Physician scribes, commonly called medical scribes or clinical information managers, collaborate with physicians to perform necessary clerical functions. If you think the pen -- or the keyboard -- is mightier than the scalpel, the job may very well suit you. As a nonmedical position, a medical scribe's salary can't compare with that of a doctor. On the flip side, you need a whole lot less training to take on the task.
Before you decide if the paycheck fits the position, it helps to know exactly what medical scribes do. As a scribe, your day-to-day duties include data collection and documentation, such as tracking down lab results, collecting CT scan readings and keeping track of medical records. Most scribes spend much of their time entering and managing electronic data. As a physician's scribe, you'll likely work at a doctor's office, where you may also tackle tasks such as answering the phone or helping patients in the waiting room. All this work has one major goal: to help the physician maintain a quick, smooth and efficient workflow.
The American Healthcare Documentation Professionals Group estimates that medical scribes pull down between $12 and $20 per hour. The Bureau of Labor Statistics pinned the mean hourly wage of medical recordists and health information technicians at $17.68, as of 2012. For those just starting out, such as med school students, low-end pay typically ranged from about $8 to $12 an hour, according to a 2011 article from “The Philadelphia Inquirer.” Another subgroup of scribes, those outsourced from specialized scribe services, averaged about $10 hourly, the "American Medical News" reported in 2011.
The BLS and AHDPG also agree on the typical range of yearly earnings for scribes. The mean annual wage for medical recordists and health information technicians who work at physicians' offices was about $31,290 in 2012, according to the BLS. The AHDPG estimates that experienced medical scribes at the top of the heap pull down as much as $41,600 per year.
While some scribes have a postsecondary certificate, others make due with an associate's degree, and still others start working while they're still in medical school. Additionally, organizations such as the AHDPG offer online certification and training for medical scribes, which you can complete in as little as six months. In some cases, working as a scribe furthers your education, giving you the opportunity to closely observe and follow a physician for hours at a time.
As is the case with virtually any career, the salary of a medical scribe varies depending on experience, level of education, employer and location. In 2012, the BLS reported that the top-paying regions for this occupation were New Jersey, the District of Columbia and Hawaii. Scribes can look forward to healthy job growth too: the BLS predicts that employment in this sector will grow 21 percent through 2020, a faster pace than for most other jobs.
- American Healthcare Documentation Professionals Groups: Why You Should Choose a Career as a Medical Scribe
- United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012: 29-2071 Medical Records and Health Information Technicians
- United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Medical Records and Health Information Technicians: Summary
- American Medical News: Scribes Can Ease Documentation Burden -- for a Price
Dan Ketchum has been a professional writer since 2003, with work appearing online and offline in Word Riot, Bazooka Magazine, Anemone Sidecar, Trails and more. Dan's diverse professional background spans from costume design and screenwriting to mixology, manual labor and video game industry publicity.