Programs in medical transcription are commonly available online at the certificate and associate's degree levels. These programs may be taught entirely online, with students accessing archived lessons and course materials as their schedules permit, or through hybrid programs that include both online and on-campus courses. Most programs also require a period of clinical experience in a medical office.
Courses in a certificate program cover only topics related to medical transcription, while associate's degree programs, which usually take two years to complete, include general education courses such as mathematics, science and English composition. In both types of programs, students explore pharmacology, anatomy and physiology for medical assistants and medical terminology. They take courses in keyboarding and business English and may be required to learn about medical office administrative procedures.
Graduates at both levels may want to apply for certification with a professional medical transcriptionist organization. This is not mandatory, but many employers say they prefer to hire someone who is certified. Certifications are offered at several levels and require training, passing a competency exam and experience.
Certificate in Medical Transcription
Through an online certificate program, students learn the skills needed to begin a career as a medical transcriptionist, such as how to accurately spell and edit medical information and how to use transcription equipment. Major areas of study typically include medical office procedures, business correspondence and keyboarding. Online medical transcription programs are common among community colleges and are usually self-paced. Prospective medical transcription students should be high school graduates with excellent punctuation and grammar, above average typing skills and competent listeners.
Program Information and Requirements
Most online certificate programs are fully online, but some include a mix of distance education and on-campus classes. Students typically get their assignments, participate in discussions and submit their homework electronically. Therefore, medical transcription students should have computers with high-speed Internet, as well as access to common office software programs such as Microsoft Word.
Upon acceptance into the program, students are given detailed information about how to log into the school's secured education platform and begin reading and completing class materials. Students should be comfortable working with computers and be able to type at a rate of at least 45 words per minute.
Common Online Medical Transcription Certificate Courses
Certificate programs in medical transcription are designed to provide students with an overview of the field and train them on tasks such as coding medical insurance forms and transcribing physician recordings. The classes in a certificate program give students a basic understanding of the field, along with several science courses.
Beginning Medical Transcription
This online course provides an introduction to medical transcription and includes the operation of word processing and transcribing equipment, proper conversion of medical dictation and an overview of medical terminology. Students learn the medical transcriptionist's role in the medical reimbursement cycle and examine the meaning of transcribed medical reports.
The online pharmacology course presents the basic concepts of pharmacology and the human body as it relates to medical transcription. Topics of study include dosage calculations and medication administration.
This course addresses how to construct business letters, forms, client records and memos. Online certificate students learn how to organize written medical office communication by understanding proper usage of sentence and paragraph construction, grammar and punctuation.
Associate's Degree in Medical Transcription
Associate's degree programs allow students to acquire new skills or build on their knowledge of medical transcription. Some online programs offer students the opportunity to explore one or more specialized areas of study, such as medical law and ethics, advanced medical transcription and medical office management. Students are often required to participate in an internship or practicum to gain practical experience.
Most institutions require associate's degree candidates to complete prerequisite coursework in subjects, such as English composition, college algebra and communications. While this program is usually offered online at public, non-profit schools, students may also find it at private for-profit institutions.
Program Information and Requirements
Many associate's degree programs are conducted completely online, aside from the required field experiences. Students are able to review and submit assignments, complete tests and contact students and instructors online. E-mail, chat and online forums are the most common way for students to communicate when enrolled in an online degree program. To help students get settled in their online program, some schools provide technical support 24 hours, 7 days a week.
Common Online Medical Transcription Associate's Degree Courses
The course breakdown of an associate's degree in medical transcription program typically includes general education, core and elective classes. Undergraduate students also take courses geared towards finding employment after graduation.
Medical Office Procedures
This online course provides students with a core understanding of the administrative duties that are performed in a typical medical office. Topics covered included coding and reimbursement, maintenance of medical records and guidelines on the release of health information.
Medical Law and Bioethics
Undergraduate students taking this course examine the basic principles of law, ethics and bioethics in relation to the field of medicine. Areas of study include physician and patient relationship, legal terms and contracts.
Medical Transcription Practicum
In this online class, students participate in a simulated experience as a medical transcriptionist to understand the work involved, as well as how to prepare for a career in the field. The course allows students to work from home and to deal with a number of situations that are common to medical transcriptionists, such as turnaround time and accents.
Career Information for Graduates
Students with an online certificate in medical transcription can pursue entry-level positions at hospitals, physician's offices and clinics. Many medical transcriptionists also telecommute from their home-based offices. According to PayScale.com, as of October 2016, the national hourly rate for medical transcriptionists was $15.76 per hour.
Graduates with an associate's degree in medical transcription typically begin their careers in entry-level positions but are generally equipped for senior or managerial-level positions. The median salary for a medical records transcriptionist was $46,250 in November 2019, as reported by Salary.com. Supervisors assign medical transcription work and see that they are completed accurately and on time. Some employers seek a minimum of five years of experience in medical transcription before hiring someone as a supervisor.
After completing an online medical transcription degree program, graduates may opt for professional certification. While it is voluntary, many employers seek medical transcriptionists with certification. Trade organizations like the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity offer a Certified Medical Transcriptionist (CMT) and a Registered Medical Transcriptionist (RMI) credential. Both certifications require passing a medical transcription examination, but CMT candidates must have a minimum of two years of acute care experience, while prospective RMI's require less than two years of acute care transcription work.
Students interested in studying medical transcription to become medical transcriptionists or medical transcription supervisors, can pursue an associate's degree or certificate completely online or via hybrid method. These programs may include areas of specialization and could prepare graduates for voluntary professional certification.