An image showing a transcription specialist at work while drinking coffee.

What is a Transcriptionist and How Do You Become One?

Are you interested in working in the language services industry? Multilingual professionals will play a critical role in filling the communication gaps as the world becomes increasingly interconnected and various cultures mingle. From firms offering high-quality translation services in various languages to transcriptionists who can deliver timely results, being skilled in more than one language is an invaluable skill right now.

Do you have a keen ear for different languages and have excellent typing skills? Do you want to know how to be a transcriptionist? Or what does a transcriptionist do? In this article, we will discuss the essential skills you need to master for success in this field.

How Can You Define Transcriptionists

The simplest definition of a transcription would be the process of typing up spoken audio.

Now let’s define transcriptionists for you. A transcriptionist is a professional specializing in documenting conversations in written form. A transcriptionist must listen to voice recordings and type them into a written document. These specialists are an essential asset across several industries. The main job requirements are patience, training, and discipline.

Specialist learning how to be a transcriptionist on laptop

The job of a transcriptionist requires a lot of attention to detail.

A transcriptionist’s job might involve making transcripts of various topics, from general transcriptions to transcribing different medical and legal topics. A sharp sense of hearing and excellent typing skills are critical to success in this field. To become a transcriptionist, you must produce high-quality and accurate written documents.

What Does a Transcriptionist Do? Understanding the Types of Transcription Work

Most people in this field start as general specialists. But what does a transcriptionist do? However, some professionals prefer specializing in different fields like medicine or law, based on their skills and knowledge of the respective fields.

Several types of transcriptionist jobs are available across various industries, from general transcription to medical transcription and legal transcription. Here’s a quick overview of what they entail.

General Transcriptionist

These are professionals hired to transcribe a diverse range of audio and video files. The possibilities for them are endless, from transcribing interviews for writers to documenting podcasts so bloggers can use your help to create high-quality blogs. You might be tasked with transcribing college lectures, speeches, and discussions at conferences or even transcribing entire focus group meetings.

Exceptionally skilled general transcriptionists may also be asked to caption broadcasts or live events in real-time. The skills required to perform at this level are high, but these jobs come with considerable compensation. Broadcast captioners create closed captions for movies and TV programs, and they hire these professionals to do the job.

Another area where general specialists might work in captioning is Communication Access Real-time Translation, or CART, for hard-of-hearing and deaf audiences. CART captioners do more than document the spoken words in real-time. They must also make notes of audible sounds like gasping, applause, screaming, or laughter.

Medical Transcriptionist

What is a medical transcriptionist?  These experts specialize in transcribing audio recordings from healthcare professionals and converting them into written documents for later reference. They work from home but may also find themselves in clinics, labs, and hospitals. Becoming a medical transcriptionist might also require prior work experience or license and certification relevant to the medical field.

You must be well-versed in medical jargon, understand anatomy, how to perform healthcare documentation and various medical procedures. The use of speech recognition software has been making such job opportunities scarce, but the software has a long way to go before it renders transcriptionists obsolete. It is a high-paying profession if you have the skills and certifications.

Legal Transcriptionist

What is a legal transcriptionist? Legal transcribers are professionals who must document various legal proceedings, including trials and depositions. Court reporters are also called legal transcriptionists, but they specialize in transcribing real-time courtroom proceedings. This type of specialist can have several other work opportunities, transcribing everything from interrogations to undercover law enforcement recordings and victim interviews.

Legal transcribers play an important role in the legal industry because the work they do is critical to help lawyers prepare for trials. Their transcriptions might be used in court as well. Becoming a legal transcription specialist requires getting a license or certification. You must be well aware of various legal terms, procedures, and how the legal system works to do well in this field.

What Are the Key Transcriptionist Skills

If you want to know how to become a top-earning specialist, you should learn the essential transcriptionist skills. Here’s a quick overview of the skills you must master to enjoy a lucrative career in this field.

Attention to Detail

Transcription clients pay well for a high-quality service. It means transcriptionists do not have a margin for error. You must pay attention to the guidelines given to you by your clients and ensure you don’t make mistakes when transcribing for them.

Typing Speed

How fast can you type? High-end transcriptionist jobs require people who have a fast typing speed. If you can type over 70 words a minute without making mistakes, you have a strong chance of landing a great transcriptionist job.

Writing Skills

Your ability to type is important as a transcriptionist, but understanding the language is a skill that comes second to none in this field. You cannot become a transcription specialist if your grasp of the English language is below par.


Depending on what line of business you work in, you might be transcribing confidential conversations. Being professional and discreet are critical qualities, and the best companies in the industry take their clients’ confidentiality seriously.

Computer Skills

Being a transcriptionist requires being proficient with using computers. It is a basic skill you must master. If you are not tech-savvy and don’t know how to use different programs, you cannot compete with others in this field.

Listening Skills

Having a keen sense of hearing to interpret audio and video files accurately is critical to becoming a transcriptionist.

Time Management

Transcriptionists mostly work on tight deadlines. You don’t just have to deliver accurate results. You must be skilled in time management to meet all your deadlines to become a successful transcriptionist.

What Will the Transcriptionist Specialist Need for the Job?

As with any specialty, transcriptionist specialists require specific equipment to carry out their activities. A transcriptionist’s basic kit includes:

Personal computer (desktop or laptop)

You don’t need to have an expensive PC, but it should work well after installing special software.

Transcription Software

For good audio and video playback, the transcriptionist needs to install software that will allow you not to be distracted while working.


Being a transcriptionist involves working with sound for long periods, so make sure your headphones fit you and do not cause discomfort with prolonged use.

Foot Pedal

You can’t always use your hands for audio and video control, so use the foot pedal for things like pausing the audio, fast-forwarding, and rewinding.

Text Expander

While working you might notice that certain words, expressions or sets of words are often repeated, for example, if you are transcribing a discussion that deals with taxes and the term “income tax declaration”is repeated often, you can set the text expander so that every time you type “itd”, the program will automatically replace it with “income tax declaration”.  A text expander can be a huge time saver.


If a transcriptionist specialist works in fields where specific terminology is used, term dictionaries will help to understand the meanings of words or its spelling.

Ergonomic Desk Chair 

What could be more annoying than back pain when work involves being in one sitting position for long periods of time. Find a comfortable chair in which you will spend your workday in comfort.

A professional learning about transcriptionist skills

Transcriptionists can work in a variety of fields.

Get Started as a Transcription Specialist

A transcription specialist is an exciting and rewarding career, and skilled transcriptionists are some of the most sought-after professionals in the industry. And, if you’re interested in an adjacent field – translation – turn to Pronto Translations. 

At Pronto Translations, we have over two decades of experience in providing translation, interpretation, and localization services. Located in New York, NY, our company offers specialized services to a wide range of clients everywhere in the world. 

Call us at 646-984-4073 to schedule a meeting with us, in person or by phone, to discuss your translation needs.