We are often asked whether a general transcription course is better than a medical or legal transcription course.
I do get frustrated when I see on some forums that there is this idea that general transcription is the “easy” option and not as hard as medical or legal. I strongly disagree. This topic came up when I was talking to a potential new student today. I thought it might help anybody thinking about working as a transcriber to get a glimpse of what general versus area-specific transcription work, such as medical or legal, looks like:
|Single Voice (generally the same voice for all recordings)||Y||Y|
|Forms and documents||Y||Y|
|Specific to one topic/field||Y||Y|
|Two to three voices (usually interviews)||Y||–|
|Ever-changing topics and terminology||Y||–|
|Multi-voices (meetings, focus groups, forums etc.)||Y||–|
|Varying audio quality||Y||–|
|New voices and accents on a daily basis||Y||–|
|Ability to change between verbatim and clean transcribing styles||Y||–|
|Sound grammar skills||Y||–|
|Desire to learn about new topics||Y||–|
|Ability to be your own IT department||Y||–|
|At risk of Voice Recognition Software*||–||Y|
*While voice recognition software such as Dragon Naturally Speak is a real threat to transcribers of single-voice industries, such a medical and legal, these technologies are a very long way from being able to cope with the ever-changing environment the general transcriber works in.
With general transcription you never know what is going to come across your desk at any given time, which we love.
Over the years, Sonya and I have transcribed interviews that cover just about every industry, hospitals, schools, mining, railways, pharmaceutical research, court hearings and topics covering everything from refugees and migrants, to domestic violence, theft and insurance fraud, even the Hadron Collider! You have to be agile and attentive, and have the ability to flex what Sonya calls your “Google-fu.” It’s interesting and varied work and we love it.
My very first job was as a Medical Secretary and Sonya’s background was Legal. That knowledge and skill has come in very handy. However, the biggest difference is that often with medical you have a single voice health professional dictating notes. Once learned, the vocabulary is often very repetitive for that health professional. The risk here is that, if that doctor, or dentist, puts in the time with a system like Otter.ai or Dragan Naturally Speaking, they can train the AI to do a pretty good job.
AI simply cannot cope with multiple voices, accents, background noise. By choosing general transcription you can be assured that you will have work for many years to come, as there is literally nothing on the market close to a human ear.
That said, you also have to enjoy what you’re transcribing, and some people prefer to be excellent legal or medical transcribers and know their field inside out, and would not enjoy the variety and challenge of general transcription. No one area of transcription is better than another.
So which one calls out to you on your transcription journey?