Online Medical Transcription Degree Programs

A career as a medical transcriptionist (MT) can be very rewarding. While the technology continues to evolve, the work remains a vital service for the medical community. Medical transcriptionists take dictated medical information from physicians and other health care professionals and convert them into text reports.

There are many online educational opportunities for a medical transcriptionist. For example, a search of some distance learning offerings revealed the following programs:

  • Associate’s Degree in Applied Science in Medical Transcription
  • Professional Medical Transcriptionist Program
  • Medical Transcriptionist Certificate

The best curriculum will train the distance learning student in the accepted file formats, editorial practices and appropriate ways to interpret the spoken word. The job of an MT is to accurately transcribe what the doctor means to say in his dictation.

An online medical transcriptionist program can open up a variety of job opportunities. A Certified Medical Transcriptionist (CMT) can work for a physician's practice, in a hospital or as an independent contractor.

Medical Transcription Degree Information

Employers of medical transcriptionists want trained, proficient individuals with excellent comprehension of medical terminology, English grammar and punctuation, computer training and a thorough background in transcribing medical dictation. Therefore, they usually only hire certified or experienced medical transcriptionists. Training for medical transcription can be done online, or in standard classrooms. Transcription programs can take from six to nine months for certification to two years for an associate in applied science in medical transcription. These programs will teach medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, medical reporting and electronic health records as well as how to use various types of medical reference books. Vocational schools, community colleges and home-study courses all train students in medical transcription.

Online Medical Transcription Curriculum

Online medical transcription classes will teach the student how to create the types of medical reports required by hospitals, doctor’s offices, nursing homes and other medical facilities. Communication, health science, medical law and ethics, pharmacology and medical terminology can all be taught in online programs.

Certification

All medical transcription courses prepare students to take the certification exams. Two levels of certification exist for medical transcriptionists, Registered Medical Transcriptionist (RMT) and Certified Medical Transcriptionist (CMT). The first is for beginning transcribers who are fully able to transcribe dictation from a doctor or other health professional, but may need help if something is inconsistent or not clear. These people take the registered medical transcriptionist exam to determine their professional skills. After a few years experience as a medical transcriber in an acute care or multi-practice setting, these professionals are ready to take the CMT exam. Both exams contain over 100 multiple choice questions on transcription styles and standards, clinical medicine and body systems terminology. RMTs are considered level one transcriptionists and CMTs are level two. Most employers require either RMT or CMT credentials when hiring. The cost of medical transcription training varies among the programs, but usually ranges from $1000 to $2000.

Associate’s

Many people going into medical transcription choose to attend a community college that offers an associate in applied science in medical transcription. This degree will take one to two years and provide a richer educational background with emphasis on medical transcription. Textbooks and course materials must be purchased separately. Costs will vary but will average from $20 to $40 per credit. Upon completion of the program, students can then take the RMT exam from the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI).

Coursework

Students working towards certification or an associate’s in medical transcription can expect courses in the following areas:

  • Communication
  • Health sciences
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Medical terminology
  • Medical law and bioethics
  • Diseases of the human body
  • Keyboarding fundamentals and advanced concepts
  • Pharmacology
  • Lab procedures
  • Medical records transcription
  • Software for medical professionals
  • Medical transcription practicum

Many transcription programs try to arrange an internship or externship where students can gain practical, hands-on transcription practice. If students show proficiency and good keyboarding skills, affiliated companies may take them on an externship basis for real life transcription training.

Career Opportunities

Medical transcription jobs are growing at a slower than average rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, with the medical industry being the fastest growing industry in the country due to an aging population, medical transcriptionists can expect steady employment once they’re hired. Medical transcriptionists work in hospitals, doctor’s offices, pharmaceutical companies, nursing homes, surgical centers, rehabilitation programs, physical therapy practices, chiropractor’s offices, transcription service agencies and dental offices. Even with competition from outsourcing and speech recognition software, the medical transcription field remains strong. Experienced medical transcriptionists can advance to home-based work, supervisory positions, consulting or teaching and expect higher pay. Or they can switch to a related career and move into medical coding or medical records and health information technician positions.

Earning Potential

The BLS reports that medical transcriptionists earn approximately $15.82 per hour or $32,900 a year on average. With experience, medical transcriptionist salaries can range up to $40,000. Very experienced transcriptionists who can easily outproduce others can earn $50,000 full time. Medical transcriptionists who work as self-employed contractors can make the most money, but this choice requires dedication and concentration. Some at-home contract transcribers can make $65,000 and up, although these transcribers usually do not have small children at home.

Medical Transcriptionist FAQ

What types of jobs can I expect with medical transcription certification or a degree?

Most medical transcriptionists work in hospitals and other medical facilities, working full 40 hours a week. Other medical organizations that hire medical transcribers include nursing homes, outpatient hospitals, rehab centers, chiropractor’s offices, doctor’s offices and transcription services agencies. Other medical transcriptionists are happiest working as at-home independent contractors who build their own practice by finding medical clients and establishing business relationships with them. While most medical transcriptionists work full time, some do part time work for smaller organizations.

How long does it take to earn medical transcription certification or degree?

Medical transcription certification will take at least six months, though most transcription programs will take nine months to a year. An associate’s degree in applied science in medical transcription takes two years. Obtaining medical transcription training is not costly in terms of time or money.

Where are the highest paying medical transcribing jobs?

Medical transcribers make a median hourly pay of $14.40 in 2006. The highest 10 percent of medical transcribers can make $20 an hour. With years of experience, medical transcriptionists will earn higher salaries. Independent contractors working from home can make quite a bit more, but building the business will take a few years in finding clients and establishing relationships. As usual in most occupations, west coast and east coast companies pay higher salaries than the Midwest or the South.

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