Monday, July 13, 2009

Working at Home

Have you ever thought about working at home? Have you ever wondered if there are any real jobs that can be done at home? I'm sure you've all seen e-mails and ads about "work-at-home opportunities" where you can make "$10,000 a month guaranteed!" I'm here to tell you about an actual job that is usually done at home. Is it easy? No. Can you make millions in the comfort of your own home? No. But you may be able to supplement your family's income in a reasonable amount of time if you're willing to work hard. It's called medical transcription, and I've been doing it for a year now. When my husband lost his business and decided to go back to school last year, I decided I was going to have to do something to help support our family. I had a 2-year-old at the time, and I'm not into the whole daycare thing, so I was looking for something I could do at home. My sister works as a transcriptionist for an insurance company, and I had actually done that before, so that's the first thing I looked into. Unfortunately, her company didn't hire any subcontractors in my state, and I couldn't find any other similar companies to apply to. Every transcription company I could find online needed medical transcriptionists, and I had no idea how to do that. I noticed on several national medical transcription companies' websites an ad for something called Career Step. I finally clicked on it and found information about how to train to be a medical transcriptionist (MT). After a lot of thought and waiting to see if I would qualify for a student loan, I decided to go for it.

Career Step's course was designed by an MT named Andrea Anaya. She started working as an MT as a teenager. When her friends learned how much money she was able to make, they were constantly asking her if she could teach them. Since she didn't have the time to personally teach everyone who wanted to learn, she decided to develop a course to teach people how to become MTs. Career Step is now a very large company and one of the top three schools for medical transcription in the nation. Currently, you can train to be an MT through Career Step for less than $2000.

Are you wondering what an MT does? Basically, whenever a person has an encounter with a physician, he or she will dictate a note about your visit into a handheld recorder. MTs listen to that recording and transcribe it so that it can be placed in the patient's medical chart. MTs type notes on basic doctor visits, specialist visits, consultations, letters to other physicians, emergency room notes, surgical procedures, etc. Sounds easy right? All you have to do is listen to what the doctor says and type it? Well, it's not easy! Please don't think this is a get-rich-quick kind of job, because it isn't. It takes a lot of time to develop the skills necessary to be a good MT. You have to be very familiar with medical language, have a good handle on spelling and grammar, top-notch research skills, excellent typing skills and, most importantly, you have to enjoy being on the computer for hours and hours every day. If this doesn't sound like fun to you, then this probably isn't the right job for you. But, if you're intrigued, keep reading!

I took Career Step's course from March through June of 2008. It takes most people 12-18 months to finish the course, but it can be done in four months if you have at least 40 hours a week to work on it. I was a bit desperate to start making some money, so I put as much time as I possibly could into my studies. I graduated with High Honors on June 4, 2008. The very next week, I received four job offers. When you are looking for a job as an MT, you have to take employment tests. The employers give you actual dictation to transcribe and see how you do with it. It's very time consuming and sometimes frustrating, but if you do well on the test and they have an opening, they will offer you a job. I work as an independent contractor, but there are employee positions available also. The main differences between the two are flexibility and benefits. As an independent contractor, your company can't tell you when to work as long as your work is back by the time it's due, but you will not be offered benefits, and you have to pay self-employment taxes. Employees usually have to work a set shift, but they are also offered benefits like health insurance, 401K plans, etc., and the employer takes care of withholding your taxes from your paycheck.

MTs are almost always paid on a production basis. The more you type, the more you make! I started out making about $10/hour, which is pretty good for a brand new MT. Most people struggle for a few months just to make minimum wage. There is a lot of luck involved in how much you can make when you're first starting out. On my first account, I had a small group of seven doctors to transcribe for who all worked in the same specialty and were all fairly easy to understand. If you start out on a hospital account in a large city, you could be transcribing for several hundred doctors, many of whom are still learning English, so it can be very difficult to make a decent living. However, there are plenty of transcription companies who specialize in clinic accounts (doctor's offices), and those companies will typically have much easier accounts. I now average over $25/hour. If I was able to transcribe for my favorite doctors only, I could make $35/hour, but that's not how it works. I now work on a small hospital account, and there are about 30 doctors who I transcribe for. I never know who will be in my workload that day. Some days, I make $150 and some days, I make $50. I usually work anywhere from 4-7 hours a day. My first year, I made $17,500, but I was struggling with a company who had too many MTs for the amount of work that was available. I now work for a company that is able to supply me with plenty of work, so that has really helped my bank balance!

I really love my job, even though I have days where I want to throw my computer through the window! The patients never see me and most of them aren't even aware of my existence, but I am still able to help them receive the best care possible. When patients' medical records are clear and error-free, physicians are better able to treat them. This isn't a glamorous job (most days, I work in my pajamas!), but it makes me feel good to be helping someone else and supporting my family at the same time.

If you have any questions or are interested in training through Career Step, please visit my website at

Ashley Killingsworth

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