CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a medical transcriptionist.
Is becoming a medical transcriptionist right for me?
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High school is not too early to begin preparation for a career in medical transcription. Aspiring MTs can really make high school count towards their future career if they...
-take plenty of science courses
-pay attention to developing their writing, grammar, and punctuation skills
-study a foreign language to become familiar with different accents and pronunciation
-build computer skills and increase their typing speed
-volunteer at a hospital or another healthcare facility to begin exposure to medical terminology.
Certificate or Associate’s Degree
Many distance learning, vocational, and community colleges offer medical transcription training. The most reputable programs are those that have pursued voluntary accreditation through the Approval Committee for Certificate Programs (ACCP) and the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity.
In addition to completing an accredited training program, students should seek out internships while in school. An entry-level position in a hospital setting or physician’s office is often the best preparation for a home-based or independent position in medical transcription. Employers looking to fill senior transcription roles may expect a minimum of two years of experience.
The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity offers two distinct industry credentials.
The Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist (RHDS) designation is awarded to recently-graduated students who pass the RHDS exam, which is based on model curricula and tests candidates’ core competencies. This certification is valid for three years. To retain the credential, recertification is required prior to expiration.
Applicants with two or more years of field experience are eligible to earn the Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist (CHDS) credential. The CHDS exam assesses core competencies at a more advanced level.
Although neither credential offered by the AHDI is mandatory, both are highly recommended and generally improve job prospects in the field.
How to become a Medical Transcriptionist
The minimum educational requirement to enter this field is graduation from a diploma or certificate program in medical transcription (MT). Distance learning programs may also be available. Many curricula combine classroom instruction with supervised on-the-job experience. Some prospective transcriptionists already familiar with medical terminology from previous experience – perhaps as a medical receptionist or secretary – may become proficient by taking refresher and supplementary courses.
The typical medical transcription curriculum includes courses in anatomy, pathophysiology, pharmacology, medical terminology, medical record types and formats; and healthcare documentation and related legal issues. In addition, MT programs have a strong non-medical component, with coursework focusing on writing, editing, grammar, punctuation, and keyboard skills; all of which are crucial in this occupation.
Certificate program graduates typically qualify for most entry-level MT positions. However, some employers prefer to hire candidates who have earned an Associate’s degree in medical transcription. This is especially true for openings that demand specialized knowledge. Specializations or subfields in the discipline include, but are not limited to, radiology, pathology, dentistry, surgery, pain management, occupational therapy, and obstetrics.
While not mandatory, obtaining certification through the Association for Healthcare Documentation and Integrity (AHDI) is recommended. AHDI administers two different accreditation examinations. One is for recent graduates; the other is for experienced medical transcriptionists.