Medical Office Assistant or Medical Transcription: Which is Right for You?

By: Amy Nutt

Before choosing any career path, the first thing you must do is determine which path is right for you. Sometimes, though, two careers may be similar enough that it can be difficult to sort out their pros and cons. This is true of medical office assisting and medical transcription. Both of these careers have a lot to offer, and both require a similar level of training and experience... but which is right for you?

Medical Office Assistance

A Medical Office Assistant works in a hospital or physician's office in a secretarial or administrative assistance capacity. Working with physicians and health care providers is a demanding and detail-oriented position-- in order to successfully work as a Medical Office Assistant, you must have good communications skills, some experience as an Administrative Assistant or Secretary, and the proper training.

Training: In addition to applying the usual office-related tasks to the health care field, some of the more complicated things a Medical Office Assistant must undertake are medical billing, completing clinical procedures, and applying medical terminology. Most Medical Office Assistants take certificate programs, either online or at a community college or university.

Pay and Work Conditions: Medical Office Assistants generally make from $20,000 to $30,000 per year, depending on location. This salary is in addition to regular health and vacation benefits provided by the employer. Medical Office Assistants generally work from a physician's office or hospital, and have very few opportunities to telecommute.

Medical Transcription

The job of a Medical Transcriptionist is to listen to recordings dictated by health care professionals, transcribing them into reports, correspondence, etc. They generally use set types of equipment, including digital/analog recorders, headphones, and foot pedals (for pausing and playing recordings). A quality Medical Transcriptionist does more than transcribe recordings-- he/she must be able to spot inconsistencies or mistakes in terminology and correct them in written reports. This is of key importance, as accuracy of reporting can affect patient care.

Training and Requirements: As Medical Transcription is in-depth, detailed work, most employers will only hire Transcriptionists who have completed an appropriate training certificate program. Though it's not always required, the completion of an Associates Degree is recommended. This work also requires good English language skills, including an in-depth knowledge of grammar and punctuation.

Pay and Work Conditions: Though the earnings of a Medical Transcriptionist vary widely according to experience and industry, the median salary for a Medical Transcriptionist is $34,400 yearly. Though Medical Transcription is generally done from a hospital, medical library, etc., many Medical Transcriptionists (about a third) telecommute, receiving dictation via the internet and working from home.

Which is Right?

The most important thing to keep in mind when deciding between these two careers is your own priorities. For instance, Medical Transcription may pay a bit more and provide tons of personal freedom for telecommuters, including working from home and choosing your own hours, those that telecommute generally receive no health or vacation benefits, simply working as independent contractors. On the other hand, while a position as a Medical Office Assistant comes with the benefits you would expect from any full-time job, it gives you very little freedom-- no more than any administrative position would.

For those out there looking for the freedom of a work-from-home position, Medical Transcription might be just the thing you're looking for. However, if you're seeking the stability of a 9-to-5 job, Medical Office Assistance might be right for you.

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