What is a Transcriptionist? Everything You Need to Know

Oct 10 2023 VITAC
A male transcriptionists wearing headphones sits in front of a computer screen. He has one hand on his chin and is reviewing the information on his screen in a thoughtful manner.
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How often do you watch online videos with the sound off? It might surprise you to learn that 75% of consumers report regularly watching mobile videos with the audio muted. With so many different kinds of media being shared on digital platforms, it’s more important than ever for business leaders and content creators to consider how best to support the evolving needs and expectations of modern audiences.

Tools like transcription have proven increasingly valuable in recent years because they make audio and video content more accessible and engaging to all viewers. When looking to incorporate transcription into your marketing and communication strategies, it’s important to find and partner with a transcription provider who can fully support the needs of your brand and community. Let’s learn a little bit about what transcriptionists do and how professional transcribers can help brands grow their audiences and build community.

What is a Transcriptionist?

A transcriptionist is a person who specializes in producing highly accurate written accounts of audio and video content. In a traditional transcription approach, a transcriptionist will listen to a selected audio sample and manually type out every audio element they hear.

The two primary styles of transcription offered by most professional transcribers are verbatim and non-verbatim transcription. Verbatim transcripts are designed to provide a word-for-word account of a piece of audio or video content, while non-verbatim transcripts are intended to provide a more general or simplified version of the information. Transcriptionists typically edit non-verbatim transcripts to omit superfluous or confusing audio components like grammatical errors, stammers, and repeated words.

Transcripts can serve as valuable tools in a wide variety of contexts. For example, providing written transcripts of YouTube videos can make the information shared within the content more readily accessible to audience members with certain disabilities. Transcripts also can be used within a business setting to streamline communication and provide more equitable messaging to all employees and clients. For example, business leaders can collaborate with transcriptionists to provide written transcripts of meetings, phone calls, and other workplace communications in order to cut back on the time that employees may otherwise have spent taking meticulous notes during a discussion.

A female transcriptionist wearing headphones sits at a computer. On the screen can be seen audio file waves.

Skills and Qualifications of a Transcriptionist

To produce accurate transcripts, it’s important for transcriptionists to pursue a substantial amount of professional training and acquire industry-specific transcription experience. Many transcriptionists enroll in professional training programs and periodically may choose to enhance their skillset by investing in subscriptions to advanced courses, webinars, and industry publications.

In addition to their professional training and development, transcriptionists should demonstrate high-level listening skills, language skills, and typing skills. As the emphasis on digital content continues to grow, it’s important for transcriptionists to demonstrate competency in working with online platforms and various types of digital media.

Types of Transcription Work

Transcriptionists with generalized transcription knowledge can put their skills to work in a wide range of industries. Standard audio and video transcription approaches can be used for just about everything from media production to corporate communications. Some other industries, however, may require transcriptionists to undergo specialized training programs to tailor their skills to the needs of specific projects. Some examples of industries with their own unique requirements for transcriptions include:

  • Legal transcription
  • Medical transcription
  • Insurance transcription
  • Market research transcription

Transcriptionists working in the above industries must have specific knowledge of best practices for the kinds of projects they stand to encounter on a regular basis. For example, a medical transcriptionist must be extremely familiar with medical terminology, medication names, and dosage metrics to accurately represent information shared in a doctor’s dictation notes or in a patient consultation. Similarly, legal transcribers must have a strong foundation in legal terminology and be comfortable with and capable of complying with stringent confidentiality requirements.

A black keyboard sit rests upon an orange background. Only half of keyboard can be seen horizontally as it stretches outside of the picture's frame.

Tools and Technology Used by Transcriptionists

As is the case with so many other professions, transcriptionists have become increasingly dependent upon technology in recent years. With the rise of speech-to-text technology, transcribers now have a variety of approaches to choose from when completing their transcription projects.

There are other tools and resources available to help transcriptionists streamline their process and tackle their work more efficiently. For example, many transcribers invest in advanced transcription software platforms that enable them to easily listen to an audio recording while simultaneously typing out what they hear. Many of these programs also allow for the use of a transcription foot pedal to further streamline the process for transcribers. Foot pedals can be used to stop and start an audio recording as needed, so a transcriber never needs to take their hands off their keyboard to control audio playback while producing or reviewing a transcript.

Speaking of keyboards, transcriptionists often rely upon advanced ergonomic keyboards to help them complete their projects more expeditiously. Ergonomic keyboards are designed to reduce strain on the hands and wrists while typing at high speeds to safeguard against conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive strain injuries.

Challenges and Tips for Transcriptionists

As mentioned above, speech recognition technology has been a game-changing innovation in the world of transcription. Automatic speech recognition software, or ASR, is a type of artificial intelligence that is designed to interpret human speech and convert it to text. This technology powers virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa and makes it possible to employ tools like the speech-to-text function on your phone.

While convenient and seemingly cost-efficient, ASR-based transcription platforms leave much to be desired in terms of accuracy. Artificial intelligence can do amazing things, but it often fails to accurately grasp and represent the subtle nuances that exist within human communication patterns. Automatic transcription tools often struggle to accurately transcribe information from low-quality audio recordings. ASR-based transcription tools may also fail to accurately depict information if a recording features multiple speakers, overlapping dialogue, and diverse accents and dialects.

Transcriptionists who are looking to incorporate ASR technology into their transcription process should keep in mind that automatic transcripts often do not constitute a finished product. Transcribers should always carefully review and edit AI-generated transcripts to ensure their final transcripts are accurate enough to support today’s strict accessibility standards.

Transcribers also should invest in high-level data security features to keep their clients’ sensitive information safe and confidential throughout the transcription process. This is particularly important in the medical and legal sectors, for example, and transcribers looking to work within these fields must familiarize themselves with the most recent data privacy regulations and protocols.

In black and white, two men are seen through a glass wall sitting at a table. They are conversing with each other and both have laptops open in front of them.

Career Opportunities for Transcriptionists

Transcription can be a lucrative, flexible, and rewarding field for professionals who enjoy working with high volumes of qualitative data and certain types of media content. Some transcribers prefer to freelance for a variety of individual clients, while others may seek out in-house opportunities with major brands, government agencies, or production companies.

Alternatively, transcriptionists may wish to work with professional transcription companies like VITAC where they will be given the opportunity to work on a diverse portfolio of projects. VITAC is an industry-leading provider of transcription services for professionals across a wide range of industries and employs professionally trained transcribers to support their clients’ transcription needs. VITAC transcribers may be asked to transcribe everything from major sporting events to internal business meetings, which makes it easy for transcribers to build their skill sets and grow their confidence.

VITAC employs a dual approach to transcription that combines the speed of artificial intelligence with the efficacy of human transcriptionists to deliver final transcripts that are accurate enough to support the needs of individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing as well as those with auditory processing disorders and neurodivergent conditions.

A Trusted Transcription Provider

Transcriptionists can play a crucial role in making information more engaging and accessible to community members of all backgrounds and abilities. With the right training and experience, a transcriptionist can provide business leaders and content creators with the support they need to grow their audience and improve the quality of their communications.

As technology continues to grow and develop, transcriptionists will continue to find new ways of tackling their projects and likely will be asked to apply their skills to an ever-evolving slate of new mediums. If you’re interested in learning more about how transcriptionists transcribe speech to text or want more information about why VITAC is a trusted provider of transcription services for brands around the world, reach out today to speak to a member of our team. We’d love to share with you some of what sets our transcriptionists apart.