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How to Become A Transcriptionist [Step-by-Step Guide]

Do you want to learn how to become a transcriptionist, so you can work remotely from the comfort of your own home?

Learning how to become a freelance transcriptionist is a great choice for those who want a flexible schedule, love typing and learning, and want to get started with little experience. Plus, the need for converting audio into written documents only continues to grow. 

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about becoming a transcriptionist.

Here are some of the topics we’ll cover:

  • What does a transcriptionist do?

  • What are the different types of transcription?

  • How much does a transcriptionist make?

  • What you need to get started as a transcriptionist

  • What transcription certifications and training are available

  • How to become a transcriptionist for free in 5 steps

  • The best places to find beginner transcription jobs

With that said, you’ll learn how to become a transcriptionist online with no experience in this step-by-step guide. 

What Does a Transcriptionist Do?

Transcriptionists convert audio or video files into written documents. To excel as a transcriptionist, you need to be fluent in English, be great at listening, and be a fast typist. Luckily, most of these skills can be learned. 

As a transcriptionist, there are all kinds of jobs you can do, like converting audio meetings, conversations, interviews, speeches, and more into written text. 

Converting audio and video to text also improves accessibility for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Some transcriptionists will work from courtrooms and medical settings, but there’s also the option to work on transcribing from home and set your own working hours. 

As you can see, becoming a transcriptionist offers you a lot of flexibility with where and when you work. Plus, you’ll learn a lot of new things depending on the topics you’re transcribing.  

When you’re working as a transcriptionist, you’re also working alone, so you don’t have to deal with bosses, phone calls, and meetings during the day.  

What Are the Different Types of Transcriptions?

There are a few different types of work you can get into when becoming a transcriptionist. Usually, it’s broken down into three main categories: general, legal, and medical.

If you’re a beginner who’s just getting started, then the easiest place to get started will be with general transcription jobs. These jobs are much easier to get and most don’t require any previous work experience.

If you do want to work as a medical or legal transcriptionist, then you’ll need to have formal education. This can be a blend of college courses, past experience in the field, certificates, and more.

However, since the requirements for this kind of job are higher, these types of transcription jobs do tend to pay more. 

General Transcriptionist

As a general transcriptionist, you’ll be hired to produce a wide range of different transcriptions for audio and video files. For example, you could transcribe interviews, podcast episodes, meetings, speeches, focus groups, and more. 

You can even get a media transcriptionist job and work directly for media companies.

There’s also an option to provide real-time captioning for events and television broadcasts. Real-time captioning tends to pay more since it’s a more difficult skill to learn.

You can take your transcriptionist career even further by becoming a closed captioning transcriptionist. 

Closed captioning requires you to create transcriptions for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Beyond transcribing the speaker's voices you’ll also be adding background noises, and more. 

Closed captioning jobs tend to pay more than general transcription jobs. 

Legal Transcriptionist

A legal transcriptionist transcribes trials, depositions, and other legal proceedings. Another common title for a legal transcriptionist is a court reporter.

To get started as a legal transcriptionist, you need to obtain a certificate or license. This education helps you get familiar with legal terms, definitions, and procedures.

Most legal transcriptionists will work onsite at a law office, courtroom, or other legal settings. However, in some cases, you’ll have the option to work remotely. 

Legal transcriptionists can also be employed by law enforcement to transcribe witness statements, 911 calls, and more. 

Medical Transcriptionist

Medical transcriptionists will watch videos or listen to audio from doctors and healthcare professionals and convert these into written documents and reports.

These jobs can be remote, but most often you’ll be employed at a doctor’s office, lab, or even hospital. 

Usually, working as a medical transcriptionist requires certification, a license, or previous work in a medical office. Since you’ll be working in a medical office you need to be aware of patient privacy, along with medical terms, processes, and more. 

Sometimes medical professionals will use transcription software to create the first draft of an audio file, then give this to a medical transcriptionist to edit the document and improve the accuracy.

Skills & Equipment to Get Started as a Transcriptionist

In theory, working as a transcriptionist seems easy. You simply listen to an audio record and write down what’s said. However, it takes more skill than you might think. 

Working as a transcriptionist requires a combination of technical skills, listening skills, and the right equipment. You also need to have solid attention to detail, great English grammar, and the ability to do repetitive work. 

The following are some of the most important skills, equipment, and recommended training for you to start your career as a transcriptionist.

Skills to Succeed as a Transcriptionist

To succeed as a transcriptionist there are some core skills you need. 

Beyond the skills above, you need to have above-average typing skills. The speed that you type will have a direct impact on how much money you can make, so you’ll want to improve this skill as soon as possible. 

You’ll also want to be an expert at English and have command over grammar rules, spelling, and punctuation. The written documents you produce should be free from errors.

Other soft skills required to be a transcriptionist are being very detail-oriented and having a lot of patience. Sometimes audio files will be low quality, so you’ll be listening to the same audio many times to get an accurate transcription. 

Transcriptionist Equipment You Need to Get Started

The type of transcriptionist equipment you need depends upon the type of transcription work you’re doing. For example, if you’re a beginner who’s working with a transcription platform, then you’ll only need a computer and a fast internet connection.

You’ll also need software like Microsoft Word or Open Office to create written documents. Depending on the company you choose, they might have specific software requirements too.

If you’re pursuing a long-term career as a transcriptionist, then you might want to invest in more equipment like a high-quality keyword, a foot pedal, additional monitors, and a nice pair of headphones.

All of this equipment will help you produce more accurate transcriptions at a much faster rate.

You can also use software like Notta to speed up the transcription process. It will automatically transcribe your audio files, and you can review them for accuracy. 

In time, you might also want to invest in home office equipment, so you have a comfortable and productive work environment as you’re transcribing. 

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How Much Does a Transcriptionist Make?

The amount you can earn as a transcriptionist depends on a range of different factors including your skill level, typing speed, past experience, the niche you decide to work in, and more. 

According to Ziprecruiter, general transcriptionists earn around $40k per year. On the high end, salaries can go over $65k per year.

Legal transcriptionists earn around $60k per year. Of course, these are average numbers and depend on your experience, region, time worked per week, and more.

While medical transcriptionists earn around 30k per year on average. However, salaries in this field can go as high as 80k per year. 

In general, most beginner transcriptionists will earn around $10 per hour, but this can increase over time. 

If you’re working for a transcription platform, then you’ll be paid for the audio minute, or audio hour, that you transcribe. So, the faster you transcribe the more money you can make. 

The rate per audio minute/hour can also be higher if it’s low quality, or difficult to hear. Some transcription jobs can pay more if it requires timestamps, captioning, and more. 

Another factor in how much you can earn is the company you work for. Some companies will pay a per-project rate and others will pay based on audio minutes transcribed.

As your speed and skills grow, you’ll be able to find a better-paying transcription job. 

Once you have years of experience or are in a specialized industry, you can command rates upwards of $50 per hour. 

What Transcription Certifications and Training are Available?

If you’re brand new and using a transcription platform to get work, then you won’t need to obtain any special certificates or training to get started.

However, there are educational programs available online that you can take to quickly improve your skills and get higher-paying work. 

If you’re looking for a general transcription course make sure you check the course reviews, speak to graduates of the program, and evaluate the price. You’ll want to make sure it’s a solid investment and will actually help you grow your skills and hourly rate.

There’s also additional certification available through the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers and the National Verbatim Reporters Association.

Obtaining training and transcription certification from these organizations will help you command higher rates as a transcriber.

For those who want to become a medical or legal transcriptionist, you’ll need additional education and training. 

To become a medical transcriptionist there are organizations like the Registered healthcare Documentation Specialist at the Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist that offer training and certifications.

To become a legal transcriptionist there are organizations like the National Court Reporters Association that offer certification to become a court reporter.

How to Become a Transcriptionist (5 Easy Steps)

Now that you have an in-depth understanding of what becoming a transcriptionist entails, let’s dive deep into a step-by-step process of how to become a transcriptionist with no experience.

1. Choose Your Transcription Type and Niche

The first thing you need to do is decide the niche you’re going to get started in. If you’re just getting started, then general transcription can be a great way to get started quickly and see if you enjoy the work.

You can also experiment with different forms of transcription like podcast episo