A company that offers a transcription service takes the spoken word and transforms it into a professional, accurate written account of what was said. These final documents provide a quick and easy reference for people, as opposed to having to listen to a recording over and over to gather information. While transcription services can cover any type of information, they are most often used for medical or legal reasons, where accuracy is critical.

History of Transcription

Up until the 1970’s transcription could only be performed if the transcriptionist was actually present for the audio that needed to be transcribed, and everything had to be handwritten. Then, the portable recorder and tape cassette was invented and changed the transcription world forever, allowing transcriptionists to receive audio from all over the country. Today, transcription work is primarily completed digitally. While some companies still rely on the cassettes, most of them send and receive both the audio and completed text files via the Internet.


People who perform transcription services are called transcriptionists. To be a successful transcriptionist, one must excel in grammar and spelling and should be able to type at least 100 words per minute. If involved in medical transcription, a knowledge of medical terminology and procedures is also a must. As an industry standard, it takes a skilled transcriptionist an hour to turn 15 minutes of the spoken word into a typed document. But the job of a transcriptionist is not just to type what is being spoken; they must also edit for clarity and grammar and format the words so they are easy to read.

How a Transcription Service Works

First, the audio needs to be recorded. Some of the most common types of audio received by transcriptionist are from doctors recording notes from a recent appointment or surgery, a deposition or court hearing, or even a seminar. Once the transcriptionist receives the audio file, it is meticulously listened to using special equipment that slows down the audio and allows it to be controlled via a foot pedal for easy rewinding and fast forwarding. Depending on the type of transcription service provided, the transcriptionist either types the spoken word verbatim (usually only for legal purposes), or they edit out the stutters and stalls and only transcribe the main message of the recording.

Pricing of Transcription Services

There are several different pricing structures in the industry. Some companies charge by the line or word that is transcribed; however, for clients using templates, this causes unnecessary fees. For this reason, many transcription companies opt to charge per the audio minute. This way, the client only pays for the new information provided.