What Does a Medical Transcriptionist Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

A day in the life of a medical transcriptionist: Transcribe physician's dictation of medical office visits, identify mistakes in reports, receive, file and store materials as required

The Balance / Maddy Price

Medical transcriptionists translate dictated recordings from doctors and other medical professionals into written reports, correspondence, and documents. Those who work in doctors' offices might also have additional clerical duties. An alternate job title for this occupation is healthcare documentation specialist.

Approximately 57,400 people were working as medical transcriptionists in 2016.

Medical Transcriptionist Duties & Responsibilities

The following job duties are the most common, although some might not apply depending on the needs and wishes of the employer.

  • Transcribe physician's dictation of medical office visits, including incoming correspondence.
  • Operate word processing, dictation, and transcription equipment.
  • Receive, file, and store materials as required.
  • Receive incoming lab orders and requisitions and enter relevant clinical data into the necessary software applications.
  • Review and edit transcribed reports and dictated material for spelling, grammar, clarity, consistency, and proper medical terminology.
  • Identify mistakes in reports and check with doctors to obtain the correct information.
  • Prioritize dictated reports based on the level of continuity of care needs.

Some medical transcriptionists who work from home would have fewer office-related duties, but they're more likely to be paid according to the volume of work they produce as opposed to an hourly rate or salary.

Medical Transcriptionist Salary

The pay is reasonably respectable considering that this career doesn't require a bachelor's degree.

  • Median Annual Salary: $34,770 ($16.72/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $51,780 ($24.89/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $21,840 ($10.50/hour)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

Some medical transcriptionists are paid based on the volume of work they transcribe.

Education, Training & Certification

This career requires moderate education, and certification can be helpful.

  • Education: A one-year certificate or associate degree might not be required by every employer, but it can certainly be helpful. Programs are available at community colleges and vocational schools, or through distance learning programs. Coursework includes anatomy, medical terminology, legal issues relating to health care documentation, and English grammar and punctuation. Students often receive on-the-job training as well.
  • Certification: Voluntary certification can improve your job prospects, but isn't mandatory, either. A recent graduate or someone with fewer than two years of experience in acute care can become a registered medical transcriptionist (RMT) after passing a test administered by the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI). With more than two years of acute care experience, and after passing another exam, you can become a certified medical transcriptionist (CMT).

Medical Transcriptionist Skills & Competencies

Certain skills and personal traits can go a long way in this occupation.

  • Grammar: You must transcribe sometimes incorrect verbiage into proper grammatical form.
  • Computer proficiency: In particular, you should be familiar with word processing software, such as Microsoft Word.
  • Critical-thinking skills: You must be able to pick up on inaccuracies and inconsistencies in your final drafts. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, particularly under pressure.
  • Time-management skills: Deadlines can be short, so it can be helpful if you have a knack for fully using every moment at your disposal.

Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a poor job outlook for this occupation due to expected technological advancements. Employment is expected to decline by about 3% between 2016 and 2026.

After gaining experience, you might advance to a supervisory position. You can become a medical records and health information technician, medical coder, or medical records and health information administrator with additional education and training.

Work Environment

Most medical transcriptionists work for hospitals, physicians' offices, and for companies that provide transcription services to the healthcare industry, but many work from the comfort of their homes. They take in work and submit it electronically.

In either case, the work can be somewhat stressful with tight deadlines and little to no room for error.

Work Schedule

Medical transcriptionists usually work full time, with about one-third employed in part-time jobs.

Those who work from home have the flexibility to decide when they'll work, whether it's during regular business hours, at night, or on weekends.

Comparing Similar Jobs

Several similar jobs also involve the medical profession, and some are based more on memorializing general data.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018