Medical transcription is a form of record keeping. If you choose to study medical transcription, you will learn to listen carefully to audio recordings that contain notes from doctors. You will use knowledge of medical terminology, anatomy and the English language to produce detailed and accurate reports that become a permanent part of a patient’s personal medical files.
Although medical transcription is an important job, you will not be working in an emergency room or forming relationships with patients. Medical transcriptionists work entirely behind the scenes at healthcare facilities like hospitals and medical and dental clinics. Alternately, you can work from home as an independent contractor for medical transcription agencies.
Online vs. Traditional Education
If you want to earn your medical transcription certificate online, you will find many options available to you. A variety of schools offer online medical transcription programs. And, since this type of work is completed independently on the computer, there is no practical reason not to pursue your medical transcription certificate online. If you decide to earn your certificate through an online medical transcription school, you should compare the courses in your online program to those that are offered in an accredited traditional program to make sure that you are getting a quality education.
If you are looking for a medical transcription school, you may want to consider whether or not it is accredited. The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) accredits some medical transcription certificate programs that meet its standards for medical transcription education. Although you do not need to attend an accredited school to find employment, you can be sure that you are getting a quality education if you do. Check the Guide to Accreditation in Higher Education to learn more about accreditation and how to determine if the program you select meets the necessary standards.
Certificate in Medical Transcription
A certificate in medical transcription is the shortest educational path available in this field. Certificate programs in medical transcription introduce students to important medical and computer skills to quickly prepare them for the workforce.
- Credit hours/length of study: 1 year (30 to 35 credit hours)
- Coursework: In your medical transcription certificate program, you can expect to take courses that improve your knowledge of the medical field and teach you technical skills. For example, you will likely take classes about medical terminology, anatomy and pharmacology, which concerns the uses and effects of drugs. You will also take classes in computer skills, speech recognition software application and technical writing. In addition, some medical transcription programs have an externship, which is a brief internship that can offer you hands-on experience working with medical transcription equipment.
- Employment prospects: A certificate qualifies you to work in general medical transcription or to specialize in a subfield like radiology or pathology. In addition, you may be qualified for entry-level clerical positions in the healthcare industry like medical office administration.
Associate Degree in Medical Transcription
An associate degree is the highest level of study in medical transcription. While an associate degree is not required for most medical transcription positions, the additional computer, language and medical training that you will gain may provide you with more work opportunities.
An Associate of Science (AS) in Medical Transcription has scientific and mathematics classes that are designed to give you a technical background. The AS is a good choice if you want to work right away or transfer your credits into a bachelor’s program in another subject.
An Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Medical Transcription emphasizes practical job skills, but it is very similar to the AS degree. The AAS is the best option if you want to start a medical transcription job as soon as you graduate.
- Credit hours/length of study: 2 years (60 to 65 hours)
- Coursework: Associate degrees in medical transcription provide you with a more comprehensive knowledge of anatomy, medicine and office skills than certificate programs do. Some of the classes that are usually offered in a medical transcription associates degree include word processing, English composition, medical terminology, anatomy and pharmacology. You may also take classes in medical billing and coding, office skills, accounting and business communication or technical writing. You should also keep in mind that the best programs will offer hands-on internship opportunities in the final semester of study.
- Employment prospects: An associates degree in medical transcription will qualify you to work as a medical transcriptionist in a clinical office or from home, although you do not need this level of education to do so. The advantage of completing additional coursework is that it gives you a basic business background, so that you can perform other duties in a medical office. Small business skills may also make it easier for you to work from a home office because you will be able to manage your projects.
Licensing and Professional Certification
The Association of Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) offers 2 levels of professional certification for medical transcriptionists. These certifications are optional, but some employers recognize certification as proof of your transcription skills, so they could lead to a pay raise. If you want to become certified, you will need to pay a fee and pass the AHDI medical transcription exam.
Beginning transcriptionists can take the an exam to become certified as a Registered Medical Transcriptionist (RMT). After RMTs have gained at least 2 years of transcription experience, they are eligible to take the CMT exam, which designates them as a Certified Medical Transcriptionist (CMT). The CMT certification indicates more advanced medical knowledge and experience than the RMT. Both certifications expire after 3 years unless you take a continuing education course to keep your knowledge updated.
If you choose not to earn a medical transcription certificate or associate degree, you can also enter the industry with a degree in a related specialty. For example, health information management, medical billing and coding and healthcare studies programs all qualify you for entry-level medical transcription jobs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 95,100 medical transcriptionists employed in the United States in 2010. Medical transcriptionists are expected to experience 6 percent job growth through 2020, which is slower than the projected growth for all occupations. New software is able to use speech recognition programs to prepare rough transcriptions, so employment will be limited in the future. However, medical transcriptionists will still be needed to review these drafts and edit them as needed. Some jobs for medical transcriptionists include:
- Medical Transcriptionist
- Radiology Transcriptionist
- Pathology Transcriptionist
- Medical Records Clerk
- Medical Assistants