A data transcriber enters data into computer spreadsheets or databases -- but this isn't a basic data entry position. To transcribe something literally means to convert it from spoken to written form. These professionals must be carefully attuned to what's said and enter every word with absolute accuracy into a computer. One wrong word, letter or number could lead to mistakes down the road for the professionals making use of that data. In addition to audio recordings, a data transcriber might also be expected to convert hand-written documents -- some of which could be written in longhand -- and other forms of information into data.
A data transcriber's general duties involve transcribing information into data and verifying that the resulting data can be used accurately by data processing systems. The Internal Revenue Service offers one example of data entry work classified under the job title of data transcriber. Not all taxpayers complete their taxes online. Many tax forms are still completed by hand and submitted through the mail. The IRS hires data transcribers during tax season to enter this hand-written information into the IRS computer system.
A data transcriber in health care translates patient forms and notes that have been hand-written or dictated by medical staff into computer data by typing the information into a computer program. A medical transcriber should have training in medical and pharmaceutical terminology so she can be precise, as her work will end up in patient records and might be shared with other physicians or specialists. To help herself with precision, a medical transcriber makes use of medical dictionaries and anatomy reference material to validate the accuracy of what she transcribes.
A data transcriber in the legal field is known as a legal transcriptionist. While a medical transcriber works with medical records, a legal transcriptionist works with legal records. She listens to and transcribes recorded depositions, court hearings, interrogations and witness interviews, converting them into computer data. She might also transcribe recordings of 911 calls and dictations from lawyers and other professionals. Not everything the legal transcriptionist transcribes is based on listening, however. She might also transcribe hand-written documents, such as notes and affidavits.
Because the transcriber's main tool is a computer keyboard, she must be a skilled typist. Data transcribers also need grammar, punctuation and proofreading skills. Depending on the nature of a given job, she might need strong listening skills to capture exactly what's said, even if the speaker has a heavy accent. She might also need the ability to read longhand and have a keen eye to decipher sloppy hand-written documents.
A postsecondary education is often, but not always, required for positions in data transcription. Many community colleges offer programs specific to medical transcription, and the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity offers a certification program. If you're interested in becoming a legal transcriptionist, study criminal justice or try a paralegal program. Another way to get your foot in the door is by starting out as a legal secretary or assistant.
2016 Salary Information for Medical Transcriptionists
Medical transcriptionists earned a median annual salary of $35,720 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, medical transcriptionists earned a 25th percentile salary of $28,660, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $43,700, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 57,400 people were employed in the U.S. as medical transcriptionists.
A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.