What is a Transcriptionist? (All you need to know)

What is a Transcriptionist? (All you need to know)

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What is a Transcriptionist? (All you need to know)

by Ashwin Mason
June 24, 2022
in Software Review


All of our finest applications roundups breakdown are written by me who have spent a significant portion of my careers using, testing, and writing about software

If you are passionate about languages and want to work in the language service industry, you should consider becoming a transcriptionist. It’s challenging, but extremely rewarding, too. In the broader sense of the term, transcription encompasses a large number of niches.  

Curious enough to know more about it? You’re in luck. We will start with a basic definition of what is a transcriptionist, followed by an outline of the entire transcription industry. Let’s get started.

transcriptionist typing

What is a transcriptionist?

A transcriptionist is a specialized person who transcribes documents for the purpose of clarification, as a transcriptionist, you will be responsible for hearing audio recordings, watching videos, and then writing up everything that you hear and see.

That sounds easy, but it’s much more complicated than it sounds. It takes expertise and a lot of patience to get it right and of the highest quality.

When one takes on the role of a transcriptionist, he or she must possess superb listening skills and fluency in both English and the assigned language in order to turn the information heard or seen effectively into written form.

If we didn’t have transcription, what would it be like?

The written record of history would not exist without transcription. Our understanding of rhetoric and literature wouldn’t be as good as it is.

In a nutshell, it’s a technological advancement that has facilitated the development of our society.

As a transcriptionist, he can also handle a wide range of subjects, such as legal, medical, and more. He can also be hired to transcribe things that include interviews, voicemails, speeches, podcasts, lectures, notes, sermons, business or conference calls, document-to-document, market research, or anything you want.

What’s the story behind transcription?

The transcription of documents is probably among the most ancient types of record keeping. Throughout history, it has proven to be a valuable resource, and one could say it enabled society to progress at the rate it did.

Scripts and hieroglyphs were used together when scribes began training in 3400 BCE. It would make scribes more employable if they could do both. Fast-forwarding through history we see that generations later students transcribed ancient languages and notes on stone tablets. Over time, these stones would ultimately become information that would facilitate technological advances of all kinds.

However, transcription was pushed to the background in the modern world with the invention of the printing press, but the advancement of the English language shorthand gave transcription a huge boost, primarily due to the work of a British physician in the 17th century.

Best place to find transcriptionists?

In a courtroom, have you ever noticed someone rushing to type away pertinent statements made by the judge? Yeah, they’re transcriptionists.

A transcriptionist works in doctors’ offices too, however, this job offers plenty of flexibility, which includes the option of working from home if the type of work allows it.

You can hire freelance transcriptionists here:

Transcriptionist types: Which one is right for you?


Transcriptionists come in different forms. This industry is generally divided into three main categories, namely:

  1. General Transcription
  2. Legal Transcription
  3. Medical Transcription

To make your decision as a transcriptionist more straightforward, it is recommended that you explore different types of work available that suit your interests and skills. A lot of transcriptionists choose to specialize in certain fields, mainly medicine and law, but there’s no rule saying you can’t do general transcription.

Although, there is a high demand for document transcription services among businesses, organizations, and individuals alike. Transcribing audio files isn’t limited to what’s previously covered, you may be asked to transcribe the following:

  1. Phone conversations
  2. Speeches
  3. Script Correspondences
  4. Teleconferences
  5. Meetings
  6. Forums
  7. Dictations
  8. Manuscripts
  9. Interviews
  10. Articles

General Transcriptionist

As a general transcriptionist, you’ll be listening to podcasts for a blogger, or interviews for a writer. You could also transcribe courtroom proceedings, corporate meetings, college lectures as well as other conversations that need to be documented.

On the other hand, there are broadcast captioners. Broadcast captioners are professionals responsible for captioning TV shows and movies. Real-time captioning is highly sought after by businesses and usually pays more compared to captioning services provided in postproduction.

The CART captioning sector is a specialized one, whereas CART stands for “Communication Access Real-time Translation, ” designed for hearing-impaired and deaf audiences

Aside from real-time transcriptions of spoken words, CART captioners are also attentive to audio cues which can be a burst of laughter or applause to facilitate the captioning process.

Legal Transcriptionist

A legal transcriber transcribes the audio and written portions of hearings, trial proceedings, or other judicial proceedings. One type of legal transcriptionist is a court reporter.

Other legal transcription services may also be offered by legal transcriptionists, such as:

  1. Undercover Law Enforcement Recordings
  2. Police Interrogations
  3. Victim Interviews

Documents produced in this manner serve as assistance to lawyers in preparing trial cases as well as for use in court.

Besides that, what else?

An individual who pursues a transcription career generally requires certification or licensing. Plus this job requires a strong understanding of legal terms, rules, and procedures.

Is the work of transcriptionists restricted to the office?

Legal transcriptionists are sometimes employed remotely, but most of them work in courtrooms, at legislative hearings, in law firms, and in other settings where they work with legal documents.

Based on BLS projections, the number of court reporter jobs is expected to increase by roughly 9% during this decade. Increases in technology might hamper that growth, however.

Medical Transcriptionist

Just like the other two professions, a medical transcriptionist listens to recordings produced by medical professionals as well as other health care providers and puts them in writing.

Often, medical transcriptionists perform their duties at home, however, they are also employed in medical facilities such as hospitals, laboratories, operating rooms, and other types of health care facilities.

What’s required to work as a medical transcriptionist?  

Working as a medical transcriptionist may require the following:

  1. Certification
  2. License

It may be necessary to have both along with some prior work experience, as it varies with the company and the position you are applying for.

To succeed, it is imperative that you have a solid working knowledge of health terms, anatomical terms, clinical procedures, as well as documentation of healthcare.

Although a career as a medical transcriptionist generally provides a higher salary than those employed as online transcriptionists, the BLS predicts a decline of 2 percent in employment in this field over the next ten years.

A combination of technological advances, outsourcing overseas and voice recognition technology has negatively impacted employment. Nevertheless, some health care providers use a speech recognition program initially to transcribe the audio files before hiring a medical transcriptionist to review the transcripts for accuracy.

Since you now know what you can do as a transcriber, let’s see what skills you need to possess to become one.

What you need to do to become a transcriptionist?

Transcribing isn’t just about typing words out, it entails so much more. Initially, your level of education and training will vary based on your interests in either medical transcription or legal transcription or if you just wish to concentrate on general transcription work.

The following information covers virtually every aspect of transcriptionists.

What It Takes To Become A Transcriptionist

In order to become a successful transcriptionist, you may need to have the following skills.

  • Excellent hearing
  • Multi-tasking
  • Fast writing or typing ability
  • Excellent literary and linguistic skills

Using these skills, transcriptionists are able to quickly and accurately turn audio files into text files. While typing and multitasking don’t get better by themselves, they do improve with practice. If this is your first time transcribing and you’re fretting about the speed of your typing or writing, practice until you get better.

Having strong computer skills is required since the job involves both downloading files and conducting research. Experience with word processing is also recommended.

Ideally, you should type between 60 and 80 words per minute, while maintaining a 98% accuracy level. The language of the recordings should be your native language, in order to fully grasp its intricacies.

If you’re going to speak, you must know both informal and formal styles. It is imperative for you to have excellent grammar and spelling skills, as well as good punctuation skills. As well as a good writing editor, make sure you use one to check your grammar and sentence structure, plus spelling.  

On the other hand, unfortunately, there is no way to select which audio files or of what quality you’ll transcribe, so there will be times when you will receive recordings of poor quality and find them difficult to understand.

Furthermore, transcriptionists do not require a lot of training to be able to work. Online training is available for those interested in becoming transcriptionists. In case, you wish to specialize in court reporting, legal transcription, or medical transcription, then you must be certified or hold an associate degree. As there are certain states in the U.S. that require legal and medical transcriptionists to be licensed or certified.

Find out if you’re a good candidate for a career in transcription by considering the following ideas.

Feel free to experiment with the transcription process, since we’ve talked about it enough and you already know what and how to do it. Transcribing an audio recording might be a good place to start. It might take you a while to type spoken words since you have to stop and restart the recording repeatedly until it is clear.

Consider taking an online transcriptionist course if you possess the necessary expertise, or you can pursue an associate’s degree or certificate. Your classes will provide you with the skills you need to become a transcription professional and help you understand the work better.

Continuous practice will help you build up your confidence so that you will be in the best position to apply for companies that help with transcriptions or also obtain clients directly by becoming a freelancer.

A consideration of how many people speak and what they mean is likewise an excellent habit to develop.

Are transcriptionists paid by the word?

Unfortunately, the process doesn’t work this way; the amount paid depends on a set of factors, which could include the type of work that you do, how fast you work, and your employment history.  

However, the majority of transcription firms do charge an average of $1-$3 per audio minute, regardless of the format of the audio file.

Payscale, on the other hand, reports that a transcriptionist makes an average hourly wage of $16.33.

You may earn as little as $10 per hour as a beginner, but your earning potential increases as you acquire more experience and specialize in more lucrative fields.

A transcriptionist will probably take longer to complete a document that requires a great deal of understanding. The cost of transcribing complex files is typically higher. A specialist may also be needed if a client requires medical or legal transcription. The fee may also be higher in such cases.

It is important to keep in mind that freelance transcribers are typically compensated per audio minute or hour. In other words, there is more money to be made by transcribing a one-hour recording, as a beginner would likely spend between four and six hours transcribing such a recording.

But if you are just starting out, it might be worthwhile to work for a lower rate. Once you’re more experienced and skilled, you might be able to get a higher-paying job in the transcription industry.

Technical aspects of a transcription job

Knowing that transcription was merely a matter of hearing and writing, individuals believed it to be an easy job. The truth is, transcription is somewhat of a technical job to do since it involves more than listening and writing.

The job requires your dedication and the best effort in order to come up with results you can be proud of. Unfortunately, there’s one factor that makes this problematic.

Low-quality Audio Files!

A crisp, clear audio file is a lucky find. Typing out a transcript will be a piece of cake when you have this type of file.

In some cases, the recordings can be confusing due to unfamiliar terminology or local dialect, or those recordings may lack decent audio quality. An accented vocal tone or a low, soft tone also makes it difficult to follow the recording. The process of transcribing such recordings is more time-consuming due to repeated listening. Be patient in this regard.  

Depending on your client, you might need to strictly follow their style guide. For a document to be properly formatted, you need to pay close attention to details.

Become a transcriptionist using these equipments

As a transcriptionist, the type of equipment you’ll need will vary with your work and your employer.

The majority of employers who hire new newbies generally expect nothing more than a functional computer, a decent internet connection, and a headset.  

Moreover, it is possible that you will be asked to get transcription software – but don’t worry, because there are a lot of free ones available for download, making it easy for beginners to get started.

Paid options are also available and range from $50 to $100.  

The document will also need to be typed and edited in a word processing application. The application should be able to turn out files in the format required by your client.

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Article by
Ashwin Mason
I review the best software for freelance designers, photographers, and developers to run their businesses and hire the most appropriate freelancers for your project.