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Medical Transcriptionist vs. Scribe: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

Medical transcriptionists and scribes are both important members of the medical field. They provide critical support to doctors and other medical professionals by documenting patient visits and procedures. While these roles share some similarities, there are several key differences between them. In this article, we discuss the similarities and differences between medical transcriptionists and scribes, and we offer tips for choosing the right career for you.

What is a Medical Transcriptionist?

A Medical Transcriptionist is a health care professional who transcribes doctors’ and other health care providers’ dictated reports. These reports may include patient histories, physical examination results, laboratory test results, and diagnostic imaging studies. The Medical Transcriptionist listens to the audio recording of the dictated report and transcribes it into written form, ensuring that all pertinent information is included. They may also edit and proofread the transcribed report for accuracy. In some cases, the Medical Transcriptionist may be responsible for formatting the report according to the health care provider’s or institution’s specific guidelines.

What is a Scribe?

A Scribe is a medical professional who provides documentation support for physicians and other medical providers. Scribes work in real-time to document patient encounters using an electronic medical record (EMR) system. They enter data such as patient history, vital signs, medications and procedures into the EMR. Scribes also transcribe provider orders, such as laboratory tests and referrals to specialists. In some cases, Scribes may also assist with patient education and discharge instructions. Scribes free up provider time by taking on documentation responsibilities, which allows providers to focus on patient care.

Medical Transcriptionist vs. Scribe

Here are the main differences between a medical transcriptionist and a scribe.

Job Duties

Medical transcriptionists and scribes share some of the same job duties, such as taking patient histories, recording doctor conversations and typing medical reports. However, a medical transcriptionist works independently and may perform other tasks, such as editing transcripts and proofreading documents. Scribes typically shadow doctors throughout the day and only perform the duties assigned to them by the physician.

Another difference is that a medical transcriptionist may work with multiple physicians in various specialties, while a scribe typically works with one particular doctor in the same specialty. Medical transcriptionists also have more opportunities outside of the medical field, as they can work for companies or agencies that need written records of spoken language.

Job Requirements

Medical transcriptionists typically need to have a certificate or associate degree in medical transcription to enter the field. Some employers may prefer candidates who have experience working in a medical office or have taken courses in medical terminology, anatomy and physiology.

Scribes usually do not need any formal education beyond a high school diploma, but some employers may prefer candidates who have completed a training program or have some experience working in a medical office. Scribes who work in emergency departments may need to be certified through the National Healthcare Association as Emergency Medical Scribes (EMTs).

Work Environment

Medical transcriptionists work in an office setting, often at home. They may also work for a medical transcription company that provides services to hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

Scribes typically work in the hospital or doctor’s office where they shadow physicians. This means that scribes can work anywhere from emergency rooms to operating rooms.


Both medical transcriptionists and scribes need to have excellent listening skills. Medical transcriptionists listen to recordings of doctors dictating patient notes and then transcribe them, while scribes listen to doctors during patient visits and document what is said.

Both roles also require strong written communication skills. Medical transcriptionists use these skills to transcribe the dictated notes accurately, while scribes use them to write clear and concise patient notes.

Medical transcriptionists need to be able to type quickly and accurately, as they often are working against a deadline to transcribe the dictated notes. Scribes also need to be able to type quickly, but accuracy is not as critical in their role.

Scribes need to have knowledge of medical terminology, as they will hear this terminology used by doctors during patient visits. They do not need to have an in-depth understanding of the terms, but they should know enough to be able to spell them correctly and understand their meaning. Medical transcriptionists also need to have knowledge of medical terminology, but they typically receive training on this before starting their job.


Medical transcriptionists earn an average salary of $41,051 per year, while medical scribes earn an average salary of $41,831 per year. Both of these salaries may vary depending on the location of the job, the size of the company and the level of experience the employee has.


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