How to Become a Transcriptionist: Degrees, Certification & Careers

Oct 20, 2021

Find out how to become a transcriptionist. Research the education, training and specialization requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in transcription.

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Should I Become a Transcriptionist?

A transcriptionist creates a written copy of dictated audio or live speech. Transcription specializations include medical and legal. Legal transcriptionists work for court systems and are commonly called court reporters. These professionals typically perform transcription at hearings and depositions. Medical transcriptionists commonly transcribe information that will be included in a patient's file, such as diagnostic test results, operative reports and referrals. These professionals may work in court rooms, law offices, physician practices or hospitals. Additionally, many work from home. If you have been wondering how to be a transcriptionist, read on to learn more.

Transcription Job Requirements

Degree Level Certificate or associate degree
Degree Field Legal transcription or court reporting; medical transcription
Licensure/Certification Licensure/certification required in many states for legal transcriptionists working as court reporters; voluntary certifications available
Experience None; on-the-job training may be offered
Key Skills Listening, writing, time-management, critical thinking, concentration, and computer skills
Salary $60,130 (2019 median for court reporters)
$33,380 (2019 median for medical transcriptionists)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Wondering how to get a job as a transcriber? A transcriptionist needs a certificate or an associate degree in legal transcription or court reporting or medical transcription. Licensure or certification required in many states for legal transcriptionists working as court reporters. Voluntary certifications are also available. No experience outside of formal training is required, though on-the-job training may be offered. Transcriptionists should have good listening, writing, time-management, critical thinking, concentration and computer skills.

According to 2019 data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, court reporters earned a median salary of $60,130, while medical transcriptionists earned a median salary of $33,380.

Transcriptionist Work Environments

Transcriptionists may work in any of the following environments:

  • From home
  • In courtrooms
  • In offices
  • In medical clinics or hospitals
  • In academic settings

How to Become a Legal Transcriptionist

Let's review the steps to become a legal transcriptionist.

Step 1: Obtain a Certificate or Transcriptionist Degree

Legal transcription requires knowledge of legal terminology and documentation. A certificate in legal transcription or court reporting focuses on the technical skills needed to perform legal transcription. Graduates of these certificate programs have training in legal systems, legal research, legal documentation and legal terminology. A legal administrative assistant associate's degree program provides courses in formatting, legal ethics, software applications and transcription. Many legal assistant associate degree programs allow students to take part in an internship experience.

Step 2: Find Work as a Legal Transcriptionist or Court Reporter

Legal transcriptionists create a variety of legal documents, including pleadings, discovery documents, client records and correspondence. Those who work as court reporters may focus on transcribing details of hearings and depositions. Graduates may seek employment in a variety of environments, including legal offices, courts, business legal departments and legal libraries. A legal transcriptionist may also work on a freelance basis from a home office.

Step 3: Become a Certified Transcriptionist

Now that you understand how to become a transcriber, you may be wondering more specifically, ''how do i become a certified transcriber?'' According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many states require court reporters to be licensed or certified. The National Court Reporters Association offer the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) credential, which is used as the licensing exam requirement in many states. Other certifications legal transcriptionists may obtain include the Certified Verbatim Reporter (CVR) or Realtime Verbatim Reporter (RVR) designation, offered by the National Verbatim Reporters Association.

How to Become a Medical Transcriptionist

Now let's explore the steps to become a medical transcriptionist.

Step 1: Obtain a Certificate or Transcriptionist Degree

The first step to take when finding out how to be a transcriber of any sort is to get training. Most employers prefer that a medical transcriptionist have some type of training, specifically in medical terminology. A medical transcriptionist certificate program provides training in terminology, anatomy, ethics, keyboarding and document preparation. An associate degree program includes courses in formatting, business, English, software, pharmacology and medical office procedures. Students seeking certification should ensure the program they enroll in is accredited. Additionally, an internship program can provide students with valuable on-the-job training.

Step 2: Seek Employment as a Medical Transcriptionist

Most medical transcriptionists work in hospitals and private doctors' offices. Jobs are also found in medical-related businesses, laboratories, outpatient centers and on a freelance basis.

Step 3: Become a Certified Transcriptionist

You understand how to start your transcriptionist career, but you may still be thinking, in terms of certification, what do I need to be a transcriptionist? Medical transcriptionists seeking career advancement may consider earning voluntary certifications through the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI). The AHDI offers the Level 1 Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist (RHDS) and the Level 2 Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist (CHDS) designations (formerly the Registered Medical Transcriptionist and Certified Medical Transcriptionist credentials). Both certifications are valid for three years. During a 3-year period, CHDS designees must earn at least 30 continuing education credits. No continuing education credits are required to maintain the RHDS.

Individuals seeking the RHDS or CHDS credentials should obtain the recommended audio and reading materials to help prepare for the exam. Specific exam information and sample questions may be found by downloading the credentialing candidate guide from the AHDI website.

Alternate Career Paths

It is possible to become a transcriber without specializing in medicine or law. In fact, many transcriptionists work from home transcribing documents for all kinds of purposes, from academic research to marketing, film work to language education. If you are interested in learning how to become an online transcriptionist, you should probably still consider getting the same kinds of training that the above careers require, although some online transcription jobs are willing to train those without previous experience.

Transcriptionists need a certificate or an associate degree in the specific transcription field in which they wish to work. And licensure may be required for court reporters, while certification is voluntary for medical transcriptionists.

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