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Transcription Profession

Guide to the Transcription Profession

The Transcription Profession: An Overview

An individual who chooses the transcription profession will be faced with several options and several opportunities. The transcription profession covers legal transcription, medical transcription, general transcription and business transcription. The vast majority of people who work in transcription choose one of these areas to concentrate on. The general transcriptionist may be able to do legal transcription or medical transcription they tend to handle general and business transcription only. The following guide will help those individuals who are looking at the transcription profession as an employment option and you may have questions regarding the process of finding a transcription job, types of transcription jobs, benefits particular transcription jobs and education required for these transcription jobs.

Types of Transcription Jobs

General Transcription

The first thing to cover in the transcription profession is the types of transcription jobs available. The first type of transcription job is the general transcription. A general transcriptionist will handle office transcriptions, voicemail transcriptions or audio transcription services on an as needed basis. This type of transcription requires no special education though the jobs may not be as lucrative or as consistent as a transcriptionist would prefer.

Legal Transcription

The next type of transcription job is the legal transcription position. There are two types of legal transcription. The first type is a law enforcement transcriptionist who handles the transcription of law enforcement personnel directly following an arrest or a conviction. The legal transcriptionist generally works for police departments or on a contract basis for various police departments. Another term for a law enforcement transcriptionist is a report taker.

The second type of legal transcriptionist is also referred to as a court reporter or a Scopist depending on the range of work being provided. A court reporter will be present in the courtroom during a court hearing and will use shorthand and a special machine in order to transcribe the court’s proceedings. A Scopist works as a transcriptionist of that court reporter shorthand. A Scopist will take the shorthand dictated by the court reporter during the court hearing and use special software to create a readable legal document. Both are considered to be one in the same by some individuals in the profession. Both are considered legal transcription options.

A legal transcriptionist will need to go through the basic transcription education depending on the type of legal transcription they are doing. For example a law enforcement transcriptionist may need no transcription experience and only need a fast typing speed and native English background. A transcriptionist who is going into court reporting transcription will need to have a court reporter certificate or Associate’s degree. A legal transcriptionist who is going into Scopist will need to have a Scopist training course, certificate or a combination of paralegal and Scopist training depending on their profession goals.

Medical Transcription

A medical transcriptionist will handle various types of medical transcription work. There are several types of medical transcriptionist. There are outpatient medical transcriptionists to handle only transcription from outpatient procedures. There are inpatient medical transcriptionists to handle only transcriptions for inpatient procedures. For every type of medical profession such as general practitioner, OB/GYN, pediatrics and so on their medical transcriptionist to have specialties in these backgrounds. Depending on the type of medical transcription you do, you may work for a doctor’s office, hospital or as an independent medical transcriptionist who handles overflow work for various doctors and organizations.

Medical transcriptionists must go through medical transcription training. The training can last one year to two years and be a certificate or an Associate’s degree in medical transcription. This medical transcription certification and experience is vital. The vast majority of medical transcriptionist will go straight from certification to working for a doctor’s office or clinic. It should be noted, however, that medical transcription is a very difficult field to get into with the most doctors' offices and private practices wanting the transcriptionist have at least 2 to 3 years experience. This is why it is vital for a medical transcriptionist student to gain as much experience as they can while going to the latter part of their medical transcriptionist training in order to build a solid background.

Business Transcription

Business transcription is a form of transcription where the transcriptionist only handles business conferences, calls and transcription of business meetings. This is very similar to taking the minutes of the meeting except instead of taking only base points of the meeting they will transcribe the entire meeting. A business transcriptionist will work for an individual as an independent contractor or for a small or large business corporation. Most business transcriptionists choose to either work from home as an independent contractor or work for larger businesses where there is consistent workflow.

There is no special education for business transcriptionists. A business transcriptionist can have basic transcription backgrounds, high typing speed and a high level of understanding or native English language.


Benefits of Working as a Transcriptionist

There are several benefits to working as a transcriptionist. Transcriptionists tend to make a decent income with consistent work. The following are several benefits of working as a transcriptionist that individuals may not have considered or may not have thought of recently in their decision-making process of working in the transcription profession.


The educational requirements for a transcriptionist are a huge benefit for many individuals looking at career choices that require an educational background. The education for medical transcriptionist can be six months or less depending on the program. Someone who is seeking a medical transcription degree may be able to complete the degree within six months if they already have a medical background. For this reason, many certified nursing assistants find a medical transcription is a good option to increase their pay as well as decrease the time they work in a hospital environment. This decreased amount time in the education system is also a benefit for the education expense that many individuals may incur or try to avoid during their educational background for a new position.


The income benefit to working as a transcriptionist is one of the leading reasons that individuals choose the transcriptionist profession. Regardless of the type of transcription you decide to go into the income is fairly reasonable. Most individuals can expect to make between $10 an hour and $15 an hour starting out in the transcriptionist profession. Others may find that their income starts out at $16 an hour or higher. The income is usually based on a per page of transcription basis or per audio minute. For individuals working as an independent contractor the pay can increase substantially or decrease substantially beginning on the type of work they choose to take.

Flexibility of Work Options

The flexibility of work options is another great benefit of working as a transcriptionist. A transcriptionist, regardless of the type of transcription they choose, will have the flexibility of choosing to work as an independent contractor or as an employee. For those who choose to work as an independent contractor the flexibility is even greater. An independent contractor in the transcription profession can choose to take on as few or as many clients as they would like and can set their rates accordingly. This means that a transcriptionist working as an independent contractor can work from home and work the hours that they wish to work. It is the flexibility of the job that attracts most people first with the income being a second attraction and benefit.

Benefits of Working as an Independent Transcriptionist

Some individuals looking at the transcription profession may be confused as to which type of transcription employment they want. Transcriptionists have the choice of working as an independent contractor or independent transcriptionist or they may choose to work as an employee for a doctor’s office or firm. The following are the benefits of working as an independent transcriptionist regardless of the type of transcription field.

Work Load

One of the greatest benefits of working as an independent transcriptionist is the ability to choose your workload. For some individuals, a part-time transcription position is perfect. This part-time position may also be a much larger benefit if the payment for the part-time position is more than the full-time position. As an independent transcriptionist you can choose the workload that you take and the clients that you take. This means that you are offered the flexibility of having a very heavy workload or a very light workload depending on your personal preference.

Setting Your Own Hours

Setting your own hours goes hand-in-hand with the workload benefit of being an independent transcriptionist. Individuals who choose to be independent transcriptionist will find the being able to set your own work hours is a huge benefit. Setting your own work hours means that you can choose to work days, nights, 20 hours a week, 30 hours a week or work a few hours one week and a full-time amount of hours the following week. Being able to set your own hours is a benefit that attracts many transcriptionists to the job.

Choice of Clients

This is the benefit that independent transcriptionists tend to flock to. Being an independent transcription is based on the benefit of the choice of clients. This may not seem like an important benefit to some, however, to some independent transcriptionists this is the biggest benefit. Having the ability to choose your clients means that you can find a client that works well with your attitude or your professional view of the transcription profession. If you do not like the way a client handles their business you can choose not to work with them again and move on to another client. If you like the way a client handles their business and you work well with that client you can choose to take on more work from that client if that option is available. In other words, you do not have to work for a particular client simply because the money or the job is there.


Another benefit of working as an independent transcriptionist is being able to set your own price. Though you will want to keep your price reasonable, the advantage to setting your own price can land to the job or lose you the job. If you live in an area where the cost of living is lower than most areas in the United States you may be able to set a lower payment which will garner you higher-paying clients. If you live in an area where the cost of living is high you may be able to set your payment accordingly and still land high-paying clients. The ability to set your payments to what works best for your environment is a huge benefit for independent transcriptionists.

Benefits of Working as an Employed Transcriptionist

Working as an employee transcriptionist or a transcriptionist that works for an actual doctor's office or facility has its benefits over being an independent transcriptionist. The following are the benefits of working as an employee transcriptionist to give individuals who are considering the transcription profession a solid overview of the pros and cons of independent versus employed.


The medical benefits alone are a huge benefit for working as an employee transcriptionist. Employee transcriptionists tend to be eligible for benefits after a certain probationary period. This probationary time frame may be as little as 30 days or as much as 90 days. The option to have full medical, dental and vision coverage is a huge benefit for those transcriptionists who are single parents or who may have a spouse that does not have benefits afforded to them. Keep in mind, the benefits are not part of the package when you're an independent transcriptionist. As an independent transcriptionist will have to provide your own benefits but as an employee transcriptionist you will be given the option for benefits.

Set Hours

Another benefit for working as an employee transcriptionist is to have set business hours. This means that you will know your schedule well in advance. You will know that you will be getting between part-time hours and full-time hours to pending on your employer. You will know that there is solid work and you will know that as long as you do your job you will have a job. This set hour schedule can help you greatly for those individuals who need a set schedule in order to work properly.

Consistent Pay

Another benefit that attracts individuals to being an employee transcriptionist is to have consistent pay. As an employee transcriptionist you are guaranteed a certain weekly, bimonthly or monthly pay for the hours that you work. This can be a huge benefit when determining the pros and cons of working as an independent transcriptionist or employee transcriptionist. As an independent transcriptionist you may not have consistent pay or may have lulled senior pay depending on your client’s workload. As an employee transcriptionist you know that you have worked and consistent take as long as you have the job.

Ongoing Job Hunts

Ongoing job hunts are something that falls with being an independent transcriptionist. If you are an employee transcriptionist will not have to worry about ongoing job hunt in order to maintain the consistency of pay, work or hours. As an employee transcriptionist you already have the job and will be able to sit securely with that employer.

Equipment, Education and Costs

For those individuals who are still considering a profession as a transcriptionist, there may be some unanswered questions for those who are looking at independent transcriptionist work. These questions usually come in with equipment, education and the cost of being an independent transcriptionist. The following is an overview of the equipment you will need, educational need and the overall cost of becoming an independent transcriptionist versus an employee transcriptionist.


The equipment required to be a transcriptionist ranges greatly depending on the type of transcription you choose to do. For someone who is doing business or general transcription you may only need a transcriptionist foot pedal which costs around $60 and some form of software such as Express Scribe which costs between 25 and $45. A headset for transcription may also be required. Headsets generally run between $30 and $130 depending on the type of headset you choose and if that headset is included in your transcription equipment. You will also need an updated desktop computer that can run the software as well as supply you with high quality audio. If your computer is updated but does not have a high-quality audio card you may want to invest in one.

If you are going into medical transcription you will need a foot pedal, updated computer, transcriptionist headsets and medical software that will allow you to spell and grammar check the work prior to turning in the transcription. The medical grammar checking software is vital in order to ensure the proper medical terminology and that you did not miss anything. Remember that the medical profession may use an “A” in order to determine one type of illness. An example can be and hyperthermia and hypothermia. A one letter difference can mean the difference between one illness or another. Having the medical software to double check your work is vital.

If you become a legal transcriptionist or Scopist you will need special Scopist software. This software is the most expensive of the transcriptionist software at the cost of upwards of $3000 or more. For Scopist style transcription you will need a headset, the software and possibly other equipment depending on the court reporter you were working for. You will need to make sure that you have at least one of the major software components used by court reporters. You may also need upwards of three different types of software is in order to take on a vast workload.


As previously mentioned there is no set educational training for business or general transcription. Legal or Scopist transcription should be through a viable certification course. Legal or Scopist transcription can take upwards of two years to complete. If an individual chooses to obtain legal certification or a paralegal degree to accompany their Scopist transcription of legal transcription they may be looking at upwards of four years before completing the program. Education for medical transcription requires a certification or two year degree in medical transcription. An individual receiving a medical transcription certification can expect to complete their medical transcription certification program in six months to one year.


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