How to be a Certified Transcriptionist

January 31, 2019

How to be a Certified Transcriptionist

In this day and age where everyone consumes and produces recordings, either the audio or video kind, transcripts are an on-demand add-on that makes data gathering for work or for leisure a whole lot better. This saves you time in going through yesterday’s recorded meeting, just because you missed to take note of that deadline you have to beat, or rewinding an old focus group discussion for the sole reason that you failed to jot down one respondent’s last name. In this sense, transcripts provide the option of skipping the tedious process of playbacks, and instead, offer a fast and easy mode of information collation in text format.

What is a Transcriptionist?

This process of converting audio or video recordings to written documents is done by transcriptionists. They are individuals who labor in capturing all spoken dialogues (sometimes, even gestures) as precisely as possible to match the one on tape.

Just like any other profession, transcribers may choose to specialize in a particular field. They may be categorized as a:

  • Legal transcriptionist, where most of the files they handle are court hearings, client or organizational meetings, and deposition interviews. A practitioner of law, or otherwise, are expected to know their way around legal jargons and definitions in order to follow the flow of the conversation per assignment.
  • Health transcriptionist. Often, they work on dictation files from medical doctors in need of archiving their patient records for the day. These transcribers may also work on various market research interviews or focus group discussions that are centered on science or biotech advancements. In order to produce client-ready files under this category, one must be thorough in getting all medical terminologies and procedures right.
  • IT transcriptionist. These individuals translate recordings into text that concern technology in its broadest sense. Those specializing in IT transcripts may find themselves typing out an international conference discussing machine learning or corporate meetings targeting brand development. Truly, it’s a no-brainer that these transcribers are tech-savvy and are up-to-date with the technological advancements there is in the market.
  • Business transcriptionist, where they take note of recordings ranging from the topics of finance, marketing, and economics. They mostly labor on producing written versions of business meetings and reports. Not only do these transcriptionists know a company’s structure from the ground and up, but they are also familiar with the way these various industries run.
  • General transcriptionist. They work on recordings about anything under the sun. This bunch may be transcribing an episode from a renowned television show to a newly-released podcast by a start-up company. Without really knowing what assignments they might get next, general transcribers take the time in educating themselves briefly about the topic at hand and researching all important details that might be mentioned in the recording.

How to be a Certified Transcriptionist?

Transcription work is no walk in the park. One must possess certain skillsets in order to fit the role and work on requests as seamless as possible. Moreover, learning how to generate accurate transcriptions is also essential. Those interested for the position must:

  • Have strong listening skills. There is no one formula for a recording. They may vary in length, quality, and type. Whether it be a crystal clear in-depth interview of only five minutes long or a very muffled focus group discussion running for two solid hours, a good transcriber should be able to translate the recording into its text version as accurately as possible.
  • Have good research skills. Unless one sticks to their specialization religiously, a transcriptionist may work on files ranging from the topics of medicine, entertainment, and marketing, among many others. With this, research becomes vital in catching heavy jargons, as well as proper nouns mentioned in the recording. After all, being able to type out every dialogue is only good if the transcript is of high accuracy.
  • Have keen attention to details. Clients may request for verbatim transcripts. This type requires every single utterance transcribed – from all the uhms and ahhs, to the repetitive kind like ofs and sort ofs. No matter how difficult the recording is, how fast the speakers may talk, or how noisy the background is, an excellent transcriptionist should be able to take note of what’s being discussed in the audio or video file – no more, no less.
  • Observe proper grammar, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling. Client-ready transcripts are not only precise to the core but they should also be typed out neatly and correctly. When working with written documents, it is a no-brainer that practicing proper mechanics is a must.
  • Be diligent and patient. As mentioned earlier, converting recordings to written reports is not that easy. Rewinding the audio again and again, only to catch that one sentence the speaker said, can be frustrating at times. Laboring over a three-hour long meeting that comes with multiple crosstalks among its participants can be overwhelming too. With all these issues tied to transcription work, one must be hard-working and patient enough to come up with clean and complete transcripts.
  • Be able to beat the deadline. Transcripts, much like any other report or project, are to be delivered on a deadline. Efficient transcribers make it a point to work on their files and be able to submit them at a timely manner, withstanding every issue they may encounter, without sacrificing the transcript’s quality.

Apart from particular skillsets, working on transcriptions requires a couple of equipment and tools to get the job done. Here are a few essential items to kick-start a transcription career:

  • Good pair of earphones. With listening being the key effort in this industry, it is only right to invest on a set of high quality earphones. When working on difficult recordings, trust that an excellent pair can give you an extra boost in your transcription labor.
  • Transcription software. Instead of opening and closing the default audio or video player on your computer to play or pause the recording, feel free to download a transcription software to make transcribing a lot easier. Express Scribe is a good example as it allows the use of hot keys or foot pedal, which makes controlling the recording easier — the options play, pause, rewind, or fast forward are just a tap away.
  • Reliable internet connection. Now, more than ever, internet is automatically essential when working. Collecting the recording for transcription and then sending the accomplished document back to the client may be done through the web. As for the work itself, fact checking may be acquired in just a split second, all thanks to Google. Having a reliable internet connection now becomes a need more than just a want, more so if you’re transcribing at the comforts of your home.

While there are no standard qualifications required in becoming a professional transcriptionist, there are various associations that provide certifications to individuals who are interested in mastering the field of transcriptions.

The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA), for instance, certifies Registered Professional Reporters (RPR). Unlike regular legal transcribers, RPRs are assigned to handle court reports solely. As most things legal contain heavy sensitive and confidential matters, some states consider additional licensure and training vital to those working on court transcripts.

Meanwhile, for the medical field, the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) is one organization that offers training courses to prepare those interested in making health transcriptions a profession. Aside from being equipped with modules and webinars, AHDI also grants Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist (RHDS) and Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist (CHDS) examinations that may be considered strong add-ons to a veteran’s or a beginner’s transcription credential.


If you’re thinking of starting a career out of transcriptions, now is the perfect time to do it! Pursuing the general transcription route, to begin with, is the best way to go. With audio and video recordings about all sorts readily available on the internet, transcribing online is a good exercise to becoming an efficient and effective transcriber. After all, practice makes perfect, right?

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