Medical transcriptionists provide an essential service to doctors and hospitals. By creating a text version of recorded speech, a transcriptionist saves medical providers time that would otherwise be spent in front of a computer terminal. Although computers can store audio files, and software can automatically turn speech into text, the work of a skilled human transcriptionist is still necessary for an optimal final product.
Medical Data and Transcription
A busy medical transcriptionist may work freelance or as part of a doctor's office or hospital staff. The job entails typing out the recorded speech of doctors, usually in the form of reports, diagnostic studies, surgery notes, emergency room visits and summaries. A transcriptionist may also work on ordinary correspondence as well as recorded patient interviews, or compile test results in the form of charts or graphs. The reports are submitted to the providers for review and correction, finalized and stored in digital and hardcopy form.
Transcriptionists who work on staff, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, made an annual wage of $34,650 in 2012. The states that saw the highest salaries were Massachuetts at $45,730; Alaska at $44,960; and California at $44,770. The states with the highest concentrations of medical transcriptionists were South Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Maine and Idaho. By industry sector, home health care services paid transcriptionists the highest salary in 2012 -- $39,480; followed by medical and diagnostic laboratories at $38,230. The BLS did not break out numbers specifically for transcriptionists working from home.
Freelance Rates and Line Counts
Transcriptionists who work freelance may choose the amount and type of work they'll accept. Many work through an agency that contracts with medical providers for transcription services as needed. Agencies charge and pay based on a line rate, with higher rates charged for faster turnaround times. A standard line is 65 characters in length; to arrive at the number of lines, most agencies count the total characters in the job and divide by 65 (an 80-character line is another common count). On its web site, one large transcription agency, The Medical Transcription Company LLC, quoted a range of 8 to 11 cents per line, depending on the complexity of the job.
Price Variables and Outlook
Line rates vary by the difficulty of the work and the turnaround time. Agencies will charge more for "stat" jobs that are needed the same day. Some also offer billing by dictated minute, and pay their transcriptionists per minute as well. Agencies may also charge extra for editing and proofreading of text. The field is expected to grow by 6 percent throughout the decade, or somewhat less than the 14 percent average for all occupations.
- Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images