Transcription Terms to Know

Transcription is a career field that has many opportunities for working at home. If you're interested in getting started in a home transcription career, know the terms and the types of transcription. Scroll through to see definitions.


Transcription jobs
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Definition: Transcription is a specific kind of data entry that means turning oral language into written form. This means listening to an audio or video recording (or possibly live speech in ​real-time transcription) and then typing it as a written transcript. Transcriptionists usually use special software; however, in some forms of transcription word processing software like Microsoft Word can be used.

Depending on the material being transcribed, different levels of interpretation are required. Sometimes the transcription must be exact while at other times transcriptionists must clean up grammatical errors or paraphrase.

There are many different types of transcription. Specialties include legal transcription, corporate transcription, and medical transcription.

Work-at-home angle: Transcription can be a viable option for working from home. However, not all forms of transcription and all transcriptions jobs can be translated into a home-based position.

Transcription Reviewer

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Definition: A transcription reviewer looks over the work of other transcriptionists to ensure it is accurate, error-free and true to the original recording. A transcription reviewer must listen to some or all of the original recording that is the source of the transcription. Though sometimes this position might be called "transcription editor" or "transcription proofreading," it is not a typical editing or proofreading job, since typically you have to be a transcriptionist first.

Most companies promote the best and most accurate transcriptionists for these jobs. Transcription reviewers are sometimes paid an hourly rate, but they might be paid a per word or per piece rate.

Work-at-home angle: Transcription reviewers can work from home for the same companies that offer remote transcription jobs. However, not all forms of transcription and all transcriptions jobs can be translated into a home-based position.

Legal Transcription

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Definition: Legal transcription is converting audio dictation by legal professionals and other recordings from legal cases into the printed word. Like medical transcription, which transcribes a physician’s dictated notes, this type of transcription requires specialized knowledge of terms used in the field. However, unlike medical transcription, formal certification is not required, but experience and/or education in the legal profession, as well as fast and accurate typing, are essential.

The types of material a legal transcriptionist might transcribe include recordings of hearings, interviews, and depositions; dictation by legal professionals, and sometimes written documents such as handwritten communications, notes or other legal documents.

Legal transcription is not the same as court reporting. Court reporting is a form of realtime transcription, meaning words are transcribed as they are spoken live—not from a recording. Court reporters must undergo certification.

Work-at-home angle: Legal transcription is frequently done from home. Legal transcriptionists may work for legal services companies, government agency or law firms as employees or as independent contractors. Like most work-at-home positions, employers and clients usually desire experience working on-site before allowing a home-based work.

Real-Time Transcription

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Definition: Real-time transcription describes transcription that uses real-time text (RTT) technology to transcribe oral language as it is being spoken. Other forms of transcription work with audio recordings, rather than live speech. The most common use of real-time transcription is court reporting; however, other forms of it include real-time captioning and communication access real-time translation (CART), which is real-time transcription for the deaf.

Real-time writers need to be able to type a 200-300 wpm. They must have excellent hearing and listening skills, knowledge of spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Additionally, anyone practicing real-time transcription will need to be detail oriented and able to think fast and concentrate for long periods. Training in stenography and stenographic software is needed.

To gain the skills needed to be a real-time writer, post-secondary schooling is needed, and most jurisdictions require certification for court reporters, so like medical transcriptionists, court reporters, and other real time writers will need to enroll in training and/or certification classes. For more information on these certifications, see the National Court Reporting Association’s (NCRA) website, which offers information about both court reporting and captioning training.

Work-at-home angle: Typically court reporting is performed in person in courtrooms and at depositions, and CART work is also done on site, though some forms may be done remotely.

However, those with realtime writing skills and experience can use them in work-at-home settings by transitioning to captioning. However, to become a captioner, additional training and possibly certification may be required.

Medical Trancriptionist

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Definition: A medical transcriptionist practices a specialized form of transcription. He or she listens to a physician or medical practitioner’s dictated notes regarding a patient and transcribes them so they can be added into the patient’s medical file. Typically a medical transcriptionist uses similar equipment to a general transcriber's computer. This includes a headset, foot pedal, and specialized transcription software.

Unlike most other forms of transcription, medical transcription requires post-secondary training--either a 1-year certificate program or 2-year associate’s degree. The types of courses required in these programs include anatomy, medical terminology, medical and legal issues, and grammar and punctuation.

There are two types of certifications: registered medical transcriptionist (RMT) and certified medical transcriptionist (CMT). Certifications require an initial exam and then retesting periodically and/or continuing education.

General skills needed to be a medical transcriptionist:

  • Fast and accurate typing
  • Detail-oriented, careful worker
  • Knowledge of medical terminology
  • Knowledge of medical transcription practices
  • Excellent English grammar, punctuation, and style
  • Ability to work under time pressure
  • Excellent hearing and listening skills

Work-at-home angle: Medical transcriptionists often work at home. However, usually only experienced ones get this opportunity. The new medical transcriptionist will likely need to work in an office before working at home.

Medical transcriptionists may be employees or independent contractors. As independent contractors, they might run their own home business and work directly with medical professionals or work for a medical BPO or other company that hires medical transcriptionists as contractors.

Find Medical Transcription Jobs

4 Ways to Make Money Typing From Home

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Now that you know the terms learn more about how to turn typing into a home-based career.