Evoking images of rows of women typing away in rooms in the 1950s, the field of transcription has evolved to become a popular work-from-home option for many women. Legal transcriptionists create hard copies of a variety of court and law documents from witness testimonies, police interrogations and court trials. Not required to work as a transcriptionist, certification shows potential employers that the candidate has the training and know-how to fulfill the job duties.
Legal transcriptionists looking for a leg up in the industry can turn to a number of different providers for certification. Certification comes from specialty schools, like Meditec and Medical Coding School, which concentrate on training and certification for specific industries, like the medical and legal industries. Other providers include community colleges, technical schools and online schools, like Everest University Continuing Education.
Legal transcriptionists must be well-versed in law terminology and the formatting of legal documents; this is why every legal transcription certification program includes educational courses as part of the certification process. Depending on whether the student prefers learning in a group or studying from home in her pajamas, she can choose from online courses or classes in a traditional classroom setting. Typically, the curriculum includes topics like: American constitutional, statutory and administrative law, legal terminology, English grammar, formatting legal documents and transcribing. Certification candidates also get a feel for equipment they will be using through the courses. Most classes include hands-on training using transcription equipment like foot pedals and dictation software. A certification test at the end of the course tests the student's knowledge and skills.
Hitting the books in an educational course is not the only requirement for earning certification. The exact requirements for certification vary among providers, but generally most require include being at least 18 years old and having a high school diploma. Most programs require the candidate to apply or register for certification, either online or on paper. A candidate must prove she has typing skills -- some programs require a certain number of words per minute. Candidates should have some background knowledge in word processing before taking the program. Several certification programs provide no training -- they only test the students for certification. These programs expect the students to get their education and training elsewhere.
Earning certification is a relatively quick process, allowing the transcriptionist to put her skills to work in a short amount of time. Depending on the program and the student's timetable, earning a legal transcriptionist certification can take anywhere from several weeks to a few months. The Meditec program, for example, consists of 110 hours of classes, and most students complete the courses in three months. Everest’s program takes three to six months to finish for full-time students and 12 months for those studying part time. Most providers include course materials, study guides and testing in the cost of the certification program. A student typically must purchase her own transcription equipment and computer.
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