How to Become a Transcriptionist

July 29, 2020
How to Become a Transcriptionist

Are you wondering how to find online transcription jobs or how to become a transcriptionist? Transcription work can provide a decent income and – importantly in this day and age – you can do it from home. Below, we’ll take a look at how to become a transcriber online, what transcriptionist certification is and why it’s worth exploring specialist areas of the profession. Shall we dive in?

Becoming a Transcriptionist

Transcriptionists take video or audio files and turn them into text. If you’re looking to become a transcriptionist, you’ll need certain core skills. One of these is an outstanding grasp of the language that you plan to transcribe. We’ll look in detail at the skills required for becoming a transcriptionist a little later in this article, but strong linguistic abilities are so important that they warrant a mention right from the outset! 

In a moment, we’ll walk you through a step-by-step guide to establishing your career on how to be transcriptionist. First, however, let’s look at why you might want to do so. 

Being able to work with language is a key driver for many. Those who love the written word and have a good head for details often find transcription to be a fulfilling career choice. 

It can pay well too. Payscale reports that the average transcriptionist salary in the UK is £19,909 per year or £9.36 per hour. Over in the US, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the average transcriptionist can expect to earn $35,250 per year or $16.95 per hour.

Then there are the lifestyle benefits. Are you relishing the prospect of commuting to work on public transport right now, then spending time with others in an enclosed space? The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on that way that we think about work, with the swift, enforced rise of widespread home working opening many people’s eyes to its advantages. 

If you’re looking into how to be a transcriptionist, it’s likely that these benefits won’t be far from your mind. Whether you work remotely for a transcription company on a fulltime or part-time contract or choose to sell your services as a freelancer, working from home means no time lost commuting, no need for formal office attire and a lower chance of catching COVID. 

Before you launch into working as a transcriptionist, let’s take a look at the specialised areas of work available to you and consider why you might like to specialise in the first place. 

Specialised Fields in Transcription

Do you happen to have any legal or medical knowledge, as well as a generally superior command of language? How about another kind of specialist knowledge that you could use to boost your transcription career? Specialising can mean both a higher income and access to more of the kind of work that particularly interests you. Who wouldn’t want that? 

Do you need a certificate to be a transcriptionist? You may if you choose to specialise. Transcription specialisations are about more than knowledge alone. While each country or region has its own rules, the chances are you will need to evidence your specialist skills in some way. Many countries have specific certifications set up in order to facilitate this. We’ll look at a couple of examples of these while exploring some of the more common types of transcription specialisation. 

If, on the other hand, you’re a company that’s seeking to understand more about transcription services and the need for them within the business world, you can click the link below for further details. 

Read more: What are transcription services and why does your business need them?

Want to know the entire gist but in a hurry? Luckily for you, here’s a handy video that sums this article up.



Legal transcription is one of the most sought-after specialisations 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. 

Do you have to be certified to be a transcriptionist within the legal sector? Probably, yes, though you’ll need to check locally to be sure. Many countries require their legal transcriptionists to be certified or licensed in some way. 

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. 


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.  

Other Fields of Specialisation

While legal and medical transcription are the most common specialisations, there are certainly not the only ones. We’ve included a couple of other examples below to get you thinking creatively about how you could specialise, but this is certainly not an exhaustive list, so if you have an interest you would like to pursue, it’s well worth checking out. 

Become a Captioning Transcriptionist

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). 

Become a CART Transcriptionist

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). 

Become a Research Transcriptionist

If your research skills are as outstanding as your language and typing skills, then research transcription might be your answer to how to become a transcriptionist from home. 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 transcription field. 

Key Skills You Need to Become a Transcriptionist

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 we 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. Relevant kit includes foot pedals, headsets, stenography equipment and more, depending on the nature of the transcription work that you are planning to undertake. 

• Fast and accurate typing skills – this is another non-negotiable area of transcription work. 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 the relevant terminology. Do you need a degree to be a transcriptionist? Not necessarily, but you will need to prove you have the knowledge needed by the specialist field in question. 

• 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. 

Steps You Need to Take to Become a Transcriptionist

How do I become a transcriptionist? If you meet all of the transcription requirements above in terms of skills and knowledge, it’s time to establish your career. Here’s how. 

Step 1 – Choose One of the Specialized Transcription Fields Above

If you’re set on being a transcriptionist, it’s time to put your specialist knowledge to good use. Choose your specialisation and obtain a qualification or licence if required in order to evidence your abilities. Of course, you can still earn decent money undertaking general transcription work, but specialist transcription is the icing on the cake. 

Step 2 – Establish Your Online Presence

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 Facebook page for your transcription service or an online portfolio site, it’s time to shout about your services, your skills and how it will benefit companies to engage you to transcribe for them. 

Step 3 – Look for Gigs

Once you’ve chosen your specialism and prepared your online presence, 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 personalised approach rather than spamming your entire contact list with a generic template letter. 

Applying Through Agencies

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. 

Volunteering and Internships

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! 

Step 4 – Become a Transcriptionist

Once you’ve got your first gig under your belt, you’ve basically cracked how to become a transcriptionist. Repeat your success with more and better paying work by providing accurate transcriptions, delivered on time and with memorable customer service. Simplicity itself! 

Looking for a Transcriptionist?

Perhaps you’re not looking to become a transcriptionist but to find one. If that’s the case, then it’s time to speak to Tomedes. We deliver transcription services in a wide range of languages, either as a standalone service or as part of translation and localization work. You can call, email or live chat with us to find out more. 


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