If you can type fast; want the flexibility to work where and when you want; and have an outstanding command of English, you could be well suited to working as a transcriptionist.
What is a transcriptionist? Let us walk you through it. Below, we’ll cover what transcription is, which skills and equipment you need to do the job, and how you can gain transcriptionist certification. We’ll also answer that all-important question: How much do transcriptionists make?
Transcription refers to the conversion of video or audio content into written copy. The person undertaking the work is called a transcriptionist, or sometimes a transcriber.
Before we dive into how to become a transcriptionist, let’s take a look at what the role involves. Transcription jobs involve typing. Lots and lots of typing. The transcriptionist uses an audio pedal (usually) to start and stop an audio or video file. They are responsible for transferring the content of that file into written format.
Organizations around the world use transcriptionists, from governmental bodies to the medical sector. This presents plenty of opportunities for those who can type fast, love language and are currently wondering how to become a transcriber.
The potential for flexible hours and freedom of location, along with earning a decent salary, makes transcription a desirable job. On the subject of salary, let’s consider the big question in the minds of many of those wondering how to become a transcriptionist…
Let’s start at the beginning. How much do beginner transcriptionists make? According to Talent.com, entry level transcription positions command a starting salary of $33,150 per year.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), meanwhile, states in its May 2022 Occupational and Employment Wages report that the mean hourly wage for a medical transcriptionist is $17.83, while the mean annual wage is $37,090.
Further specialization can be even more rewarding. The BLS figures show that court reporters and simultaneous captioners earn a mean hourly wage of $33.79, with an impressive mean annual wage of $70,290.
How do I become a transcriptionist? You can follow the guidance below to get your career off to a flying start.
Traditional job-hunting used to mean having an up-to-date and relevant CV. These days, you can deliver the same information through your web presence. Whether it’s through a website of your own, a LinkedIn page packed with your transcription service or an online portfolio site, it’s time to shout about your services, your skills, and how you will benefit companies that engage you to transcribe for them.
You can get started with doing this as soon as you are comfortable with the key considerations of how to transcribe audio to text.
Next, it’s time to go out and find some work – or to stay home and find some work, as is more likely these days. There are various ways to do so:
Remember all those business contacts you’ve made over the years? It’s time to reach out to them. Make sure your LinkedIn (or local equivalent) is up to date and start letting people know that you’re offering transcription services. You can use various marketing techniques, from introductory offers to referral bonuses. Just make sure to take a personalized approach rather than spamming your entire contact list with a generic template letter.
There are plenty of transcription agencies online and many of them are happy to give newbies a chance. They might not pay as well as work that you can source directly (and where you don’t miss out on the cut the agency takes) but they can be a ready supply of regular income, which is often the priority in the early days of establishing a transcription career.
If you’re struggling to get paid work due to a lack of transcription experience, consider giving your time freely through volunteering or an internship. You’ll gain valuable experience that you can then use to win other gigs. You may also find that your volunteer role or internship turns into something longer-term – and something that pays! Be sure to obtain a testimonial that you can use online in exchange for your services.
After that, once you’ve got your first paying gig under your belt, you’ve basically cracked how to become a transcriptionist.
You don’t need transcriptionist certification in order to provide general transcription services. There are courses available that you can take if you choose to do so, though. Some don’t just provide transcriptionist certification but can also help you find work. Graduates of the Transcription Certification Institute, for example, are eligible for an internship with a professional transcription company, to help kickstart their careers.
Another option for certification is Transcribe Anywhere, which offers both a general transcriptionist program for certification and a legal theory and practice course.
While you can get transcription jobs without needing certification, a professional transcriber working in the legal sector does need to be appropriately certified in many countries. In the US, for example, to work as a court reporter you would need to be licensed or certified in many states. A court reporter transcribes the dialogue in the courtroom, albeit using stenography equipment rather than a computer with a foot pedal. Suitably skilled individuals can prove their abilities through the National Court Reporters Association and the National Verbatim Reporters Association.
If you have legal or medical knowledge, as well as a generally superior command of language, you could use that knowledge to boost your transcription career. Specializing can mean both a higher income and access to more of the kind of work that particularly interests you. And who wouldn’t want that? Let’s look at six examples.
Legal transcription is one of the most sought-after specializations within the profession. It requires extensive knowledge of legal terminology, procedures, and systems. Lawyers and their teams use transcription to turn recordings into written documents. They use these to help them prepare for court cases and some of the documents end up being used in the cases themselves.
Clearly, accuracy in legal transcription is absolutely essential, and this is impossible to achieve without the relevant legal knowledge.
Medical transcriptionists are highly prized for their specialist knowledge, just as legal transcriptionists are. Are you wondering how to become a certified transcriptionist in the medical sector? If so, you’ll need first and foremost to ensure that your medical terminology is on point. You can then investigate the requirements in your local region in terms of certification and licensing.
Most medical transcriptionists work in hospitals, doctors’ surgeries, laboratories and other medical settings. However, as with so many roles of late, the potential for working from home is beginning to be far more widely understood and appreciated.
Captioning is a specialist form of transcription that provides text for video or audio in either real-time or as an ‘offline’ (i.e. not live) service. Real-time captioning is one of the most demanding forms of transcription (and thus one of the most well-paid).
Another form of transcription is communication access real-time translation (CART) captioning. This is the provision of captioning services in real-time on behalf of audiences who are deaf or hard of hearing. It can be delivered for both in-person and online events. If it’s closed captioning, the transcriptionist may be required to record other pertinent sounds as well as the spoken dialogue (audience laughter, for example).
If your research skills are as outstanding as your language and typing skills, then research transcription might be your answer to how to be a transcriptionist. You’ll need to be interested in and up to date with local and global current affairs and have your “eye on the ball” to keep up with the pace of this demanding type of professional transcription.
If you speak more than one language, you can earn decent money undertaking bilingual transcription work. You could also provide transcript translation services, thus broadening your income streams while still enjoying working within the language sector.
If you’re keen to try your hand at transcription, the tips below in terms of the skills and equipment you will likely need should help you to get started.
Working out how to become a transcriptionist means knowing the skills that you will need for the role. We’ve touched on some of these already but thought it would be handy to pull them together into one list. So here goes!
Language skills – language skills are essential to successful transcription. Your grammar, vocabulary, and general linguistic abilities need to be tip top.
Exceptional listening skills – to do transcriber jobs, you need to be able to listen in a focused and effective manner. If you’re apt to tune out when people are speaking, transcription may not be the career for you.
Tech skills – transcription involves using both transcription software and hardware, so you need to be confident with technology.
Fast and accurate typing skills – this is another non-negotiable area of transcription work. What is a transcriptionist, after all, if not an amazing typist? You need to be able to type fast and to type well. Ideally, you’ll be able to type at a speed of 85 words per minute and upwards.
Specialist knowledge – if you plan to provide specialist transcription services, you’ll need to back up your offer with comprehensive knowledge of the relevant terminology.
Attention to detail – is your written work relaxed and slightly slap-dash or incredibly tightly controlled and careful? It will need to be the latter if you want to make it as a professional transcriptionist.
Proofreading skills – proofreading is your final chance to catch any typos or errant commas before you deliver the transcription to the client. It might seem like a headache to have to go over your work after you’ve finally finished typing it, but not only does this need to be done, it needs to be done accurately.
If you’re undertaking transcription work from home, rather than as an in-house position, it’s also important to be self-motivated and responsible in your approach to work. A keen awareness of what good customer service skills entail will also serve you well. After all, if you become known for providing the best transcription services around, with a friendly, approachable manner, you will be unlikely to run short of clients anytime soon.
Transcription work doesn’t require a large investment in equipment, though you will need a decent PC or laptop. That will be your largest cost in terms of transcription equipment. Aside from that, you’re likely to need a foot pedal and a decent pair of headphones or earbuds.
In a courtroom setting, if you’re providing real-time legal transcription of a case, you’ll likely need stenography equipment, but the court should provide that for you.
When it comes to how to become a transcriptionist, finding work is all about using the right platforms. From job sites like Upwork to industry leaders such as Rev, TranscribeMe, CrowdSurf, and others, you can apply for as many jobs as you have the appetite for. Remember that Tomedes provides transcription services too – so why not get in touch to see whether we’re currently in need of your services?
Transcription jobs can be rewarding for a wide range of reasons. The first is the chance to do something language-related, which is ideal for those with a love of their mother tongue.
There are also lifestyle benefits for those working from home as transcribers. Having the freedom and flexibility to choose your own working hours and where you work from are advantages that are highly prized by many.
The ability to be part of an industry where demand is set to remain strong over the coming years is another benefit of having transcription as a job. On that subject, let’s look at a quick snapshot of demand for transcription services…
Are transcriptionists still in demand? Very much so. The transcription industry is growing at a healthy pace. According to Grand View Research, the transcription market in the US is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.8% from 2023 to 2030. That would mean the industry reaching a value of $41.89 billion by 2030.
Such solid growth is reassuring both for those already working in transcriber roles and those currently considering how to become a transcriptionist.
The final point we should share is about the format that transcription work can take. What is a transcription job? Well, it is a job that involves undertaking transcription work either in an office, as an in-house position, or on a freelance basis. In-house roles usually offer a fixed, regular salary, while freelance work offers greater flexibility. With the latter, there is usually greater scope for working from home or working while traveling, as well as setting yourself whatever working hours suit your lifestyle best.
That concludes our deep dive into how to become a transcriptionist. Doing so can provide you with a fulfilling and financially rewarding career. If you have any final questions or experience to share, why not leave a comment below?