My diploma for a job

Without exception, the #1 question I get via e-mail from MT Registry goes something like this:

I graduated and I can’t get a job. All the job openings require experience. How do I get experience when nobody will hire you unless you have experience?

It’s like traveling back in time to when I was looking for MY first job. Not much has changed in 21 years. And I have to give credit where it’s due – AHDI has been attempting to address this issue for many years. I think the fact that it’s still an issue isn’t due to a deficiency their efforts, but has more to do with the nature of the business.

Medical transcription is extremely labor intensive. Speech recognition software attempts to alleviate the labor, but remains only somewhat successful. Couple that with low profit margins, hospitals and clinics constantly trying to cut costs, the commoditization of transcription – and you have a formula that just doesn’t allow much room for training people who come to the job unprepared to do it right out of the gate. When I was doing production transcription services, I tried to hire new graduates and found the experience costly and discouraging.

  • Some people shouldn’t be transcriptionists. They’re doing it for all the wrong reasons; they don’t have the skills required and they’ll never have the skills required, but they have forged ahead because either they felt it was their only option to earn money or they had a great desire and confused that with ability. And of course, they can always find a school that will accommodate their desire/need.
  • Some programs simply don’t adequately prepare MTs to work and the amount of time, retraining and education required to bring them up to speed is too costly for a transcription service.
  • Even if an MTSO is willing to spend the time and money on someone, there’s nothing to stop them from leaving to go somewhere else or out on their own before the MTSO has recouped the investment made in them. My personal opinion was that new trainees should have to make a deposit, which wouldn’t be refundable until they’d met certain goals and completed XX number of lines after meeting those goals. If they left before doing that, they’d forfeit the deposit. (And I’m not talking a small deposit here, either.) I just don’t see MTs willing or able to do that, however.

And I am tired of the answer given in many of the forums: “You should’ve gone to this or that other school.” It isn’t helpful. For a variety of reasons, not everyone can go to this or that school – it doesn’t meet their needs, they didn’t pass the screening exam, they didn’t research it before signing up with the school they went to – whatever the reason, they’ve paid their money, completed the program they paid for and they can’t find a job. It isn’t productive or useful to tell them they should start all over again.

Let me talk about the people who pursue MT as a career against all advice to the contrary. I had a doctor who once stated: “The indications for a hysterectomy are no longer the presence of a uterus and the presence of Blue Cross.” The same is true for career goals. The need to work at home so you can be with your children and have a flexible schedule isn’t an indication for becoming a medical transcriptionist. The desire to work in the medical field isn’t an indication for becoming a medical transcriptionist. Love of medical language isn’t an indication for becoming a medical transcriptionist. If someone has told you that this isn’t really the right career for you – don’t insist that they’re wrong and plunk down your money to go to school to learn it! Because have no doubt – there will be a school happy to take your money, even knowing that you will either never complete the program; or if you complete the program, you will not be able to get a job because you can’t pass the screening exams; or if you actually do get a job, you won’t be able to keep it and your “career” will consist of one job after another. I mean really – you can’t make a career out of being terminated, and it’s going to be depressing and discouraging for you.

I know it really should be the role of a school to see that (a) there are companies that will hire their graduates and (b) their graduates are prepared to take the jobs they’re offered. But let’s face a little bit of reality here: schools are a business, just like the medical transcription companies, hospitals and clinics. They have absolutely no motive to tell eager prospective students that the pay is lousy, the benefits are terrible to nonexistent, they will be working at home but their hours will be nights, weekends and whenever they can grab enough lines, the dictators can be horrible and and and… If you go to the web sites of some of the highly regarded schools (ahem!), you’ll see cautious optimism sprinkled with reality checks that are touched on about as lightly as a butterfly landing on a delicate flower. From there, you go to the school sites that tout “high demand = high income!” and place a lot of emphasis on “work at home! no commute! save on child care!” Every school is going to claim that employers are clamoring for their graduates, just like every transcription service claims to deliver the fastest TAT and best quality, all for the cheapest price. I’m not saying it’s right or the way it should be – it’s the way business is. Nobody is going to tell you what’s WRONG with what they’re selling.

That said, “high income” is all relative, I suppose, especially in this economy. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t be motivated to roll out of bed for 7 cpl on an account laden with crappy dictators, cherry pickers and vague directions. However, I can see situations where someone else would be, so to each his/her own.

But I digress.

In looking through some of the resumes and contact letters sent at MT Registry – some of them to me, as the administrator – I think some people could use some help in writing their resumes and cover letters (and following the directions posted in the job listings). But then it occurred to me that isn’t enough, because it still doesn’t give them the experience and it still doesn’t move them forward in getting that first job.

I’m going to ask the employers to come together and tell me what you’d like to see: what would it take for you to hire new graduates? I’d like to add value to what’s offered in the TranscriptionConnections network, but I want to make sure it’s value to the MTs and value to the employers. Is this something that could be fixed or at least made a little easier for everyone; and if so, how?

For the newbies (new graduates without experience), here’s my question to you: after graduating from whatever school you went to, would you be willing to put more time and money into something if you could see a job at the end of that road?

MTs and "Speech Wreck"

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16 thoughts on “My diploma for a job”

  1. I’m a newbie who is wrapping up my degree plan within months from now. I’ll come out of it with an AAS Degree in MT.

    Your question for those of us who are newbies is sort of a double-edged blade. For those of us who have put out more than a few pennies in student loans already for our education + the economic downfall currently happening = not enough additional funds to toss out there as a ‘deposit’ of sorts even if it means that I would have a job at the end of that road.

    I’m confident enough in my training and abilities to know that I should be able to find work without such a ‘deposit’.

    As for your comments about resume’s: I do agree that sometimes it is hard to know what to put into a resume, and just to help state the slightly obvious, there isn’t a lot of information out there guided towards specified examples of “transcription resumes”. I DO know that there are a very few wonderful people out there in my professional network who are willing to help out with this task. Those few seasoned MTs are hard to come by if you don’t know the right people or ways to get to them though.

    And I do happen to agree with you about those who are out there for all the wrong reasons simply should not keep going for it. Those who do not read and comprehend simple directions are most likely not going to be the greatest candidates for an open position. And those who cannot follow directions or were not ‘taught’ about resume’s and cover letters should probably just take some sort of class on the subject so that they can be a little more informed before sending out mass messages to companies that will probably just “laugh them off”.

    I’m actually wondering the same question about the employers that you had asked and would also like to know what it would take for them to consider hiring new graduates. You can be sure that I’ll stay tuned to see what other responses come from those employers (if any at all).

    *steps off the soapbox* ^_^

  2. Julie, you bring up some interesting points about the plight of the new graduate. Not only are MTs without work experiencing having a hard time finding someone to take them on, but in general, the college senior classes of 2009 in general are in dire need of finding jobs that just aren’t there in this new economic environment.

    I remember my own confidence in my abilities when exiting college and searching for my first job. Unfortunately, there were some things that I hadn’t learned until I sat at the desk and figured them out (my first career was project management). Similarly, I found a very small MTSO who was willing to take me on as an apprentice, and while I thought I’d know what I was doing, there are just some things they can’t teach you in college.

    My sister probably did it best: She was able to do an apprenticeship while in school. She excelled far beyond her classmates and graduated at the top of her class. Admittedly, the MTSO that took her on had so much work to pass around that she was afforded the opportunity to train and work at the same time, without much sacrifice to the MTSO.

    Are there any kinds of MTSOs who would be willing to take on apprentices in this day and age? They’d be hard to come by. Personally, if a school were willing to establish some sort of internship program alongside the classroom work, I’d pay the money to go there for sure. Typing for free is certainly not a dream that most students would want to fulfill, but if it meant a better chance at meeting those experience requirements for a job, the experience alone would be worth the time and effort.

  3. I am not at the end of my program yet – I am maybe about two thirds or so of the way through it though. And while I expect that I won’t be able to make the money I want to upon finishing my training, I DO expect to make something – not to have to work for nothing, and I certainly don’t want to have to pay to work, especially when I’ve already invested a lot of time and money on my training. Now I do like the idea of doing an internship or an apprenticeship while I’m going to school – that’s actually something I might consider looking into once I get into the section of my training where I actually start learning the medical transcription.

  4. I read the posts on MTStars and MTChat faithfully and I decided that I will complete an internship when I complete my MT Training. Why?
    Because I have no desire to send out hundred of resumes and taking hundreds of tests.
    Although I hate to depart with $400 (cost of the internship), I DO realize that it would cost the company offering the internship MUCH more to train me if they were to train me for free.
    Hopefully, upon completing the internship, I will be assigned to an account that I training on.

  5. I understand your reasoning behind the deposit for new MTs. I understand that it must be very time consuming and costly. However, I’m not sure I would have a lot of trust in a company that wanted me to pay for employment. I am a new graduate with no experience who has been looking for work since January. My current job pays me enough to pay my rent, bills, and put food on my table. I just paid $3000 for MT training and I graduated with honors. I’m sure in the MT industry we are a dime a dozen, but I can’t help but feel a little insulted at the idea of having to pay a company to hire me. Even if they tell you you will be reimbursed, whos to say that will ever happen? I have heard a couple horror stories from people who got involved in the wrong company and never got paid. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the reason companies test us in the beginning their way of filtering out the people who are not qualified?

    As hard as this is to admit, as I let the idea process a little, I can’t say for sure that I would turn a company down for asking for a deposit. I need to work and if forking out a little money in the beginning would secure me a new job then, depending on if I could afford it and the company has a good reputation, I would probably consider it.

  6. Here is the thing with internships – typically you don’t pay anyone for the opportinuty to do “practice” work- in fact, you get paid perhaps at a lower rate than employees, for the work you are doing. Occasionally, it’s more or less volunteer work.

    Jumpstart is not an internship in the true sense of the word. They are providing you with work from an actual client and charging you for addtional services, and likely, they are making money off the work you are submitting…kinda like double dipping.

    Here’s an idea – contact local MTSOs, local physicians and/or hospitals and volunteer for X weeks in exchange for mentoring. If I had the volume/diversity of accounts, I’d do it for a limited number of MTs on a limited time basis. Check with your local community college to see if they offer an MT course and if so, do they intern/extern their graduates? This is the ONLY time I might consider paying if they have a fee for placement.

    But be cautious of paying for internships (google TransAm).

  7. I have helped a few newbies and offered internships in the past. I pay a lower cpl for the work, but it takes me twice as long to proof and give appropriate feedback. I don’t believe it is slave wages either, but 0.06 cpl is fair given the amount of time I personally put into it. I have never thought of asking someone to work for free in any situation. That said, it is not cost efficient to do this. It’s more than frustrating when you give QA back and yet you see the same mistake over and over and/or they argue about it. It’s frustrating when you’re told, “Yes! I know my computer.” But when you get down to brass tacks, they cannot download a file, don’t know Word, or how follow really simple formatting instructions. I have even had a few people actually laugh and say, “Oh well, glad you caught that.” This after more than 3 times with the same thing. I finally gave up offering help/internships because of these problems. If there was a test to weed out the people who don’t see this as a job, but more of a “pastime” then perhaps I’d change my mind. I can say that of the newbies who dug in, worked and paid attention, they are doing really well for themselves, so to that end, it was more than worth it. It’s all the newbies in-between that cause me to stop with helping people get a leg up. Probably not terribly fair, I realize that, but business is business first.

  8. I wanted to address the internship issue. I’ve been transcribing for almost 10 years now. I went to a junior college and received an AS degree specifically for medical secretarial science. During the last term of the degree program, we were required to do an internship. The professor responsible for assigning those told us well in advance (months) that this would be coming up and “off the record” suggested we go out on our own to look for a part-time position (“Might as well get paid for it if you can”). I was very fortunate as a local clinic that employed approximately 40 MTs needed help. I applied, tested, and landed a part-time job – this counted as my internship AND I got paid for it…sweet. There were others in my class who found similar positions in the area. Those who had not landed a job were then provided internships at other local healthcare facilities. I stayed with the same company after graduation at which time I became a full-time employee.

    Although I know many people don’t go the route I did (AS degree), I certainly believe it is the best option if you want to avoid the frustration so many have mentioned. I feel very fortunate – I certainly did not initially choose the school I went to because of the internship, but it was definitely the right choice.

    Have enjoyed finding your blog : )

  9. In my experience, there are 3 main reasons why MTs don’t work out. These actually seem to be the same for new or experienced MTs, but obviously newbies are more vulnerable. The 3 problem areas are, in order of importance:

    1. Productivity. Full-time or part-time, our minimum requirement is 1000 lines per day. This is supposed to be achieved by the end of 90 days, but in practice an MT usually gets an extra month as a last chance (not that it ever seems to help). We don’t require this minimum just to be mean, but because it’s the only way for us to justify financially keeping the person on. Because we hire employees, not ICs, we are required to pay minimum wage no matter how little the person produces; so if they’re not producing enough lines to equal minimum wage, then we’re actually losing money on them. With profit margins as thin as they are, we can’t afford to have employees who literally produce a net loss for us.

    2. Communication. Nothing frustrates a transcription supervisor more than having an MT disappear from view (i.e., her scheduled work shift) without notice or explanation. MTs seem to think it’s okay to say, 3 days later, that they had a power outage or internet connection was down and just got fixed – but they never picked up the phone to let us know! Same with people whose e-mail regularly rejects ours, but they never fix the problem. Self-sufficiency can be overdone.

    3. Information Retention. All MTs make mistakes, but some just never seem to get the message when they’re informed of their mistakes and keep on making the same ones. This doesn’t inspire confidence that the MT can take on new areas. A few people try to avoid the problem by leaving dozens of blanks instead of educating themselves and improving their judgment. We actually encourage blanks, but we do expect people to have common sense and for the blanks to go down after a few weeks week the dictator.

    So, what to do? First, if I were a new MT and had any way at all to swing it, I’d start out as an independent contractor. This gives you the freedom to be slower at first. Second, I do think internships are a great idea and both schools and companies should find a way to make them happen. I don’t want to get into all the issues there right now; I know there are a lot. But that’s the missing piece for newbies – going from clearly recorded, reasonably well organized, reasonably understandable dictation to the nightmares that can turn up at any real MTSO.

  10. I’m currently a student at Everett Community College, which uses Career Step. I won’t be done until the end of summer, but I’m already very worried about finding a job. I would definitely be willing to invest more time and money if I saw that it could get me a job. I would consider it an extension of my education.

  11. I didn’t come to MT by way of an MT program, but another MT route–medical technology. When I entered my 4-year program at UT Austin, I knew there would be a 12-month internship at the end of the road. I was paid $75/mo for a 40-hour work week and was thrilled! I had been paying my tuition at the university so this was a treat! My point here is that I entered my program expecting to be in an internship, knowing that it would be part of my education and that it would NOT be profitable for me (in the short term). I think if more students entered with the expectation that time-to-profit (ie, making a real income) is going to include some “unprofitable” postgraduate time, it might make the transition into a full-time, well-paying position more palatable.
    As an MTSO owner, I have to agree with what has been said about hiring newbies. The sad truth is there have been WAY too many newbies that have ruined it for the really good candidates. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a resume call for an MT position, you know what an incredibly disheartening and disturbing experience that can be!
    I will also say that nowhere does the phrase “you don’t know what you don’t know” fit better than in the field of MT. Students simply cannot know what their program didn’t teach them. They may have been stellar students, but if they made 100’s on assignments that were not relevant, it doesn’t really mean anything on the job.
    I do have some practical advice here though. A few years back, AHDI published an ebook “How to Get Your Foot in the Door: Two Years’ Experience Not Required”. It DOES include resume help and lots of other real-world, practical info to help newbies evaluate their skills and look for their first job. Click this link:

  12. First of all, Thanks Laura, you have given the most contructive information for newbies out there so far. I have been silent, looking for information regarding ways to find out how to become an independent contractor working from home on a part-time basis whileI work somewhere else until I can develop some experience as an MT. I can’t seem to find anything legitimate or that doesn’t require experience.Hospitals and clinics will not touch new grads. Even national MTS businesses won’t give you the time of day.

    I recently graduated from a community college with honors while juggling 2 associate degrees and a certificate. My degrees were in health services managment, medical transcription and medical office assisting. I completed internships through each program with unpaid training. The problem was that most of the local MT businesses refuse to offer internships due to competition, lack of work coming in due to the change over to new EMR changeovers, or just plain unwillingness to invest in the community of new MT grads due to cost effectiveness, time, and effort needed for dedication to the process of producing help and training for newbies.

    My instructor created a special one-to-one mentorship for me because I was so dedicated to becoming an exceptional MT professional. I was doing so well and working so hard she made an exception for meand provided the best training she could offer me.In many ways it was an advantage becuase she was my own personal resource.

    The problem is that I have been searching for work since January(they all want experienced MTs.) You can’t gain experience if no one will hire you without prior experience. I am not sure where to turn or how to get started as a newbie in the MT world, such as independent contracting, if that’s the answer. Then you have the cynics (older well established MTs) who tout on newbies and how hard it is to find good ones because there are those who ruin it for the good ones out there. Instead of offering cynical,albeit true, grumblings about the difficulties they face and how newbies really don’t know what they are getting into becuase it is not widely advertised, someone should offer some helpful advise to newbies so they won’t go out and apply for jobs they are unqualified for.There are processes in place and testing out there to weed out the bad ones and that leaves room for those who can do a good job. We just need to be given a chance. If only someone would pay it forward every now and then.
    Then, there are those companies out there that are too good to be true. I am getting the impression that Transam Associates, Inc. has less than a reputable reputation(requiring a so called “bad software” purchase of $496 and $60 books for training) and I almost recently signed on with them until that little inkling kept nagging at me to do further research on the company(BBB was unable to provide any reports or feedback)before I signed away funds I do not have, having just invested a lot of money into student loans and unable to find work in the profession.They say they train new grads who have trouble getting into the transcription biz.If this was trustworthy and worth paying the extra cost to get the necessary training(internship) I would be willing to fork out a little extra money as an extension of my education if it meant I had real meaning experience that would land me a job.

    I plan to check out the link you provided” How to Get Your Foot in the Door:Two years’ Experience Not Required.

    If any seasoned MTs or new grads have found success I welcome your comments and please send them to (newbornMT08).No solicitations or advertisements please. Clearly identify yourself in the subject line please.

    signed: Newborn MT 08, Nowhere to go, Nowhere to turn, and Frustrated but trying to be Optimistic!

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