recognize inconsistencies and mistakes in medical terms, referring to dictionaries, drug references, and other sources on anatomy, physiology, and medicine
  • Identify mistakes in reports and check with doctors to obtain the correct information
  • Perform data entry and data retrieval services,  providing data for inclusion in medical records and for transmission to physicians
  • Produce medical reports, correspondence,  records, patient-care information, statistics, medical research, and administrative material
  • Set up and maintain medical files and databases,  including records such as x-ray, lab, and procedure reports, medical histories,  diagnostic workups, admission and discharge summaries, and clinical resumes

Other Job Titles

Medical Transcriptionists are also known by other titles,  including:

  • Physician Assistants
  • Medical Records Technicians
  • Medical Coders
  • Home Health Aides

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
Employers prefer to hire transcriptionists who have completed postsecondary 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.

Certification and Licensure
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.

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.

  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.


The median annual salary for a Medical Transcriptionist is $31,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $44,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $22,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of medical transcriptionists are:

  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals - $28,460
  • Offices of Physicians- $29,840
  • Business Support Services- $25,170
  • Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories - $28,660
  • Outpatient Care Centers - $28,590

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  14%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 13,000
  • Employment 2006 : 98,000
  • Employment 2016:  112,000
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