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The Similarities Between Court Reporters and Medical Transcriptionists

Court reporters who complete stenography training and medical transcriptionists both use transcribing; the act of translating from oral to written form.  This is done either on paper or electronically. Both need a strong understanding of legal and medical terminology.

A medical transcriptionist listens to dictated recordings made by physicians and other health care professionals and transcribes the recordings.  These will then be created into medical reports that become part of the patients’ files. These are legal documents subject to subpoena, so it is very important to have a high standard of accuracy.  It is also import to maintain the highest level of confidentiality in regards to the work.  This is also true for a court reporter.  A court reporter takes down everything that is said in legal trials, depositions, public hearings and other legal proceedings.  Court reporters must also adhere to a high standard of accuracy and confidentiality. 

A medical transcriptionist uses special software and accessories with their computer, while court reporters use a special shorthand machine as well as special software and accessories for their computers.  Reporters must learn a shorthand language to use their machine.  They have strict standards in regards to their typing speed and accuracy.  Medical transcriptionists work in doctors’ offices, hospitals, medical schools, medical transcriptionist businesses, insurance companies, legal offices, and many times from their home.  Most stenographers work either as freelance reporters or in the state and federal court systems.  The highest percentage of stenographers are freelance reporters; and they work as independent contractors.  They travel around to legal proceedings and usually finish their transcripts from their home.  Reporters working for the court system are employees of the government and get all the benefits that come with a position like that.  They are not usually required to make a transcript unless the attorneys order one. 

The schooling required for both careers differ from each other.  The average student going to a stenography program will take 33 months to complete the training. Students should look for schools that are approved by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA).  After graduating from an approved school one must pass a state or national certification and licensing examination prior to practicing.   

Students who want to become a transcriptionist have a choice of completing a 2-year associate’s degree or a 1-year certificate program.  The program should be approved by the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI).  Accreditations for transcriptionist are voluntary, but recommended for employment.

The US Bureau of Labor states that the median hourly wage for a medical transcriptionist is $15.41, with the top 10 percent earning more than $21.21 per hour. Court reporters had a median annual wage of $49,710, with the top 10 percent earning more than $83,500.

Both career paths will require an individual to have specific personal skills such as: strong English grammar skills, an interest in the legal and medical field, self-disciplined, strong computer and keyboarding skills, keen listening skills, good hand to eye coordination, the ability to sit for long periods of time, attention to detail, and a commitment to lifelong learning.

These two career choices have a lot of similarities, but they also have some differences.  Students interested in either of these careers should think about their particular interests and skills and the time they have available learn the skills of a stenographer.

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