Turning Healthcare Jargon Into Concise Reports: Medical Transcription Degree

Physicians and other healthcare workers often make voice recordings when examining patients under their care. These recordings contain very important information, which must then be turned into coherent medical reports. If you have excellent listening skills, can interpret information accurately and would like to help with the creation of these medical reports, then the career of a medical transcriptionist might be for you. The work is challenging, but very rewarding and ideal for people who enjoy spending time behind a computer while working independently.

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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. Many online programs in this field are geared towards helping you develop the necessary skills for the industry. This can include the use of online simulators, as well as access to editing and dictation exercises. Topics covered in online courses can include discharge summaries, operative and autopsy reports, diagnosing imaging studies, how to produce medical reports and documents and more.


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 about three to five years of 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.


Before taking any course, first review the licensing or certification requirements for your state as they are not all the same. This type of information can typically be obtained from the state professional licensing board or other regulatory body present in the state where you want to work.


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. Upon completion of the program, students can then take the RMT exam from the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI).


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


Health sciences

Anatomy and physiology

Medical terminology

Medical law and bioethics

Diseases of the human body

Keyboarding fundamentals and advanced concepts


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.

Can I Complete My Medical Transcription Studies Online?

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.

What Are The Career Opportunities For Medical Transcriptionists?

Medical transcription jobs are declining at a rate of 3 percent, 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.

What Is My Earning Potential In This Industry?

The BLS reports that medical transcriptionists earn approximately $16.77 per hour or $34,890 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. Those who work from home often have the ability to be productive outside of usual business hours, which means that they can earn more if their schedules allow it.

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Medical Transcriptionist FAQ 

Who Is An Ideal Candidate To Work As A Medical Transcriptionist? 

Students interested in the field of medical transcription should ensure that they have all of the qualities that are valued by employees in the industry. This includes being organized as you might often be tasked with ensuring that confidential health information remain in the right places. Employees will also depend on you to provide them with the correct information in a timely manner, so being dependable is essential. Since this is not the type of job where you can afford to make mistakes it pays to be very detail oriented and meticulous when double-checking your work. In addition, you need good communication skills and the ability to interpret information correctly. Of course, a good understanding of grammar and punctuation is also important for this line of work.

What Types Of Jobs Can I Qualify For With A Medical Transcription Certification Or Degree?

Most medical transcriptionists work in hospitals and other medical facilities, working a 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. Some 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 transcriptionists made a median hourly pay of $16.77 during 2015. The highest 10 percent of medical transcriptionists can make $24 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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