Medical secretaries and transcriptionists play a vital role in the effective administration of the healthcare system. These medical support professionals are relied on by the institutions for which they work to accurately transcribe the dictation of physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals, and to manage the administrative details of the offices in which they work. For many medical secretaries and transcriptionist, formal training in healthcare administration and transcription is the best way to enter the field or advance professionally.

Medical secretaries and some administrative medical assistants help to organize and execute the daily business of the offices or hospitals in which they work. They answer telephones, schedule appointments, complete and file paperwork, take memos and dictation, and may be asked to transcribe recorded examinations or other medical conversations.

Medical transcriptionists must accurately transcribe medical dictation and conversations into electronic documents formatted in the proper medical style. Like court stenographers, medical transcriptionists deal with sensitive and vital information on a daily basis. Transcriptionists in smaller practices like physician's private offices may take on some of the practice's administrative and secretarial responsibilities.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008:

Medical Secretaries
  • 38% of medical secretaries worked in physician's offices
  • 24% worked in hospitals
  • 15% worked in dentist's offices
  • 9% worked in other health practitioner's offices
  • 3% worked in outpatient care centers
Where do medical secretaries work?Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Transcriptionists
  • 42% of medical transcriptionists worked in hospitals
  • 28% worked in physician's offices
  • 16% worked in healthcare support services
  • 3% worked in medical and diagnostic laboratories
  • 2% worked in outpatient care facilities
Where do medical transcriptionists work?Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Medical Administrative Support and Transcription Career Opportunities

Leads to Medical Transcriptionists, Medical Secretaries

Opportunities for medical administrative support personnel in general, and medical secretaries and transcriptionists specifically, are expected to be excellent.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 471,100 medical secretaries in 2008. As the healthcare industry continues to expand to meet the needs of a growing and aging population, there will be a need for 125,500 new medical secretary positions by 2018. That's a 27% increase, far higher than the projected 8.2% expansion of the civilian workforce over the same time period.

Medical secretaries are expected to experience very favorable occupational growth from 2008 to 2018 - much higher than the average for all occupations.Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The growth rate for medical transcriptionists is higher than that 8.2% projection, but at 11% it's not as drastic. The BLS reports that there were 105,200 medical transcriptionists in 2008, and expects that there will be 116,900 by 2018; an additional 11,700 jobs.

Medical transcriptionists will experience occupational growth similar to the average for all occupations from 2008 to 2018.Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Growth of medical transcriptionists is expected to be tempered by transcription jobs outsourced overseas, but qualified transcriptionists in the United States are expected to still have good job opportunities.

Real job opportunities will be better than even the BLS's growth projections. According to the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), a project of the Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration, there will be a need for 189,000 qualified medical secretaries from 2008 to 2018, and 23,500 qualified medical transcriptionists. That figure includes the new positions added to both fields as the healthcare industry expands, AND positions vacated by retirement, career change, promotion, early termination, etc.

Medical Administrative Support and Transcription Earnings

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, median hourly wages for medical secretaries in 2008 were $14.81; median hourly wages for transcriptionists were $15.41.

The middle 50% of medical secretaries made between $11.79 and $17.35 an hour, while the bottom 10% made less than $10.03, and the top 10% made more than $20.51.

The middle 50% of medical transcriptionists made between $13.02 and $18.55 an hour, while the bottom 10% made less than $10.76, and the top 10% made more than $21.81.

80% of medical secretaries and transcriptionists made between $10.03 and $21.81 an hour in 2008.Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Medical Administrative Support and Transcription Educational Benefits

Many medical secretary and transcription jobs require candidates to have formal, accredited training in medical transcription, terminology, or administration. Because of the complexity and importance of medical records, those openings that do not require formal education almost certainly prefer it.

According to the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), 59% of medical transcriptionists aged 25 to 44 have some college education, including medical transcription associate's degrees and certificates. 10% have a bachelor's degree or higher, and the remaining 31% have a high school diploma or less.

According to O*NET, 49% of medical secretaries aged 25 to 44 have some college education, including healthcare administration and support associate's degrees and certificates. 18% have a bachelor's degree or higher, and the remaining 33% have a high school diploma or less.

Candidates with both administrative and transcription credentials or experience will have the best job opportunities, as medical facilities of all sizes seek to streamline operations costs.

Medical Administrative Support and Transcription Programs Online

Degrees Possible Certificate, Diploma, Associate's, and Bachelor's Degrees

There are a growing number of medical administrative support and transcription programs offered online. The best of these programs will offer training comparable to local ground school programs, but in a flexible format better suited to working students.

As with any serious educational decision, do your research when picking an online medical administrative support or transcription program: is the school accredited? Will credits transfer? What is the school's job placement rate? What are people saying about this school in general and this program specifically? You'll be able to find the answers to many of these questions on this family of Web sites, but don't be afraid to ask your admissions counselor the tough questions.

Medical Administrative Support and Transcription Skills and Abilities

Medical secretaries and transcriptionists should be excellent listeners and pay close attention to sometimes complex and technical dictation and directions. Good typists excel, as do those with experience or education in medical terminology.

Secretaries and transcriptionists with administrative duties should be strong organizers and able to effectively multitask. Because secretaries and transcriptionists do much of their work on computers, computer software skills are useful.

Medical secretaries are often the first face that patients and families see during a doctor or hospital visit. They should be cheery, helpful, and friendly, and willing to go out of their way to help patients and families stay comfortable and informed.

Medical Secretary and Transcriptionist Qualifications and Advancement

Completion of certificate and associate's degree programs in medical transcription or healthcare administrative support will qualify graduates for entry-level positions as Medical Transcriptionists and Medical Secretaries, respectively.

A combination of work experience and continuing education can ensure the best job and earnings opportunities.

Additional Information

The Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity maintains a Web site at http://www.ahdionline.org.