Along with many of the fastest online associate’s degrees, an associate’s degree in medical transcription prepares you for a role in the healthcare industry that does not require extensive education – or, for that matter, clinical interactions with patients. Medical transcriptionists translate into written format the dictations that doctors, nurses and other healthcare personnel record orally. The income potential with this degree varies considerably, from rates well below the median wage across all occupations in the United States to the potential to earn as much as $60,000 per year. If you’re contemplating a future in medical transcription work, it’s important to understand figures like the median and mean salaries for the field as well as options, like self-employment arrangements that pay by work volume, that can allow the most skilled transcriptionists to earn well above the average rate.
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Median and Mean Salaries for Transcription Work in the U.S.
The mean, or average, wage reported by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics for medical transcriptionists is $17.48 per hour, or $36,350 per year. That average is skewed slightly higher than the median, or midpoint, wage of $16.72 hourly, or $34,770 annually. The median salary for this career falls below the $38,640 median wage for all occupations by a few thousand dollars.
However, there’s more to the story, and certainly more money to be made in some medical transcription roles than others. The lowest-paid 10 percent of medical transcriptionists earn just $10.50 per hour, or $21,840 a year. At the other end of the earning potential spectrum, highly skilled medical transcriptionists make a much better living. Those in the 75th percentile see hourly wages of $20.91, adding up to $43,490 per year. The 10 percent of medical transcriptionists who earn the most money make more than $24.89 per hour, or $51,780 per year, transcribing dictations recorded by medical professionals.
The industry in which a medical transcriptionist works plays a big part in earning potential. The highest wages tend to accompany jobs with local government entities, which pay, on average, $21.22 per hour or $44,150 per year. Next most lucrative are roles in the accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll services industry. Working here, you can look forward to a mean salary of $20.91 hourly, or $43,490 annually. Both medical and diagnostic laboratories and dental offices pay hourly rates above $20 per hour on average, and the fifth best-paying industry for medical transcriptionists is the general medical and surgical hospitals industry, where the average salary is $19.65 per hour or $40,870 per year.
Medical transcriptionists in Alaska have the highest average wage, at $49,420 per year. New Jersey, Minnesota, Maryland and New York round out the top-paying states for this career, with annual salaries of $44,200, $43,200, $43,070 and $42,020, respectively.
Considerations in Pay Rates for Medical Transcription Work
With a median wage below that of all occupations, you might brush off a career in medical transcription as not being a highly paid profession. However, there are a lot of nuances you have to consider when evaluating income potential for this career path.
As the BLS noted, not all medical transcriptionists are paid the same way. Depending on where, how, how much and for whom you work, you might receive an annual salary, an hourly wage or a rate of payment based on the volume of work you complete. Not all transcription work takes the form of a traditional full-time job, either. Some transcriptionists do this work part-time from home as a side job that allows them to earn a little extra money.
Around six percent of transcriptionists are self-employed. They may work for one client or many clients as an independent contractor and have more control over their income and their work-life balance by working as much or as little as they want. Certainly, there are independent contractor, or freelancer, jobs for medical transcriptionists that pay on the low end of the salary range for this career. However, there are also opportunities that pay far more.
Another factor that adds to the complexity of understanding salary ranges for medical transcriptionists is the time it takes to transcribe dictated notes. Although accuracy is the most important quality in medical transcription work, efficiency is crucial to increasing your earnings, particularly if you are paid per minute of dictation transcribed. The best medical transcriptionists bring both speed and meticulous attention to detail to their work, allowing them to be consistently accurate in their transcriptions while also earning more money in a shorter span of time.
A transcription service that pays $1 per minute would allow you to make between $15 and $30 per hour if you can achieve a transcription-speed-to-audio-hour ratio in the range of 4:1 to 2:1 without sacrificing accuracy. Although that $1 per minute figure is at the higher end of the spectrum, this is an attainable arrangement for experienced transcriptionists with strong reputations. If you found work as a medical transcriptionist that allowed you to earn $30 per hour and did that work full-time, whether for one transcription service or for multiple clients, you could expect to earn upwards of $60,000 per year.
The flexibility of self-employed, work-from-home medical transcription work is also valuable, especially to workers who are juggling family or caregiving demands or who enjoy the freedom of being their own boss.