Becoming a Transcriptionist

Nov 15 08:34 2010 Jeff Noctis Print This Article

Transcription is a great career for people who need or want to work from home. However, transcriptionists who prefer working outside of the home will find many opportunities also. Hospitals, businesses, and government agencies all have in-house transcriptionists.

The transcription industry has been growing at a faster rate than average and is expected to continue growing. So if you’re interested in a job you can do from home – transcription might be a good option. Depending on your interest and background there are a variety of areas from which you can choose a specialty. Much of the industry is devoted to medical transcription,Guest Posting but there are other specialty areas as well – such as legal, business, and general transcription.

Although many transcriptionists do work out of their home, there are others who work in-house for a transcription company or are hired to work in hospitals, government agencies, and corporations.

Categories of Transcription

There are two main categories of transcription – audio and text transcription. Audio transcription is the most widely known and most common type. Doctors and attorneys submit dictations to transcriptionists, marketing researchers have recordings of interviews, and political scientists need speeches and focus group recordings to be transcribed. With text transcription a transcriptionist might have to transcribe letters, notes, diplomas, signs, and text in photographs and artwork.

Audio transcription has the potential to be quite difficult. With audio, speech can be recorded with poor quality equipment or improper methods. Speakers may speak rapidly or have foreign accents or speech impediments. Environmental sounds are also a factor. Various noises can and do compete to be heard making it difficult or impossible to understand a speaker.

Text transcription can be just as difficult. Hand written documents often take the talent of a pharmacist to decipher. Other times documents are just plain illegible – no matter which methods you employ attempting to decipher it. Many documents also contain images and at times describing these pictures or drawings can be a daunting task.

Background and Education

No, transcription isn’t rocket science – but don’t think of it as a walk in the park either. It can be tiring work and depending on one’s specialty – it takes varying amounts of training and education. Just knowing how to type isn’t enough. The transcriptionist will need to be proficient with grammar and punctuation, editing, and proofreading. He will also need a large vocabulary and have the ability to spell. After all, transcription is a writing profession – something many people don’t seem to realize. On average, one can expect to spend about four hours transcribing each hour of audio.

So, apart from writing and language skills, what kind of person is a good candidate to work as a transcriptionist? Well, it depends on the type of transcription. The major fields are medical, legal, business, and general. Medical and legal transcriptionists will need the most education. A degree isn’t required and neither are certifications or licensure. However, many schools do offer two year degrees and/or certificate programs for medical transcription. These programs expose the student to human anatomy, diseases and other conditions, medical terminology, and procedures.

The transcriptionist may just be typing what a doctor has dictated into a digital recorder, but if he doesn’t know anything about the medical profession or the diseases and other conditions, he will be at a major disadvantage. This is especially true as the speech becomes difficult to understand. If you’re not familiar with the subject matter, you will encounter more unknown words and concepts and will have to spend more time researching. This will undoubtedly lead to a higher error rate.

There are also voluntary certifications available. The AHDI (Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity) offers certification to medical transcriptionists who demonstrate their knowledge and skill by passing an on-site exam. To maintain one’s certification, transcriptionists are required to earn continuing education credits.

Those interested in legal transcription (not court reporting – that’s a topic for another paper), would do well enrolling in a legal studies program. Criminal justice would also be beneficial. A legal transcriptionist will be asked to transcribe dictation by attorneys, depositions, hearings, law enforcement interviews and interrogations and many other things. A knowledge of criminal and prison slang can also be necessary for this type of work.

Business and general transcription are two more specialties you may choose to pursue. Areas of expertise within business transcription include insurance, financial, and market research transcription. Then there’s general transcription which can be one of two things. It may be a catch-all for everything else or it’s a category defined by projects that don’t require specialized knowledge or vocabulary. Common general transcription work includes recorded conversations, interviews, oral histories and meetings. However, many companies combine business and general transcription together as one category – especially if they only do business projects that don’t require specialized knowledge.

One thing a transcriptionist will need is to be proficient at research. Oftentimes he will be given recordings that include names of locations, products, streets, companies, and so-on that he has never heard of before. Add muddled speech to the equation and it becomes all the more difficult. To make sure he understands the words and gets the spelling and sometimes other information correct he will need research skills.

Forensic Transcription

A more specialized type of transcription is the transcription of marginally intelligible speech. This is often referred to as forensic transcription. Difficult audio is often handed out to transcriptionists of all types – but if a recording is critical to a legal case – the attorney/client will want someone with specialized training for the job. Other times transcripts are disputed by one side and a forensic examiner will be asked to examine it for errors and omissions.

If this type of transcription appeals to you, you will want to pursue an education in linguistics and phonetics. Other possible options include speech science, audiology, and audio engineering. Forensic examiners who analyze marginally intelligible recordings will also have to appear as an expert witness from time to time. Thus, one should develop skills in public speaking, report writing, and how to handle opposing council. This type of transcription work is by far the highest paying, but it is also the most tedious and mentally exhausting.

A Final Note

Transcription isn’t for everyone, but if it interests you, it has its benefits. If you decide to work as a freelancer, you can make your own hours and work from home. Plus the hardware and software necessary for the job is relatively inexpensive. If you have no experience or specialty area, it might be difficult to get started and you’ll have to work for less – thus I highly recommend to anybody considering it as a career to choose an area of expertise and get as much education in that field as possible. Although not necessary, two year degrees from community colleges in medical transcription, biology, business, criminal justice, paralegal or legal studies can all give the aspiring transcriptionist the background they need to get their career started. Degrees, certificates, and certifications will help one get the best jobs and highest pay.

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About Article Author

Jeff Noctis
Jeff Noctis

TransDual Forensics offers digital and analog transcription services. Our areas of expertise include forensic transcription, law enforcement, criminal justice, and general transcription. We provide both English and Spanish transcription services.

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