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The medical profession relies on well-maintained records of thorough and accurate information. Medical coders and transcriptionists assist fact-check, transcribe and review this essential data. Medical coding and transcription degree programs work to ensure that students learn the specialized knowledge and skills required to handle such sensitive and specialized information.

Although each medical transcription and coding job may have its unique aspects, the general responsibilities of the profession are fairly consistent:

  • Listening to recorded dictation or conversations of doctors and other healthcare professionals
  • Transcribing recordings or checking transcription performed by speech recognition software
  • Categorizing information in the form of reports, referrals, test results and other documents
  • Checking with providers to ensure reports are accurate and complete
  • Submitting reports for physician approval and entering them into electronic health records (EHR) systems

Medical coding and transcription work requires a firm understanding of medical terminology, quality standards and patient confidentiality guidelines.

Employers typically prefer to hire candidates who have completed healthcare programs in medical coding and transcription, at either the certificate or associate degree level.

Coursework in medical coding and transcription degree programs

The specific sequence of courses may vary from institution to institution, but there are certain essential subjects that most medical coding and transcription degrees share.

Here's a list of the types of courses many degrees in the field have in common:

  • Medical terminology
  • Medical coding
  • Technical report writing
  • Input technologies
  • Information management
  • Human biology
  • Machine transcription
  • Medical ethics and legal concerns

Postsecondary certificates in medical transcription tend to take a year or less to obtain and offer an education that focuses strongly on the fundamentals of the career. Associate degree programs usually take about two years of full-time study and may go deeper into specific skills, provide more training in natural sciences or contain a more comprehensive general education component.

Career outlook for professionals with medical coding and transcription degrees

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of medical transcriptionists is expected to rise 8 percent in 2012 to 2022, leading to around 6,400 new jobs in the industry. Job growth expectations in the field are tied to a projected expansion of access to medical care, leading to an increase in the number of medical tests and procedures that must be recorded and transcribed.

The median annual salary for medical transcriptionists in 2013 was $34,590, according to the BLS. The industry in which medical coders and transcriptionists were employed also played a part in their annual wages:

  • Offices of physicians: $35,080
  • Administrative and support services: $30,550
  • State, local and private hospitals: $36,050

Depending on their level of education or the regional demand for their skills, workers with medical coding and transcription degrees might qualify for other related careers with their own yearly salary expectations.

Medical assistants, who have more hands-on clinical duties and give direct assistance to doctors and nurses, earned a median wage of $29,610 in 2013. Medical records and health information technicians occupy a more clerically intensive position in the health care field and took home a 2013 median salary of $34,970.

Sources:
"Medical Transcriptionists," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/medical-transcriptionists.htm
"31-9094 Medical Transcriptionists," Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 13, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes319094.htm
"31-9092 Medical Assistants," Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 13, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes319092.htm
"29-2071 Medical Records and Health Information Technicians," Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 13, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292071.htm
"Medical Transcription Certificate," Hudson County Community College, http://www.hccc.edu/programscertificates/programdetail.aspx?programID=1119
"Medical Transcription - Certificate of Achievement," Lansing Community College, Curriculum Guide, http://www.lcc.edu/catalog/degree_certificateprograms/2008-2009/applied/0968.pdf

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