How to Become a Medical Transcriptionist

Training and Education Jobs and Salaries

Postsecondary training in medical transcription is preferred by employers and writing and computer skills also are important. Employers prefer to hire transcriptionists who have completed postsecondary training in medical transcription offered by many vocational schools, community colleges, and distance-learning programs. Completion of a two-year associate degree or one-year certificate program including coursework in anatomy, medical terminology, legal issues relating to health care documentation, and English grammar and punctuation is highly recommended, but not always required.

Many of these programs include supervised on-the-job experience. Some transcriptionists, especially those already familiar with medical terminology from previous experience as a nurse or medical secretary, become proficient through refresher courses and training. Formal accreditation is not required for medical transcription programs however, the Approval Committee for Certificate Programs (AACP) established by the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) and the American Health Information Management Association offers voluntary accreditation for medical transcription programs.

Although voluntary, completion of an ACCP approved program may be required for transcriptionists seeking certification. The AHDI awards two voluntary designations, the Registered Medical Transcriptionist (RMT) and the Certified Medical Transcriptionist (CMT). Medical transcriptionists who are recent graduates of medical transcription educational programs, or have fewer than two years experience in acute care, may become a registered RMT. The RMT credential is awarded upon successfully passing the AHDI level 1 registered medical transcription exam.

The CMT designation requires at least two years of acute care experience working in multiple specialty surgery areas using different format, report, and dictation types. Candidates also must earn a passing score on a certification examination. Because medicine is constantly evolving, medical transcriptionists are encouraged to update their skills regularly. RMTs and CMTs must earn continuing education credits every three years to be recertified. As in many other fields, certification is recognized as a sign of competence.

Graduates of an ACCP approved program who earn the RMT credential are eligible to participate in the Registered Apprenticeship Program sponsored by the Medical Transcription Industry Association through the U.S. Department of Labor. The Registered Apprenticeship program offers structured on-the-job learning and related technical instruction for qualified medical transcriptionists entering the profession.

In addition to understanding medical terminology, transcriptionists must have good English grammar and punctuation skills and proficiency with personal computers and word processing software. Normal hearing acuity and good listening skills also are necessary. Employers usually require applicants to take pre-employment tests. With experience, medical transcriptionists can advance to supervisory positions, home-based work, editing, consulting, or teaching. Some become owners of medical transcription businesses. With additional education or training, some become medical records and health information technicians, medical coders, or medical records and health information administrators.