Transcription School Wars Part 2

A couple days ago, I linked to an article, Career Step is not a Scam, at at Undress4Success, a site focusing on at-home jobs. I give them kudos for trying to provide accurate information on at-home work and potential scams. However, like most sites that cater to the ever-popular WAH topic, I get frustrated with information disseminated by people who aren't experts in the industry. To their credit, they've asked if I'll review the medical transcription section of their WAH guide, which I've indicated I'd love to do.

They get a lot right in this article. To their credit, they clear up the myth that medical transcription is an easy job and they make it clear that it requires knowledge and skills – and education.

The biggest mistake made in this article is suggesting that criticism of Career Step is based on jealousy, intramural competitiveness – or even possibly paid shills.

Oh, gulp.

Career Step has an aggressive marketing campaign, including affiliates who are paid for everyone they get to sign up. Many of these affiliates run their own web sites and blogs, promoting the Career Step program with a great deal of bias. Affiliates and advertising publishers aren't the same as “paid shills” who are “encouraged to bad mouth Career Step,” but there's a thin line between positive shilling and negative shilling. And anyone who knows the principles at Andrews and M-TEC know that they stand on their reputation – they don't need shills. Some of the competitive programs actually use the Career Step curriculum – hopefully with corrections and all with actual live teachers – I doubt they're going to be bashing the Career Step program. If people actually listen to the advice of others in the industry and go to only AHDI-approved schools, they have some fairly decent choices, Career Step among them, and can avoid the really awful programs that aren't worth the tuition, regardless of what it is.

The second biggest mistake is this comment:

Both schools [Andrews and M-TEC] —and others—offer fine training, but not necessarily better than Career Step.

I've said here before: Career Step serves a purpose. In my opinion, it is not, as stated in this article, on par with Andrews or M-TEC. For one thing, both Andrews and M-TEC have entry screening exams. If transcription isn't the best career choice for you, based on your skills and knowledge, you won't pass the test and they won't take your money. That seems pretty honest to me, however unpopular many hopefuls wish it to be otherwise. And anyone who wants to ignore the danger signs can go to Career Step. Unfortunately, what this means is that Career Step takes a lot more people who are doomed from the beginning but don't seem to mind plunking down nearly $2,000 to have the lesson hammered home. The second big difference is that Andrews and M-TEC have actual live instructors. It absolutely boggles my mind that a school wouldn't have instructors, but there you have it – Career Step lets its students and graduates instruct each other in their forum. Therefore, we have the blind and the clueless instructing the blind and the clueless. Taking up the article's comparison to a carpenter blaming the tools – what would an apprentice carpenter hope to learn from another apprentice carpenter? The third big difference is the “placement program.” Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I've been told by Career Step graduates that they pay extra for the “placement program,” which consists of a list of transcription services that may or may not hire new graduates and may or may not have openings for anyone, experienced or otherwise.

What I see a lot in the various MT forums are comments from Career Step about-to-be-grads who state they feel their education is adequate. Well – how do they know? Until they graduate and actually get a job and start work, they aren't really qualified to judge, are they? And there are plenty of Career Step graduates who are critical of the difficulty they had finding a job and the inadequacies in their education that became apparent once they actually did start work. These graduates aren't shills for someone else and the only jealousy they have is for people who picked a program they felt would have served them better in starting a new career.

For the record, I run a variety of web sites related to transcription and I accept advertising at them. If Career Step wants to advertise, I'll let them. But I won't softpedal my opinions about where they stand in the transcription school rankings and why they won't ever be the best unless they make some significant changes – like real instructors.

Checking credentials: CMT confusion

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21 thoughts on “Transcription School Wars Part 2”

  1. I would like to speak as a current student of Career Step!

    I started the course in August of 2008, and have found nothing but professionalism, integrity, and helpfulness from the Career Step staff. I would like to address some of the main points that you suggest put Career Step in a lower educational tier than Andrews and M-Tec. First of all, I am sure that these are wonderful schools! I’m not here to do any bashing, just to give my point of view as an actual student of Career Step.

    “For one thing, both Andrews and M-TEC have entry screening exams. If transcription isn’t the best career choice for you, based on your skills and knowledge, you won’t pass the test and they won’t take your money. That seems pretty honest to me, however unpopular many hopefuls wish it to be otherwise. And anyone who wants to ignore the danger signs can go to Career Step. Unfortunately, what this means is that Career Step takes a lot more people who are doomed from the beginning but don’t seem to mind plunking down nearly $2,000 to have the lesson hammered home.”

    No, Career Step does not have a pre-enrollment test. Maybe they should. But it seems to me that anyone who is truly interested in medical transcription has the responsibility to do at least a little research into what the job entails! I know I did! You don’t have to look far to discover that being an MT requires a good grasp of grammar, spelling, punctuation, typing, etc. However, Career Step also has sections in its course that cover all these things to make sure you DO have a working knowledge in these areas.

    “The second big difference is that Andrews and M-TEC have actual live instructors. It absolutely boggles my mind that a school wouldn’t have instructors, but there you have it – Career Step lets its students and graduates instruct each other in their forum. Therefore, we have the blind and the clueless instructing the blind and the clueless. Taking up the article’s comparison to a carpenter blaming the tools – what would an apprentice carpenter hope to learn from another apprentice carpenter?”

    It is true that there are no live instructors in Career Step. However, there is plenty of student support! If a student has a question, he/she is free to contact the support staff (many of whom are experienced MTs themselves) to get an answer. The support staff also gives students the option of submitting typed reports to be reviewed if a student is having difficulty with something. Also, students are encouraged to take part in a transcription consultation, which is a 1 hour conference call that takes place at certain times during the week and is available to all students who are currently in the transcription portion of the course. They give helpful tips and answer questions about this portion of the course during that call.

    The forum is frequented by both students and graduates of Career Step. Yes, students do help students quite often, but only through their own trial and error experience in the course. It is helpful to have someone who has been where you are give you advice on how to make the most of your studying. Graduates are also encouraged to come back and encourage/advise students. The graduates are not “blind and clueless.” They speak from real working experience in their new jobs! Graduates often answer questions with something to the effect of “this is how my employer expects this to be done.” Since there are so many variations in the way employers or accounts want things done, it is a great way to be exposed to lots of styles and requirements in the real working world. In truth, the students at Career Step are not learning all they need to know from each other, but from the materials included in the course.

    “The third big difference is the “placement program.” Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve been told by Career Step graduates that they pay extra for the “placement program,” which consists of a list of transcription services that may or may not hire new graduates and may or may not have openings for anyone, experienced or otherwise.”

    Students who enroll in the Platinum level (which does cost more) do receive placement assistance, but it is much more than just a list of potential employers! When you graduate from Career Step Platinum enrollment, you receive individual consultation with a placement coordinator who helps to develop your career plans. Not only that, but you receive the employment directory; personalized interview, resume and sales letter advice, and access to the help hotline (to get assistance you can’t get from your employer) for 1 year after graduation. By the way, I’m taking a lot of this straight from Career Step’s website. 🙂 In addition to this, companies often list employment openings with Career Step, and Career Step passes these on to their students via the forums and placement consultations.

    “What I see a lot in the various MT forums are comments from Career Step about-to-be-grads who state they feel their education is adequate. Well – how do they know? Until they graduate and actually get a job and start work, they aren’t really qualified to judge, are they? And there are plenty of Career Step graduates who are critical of the difficulty they had finding a job and the inadequacies in their education that became apparent once they actually did start work. These graduates aren’t shills for someone else and the only jealousy they have is for people who picked a program they felt would have served them better in starting a new career.”

    How do Career Step grads know that their training is adequate? Career Step gives us REAL dictation to transcribe, and from a wide range of different accents, speeds of talking, styles of dictating, etc. They simulate the real world!! Also, the Career Step final exam is reviewed and scored by professionals. This is an evaluation of your skills as an MT…to see if you are ready for the real world.

    I know there are those who have graduated from Career Step who are critical of their education and the difficulty they have finding employment. First of all, there are LOTS of people who are having trouble finding jobs, no matter what type of job it is. Secondly, I tend to think that you get out of your education what you put into it. If a Career Step education wasn’t adequate, there wouldn’t be ANY successful graduates, now would there? And yet, you can look on the forum and find dozens of graduates from Career Step who are grateful for the education they received. If a Career Step education wasn’t adequate, would there be over a dozen industry-leading MT companies that partner with Career Step? No. No, you’re not going to be making the big bucks as soon as you graduate. Does anybody? I tend to think that those who complain of an inadequate education didn’t take advantage of all the school has to offer. Also, the staff at Career Step suggests that you spend as much time searching for a job as you plan on putting into that job when you find it! If you’re looking for a full time job, put in full time hours applying, testing, etc. The bottom line is that the critics are in the minority.

    I don’t know if anyone will take the time to read this entire novel that I’ve written here, but I felt that I should stand up for this wonderful school!

  2. However, there is plenty of student support! If a student has a question, he/she is free to contact the support staff (many of whom are experienced MTs themselves) to get an answer.

    Have you actually contacted support yourself to get an answer?

    The forum is frequented by both students and graduates of Career Step…Graduates are also encouraged to come back and encourage/advise students.

    Yes, the ones who haven’t been banned.

    Students who enroll in the Platinum level (which does cost more) do receive placement assistance, but it is much more than just a list of potential employers!

    Are you speaking from experience?

    By the way, I’m taking a lot of this straight from Career Step’s website.

    Excellent marketing, isn’t it?

    How do Career Step grads know that their training is adequate? Career Step gives us REAL dictation to transcribe, and from a wide range of different accents, speeds of talking, styles of dictating, etc. They simulate the real world!! Also, the Career Step final exam is reviewed and scored by professionals. This is an evaluation of your skills as an MT…to see if you are ready for the real world.

    You don’t know what you don’t know until you know it, and what you don’t know right NOW is that CS is subpar.

    I was a CS grad 6 years ago come September. While I have never *ever* said that CS wasn’t right for me, it’s because I knew my learning style and I already knew how to transcribe. For others? Not so much.

    Career Step *is* subpar. I can tell by your post that you *do* have good grammar and spelling skills, but I can guarantee you that that fact will make it obvious what you’ve bitten off once you begin to work, and you compare and contrast your schooling with your work experience.

    Again, like a mantra: You don’t know what you don’t know until you know it.

  3. “Have you actually contacted support yourself to get an answer?”

    Actually yes I have, several times in fact, and they were very helpful!

    “Are you speaking from experience?” (about grad help)

    No, honestly, I’m not. I can, however, read dozens of testimonials from students who HAVE been helped by Career Step’s placement assistance.

    You didn’t answer all my questions, though. How can you explain away the fact that dozens of companies actually support Career Step and hire their graduates without any experience? How can you explain all the success stories that ARE there if Career Step is a “subpar” school?

    Also, I hate to say it, but you WERE there 6 years ago. They have upgraded and improved their curriculum since then, and it is more thorough with more REAL dictation instead of “professional readers” in the later modules. However, there are successful graduates who graduated when you did who come back to the forums now and give advice to students. Sorry to say it, but anyone who is banned from the forums probably deserves it. I’ve seen firsthand how catty and outright nasty some people can get on the forum. Why would you let those people stay?

    I’ll make sure to come back and post here after I get a job! 🙂

  4. You didn’t answer all my questions, though. How can you explain away the fact that dozens of companies actually support Career Step and hire their graduates without any experience?

    It’s called money.

    Again, you don’t know what you don’t know until you know it. I have no more succinct way to say it.

    I’ll make sure to come back and post here after I get a job!

    Please do.

  5. “It’s called money”

    Somehow, I can’t imagine a company over and over hiring MTs they know are not going to be able to handle the work they are given….that’s not going to help them in any way, shape or form. They wouldn’t have any clients!! I think it’s pretty unreasonable to think that Career Step “pays off” MT companies with enough money to make it worth their while to hire incompetent MTs.

  6. Oh duh…of course I read it. I had already touched on the fact that you graduated 6 years ago…I’m so scatterbrained.

  7. There are a couple of factors influencing Career Step’s place in the medical transcription market.

    First and foremost, Career Step is the equivalent of a mill. They take in a lot of students, so it stands to reason employers hire more CS grads than any other school. The flip side of that is their student completion rate, which I’m told is 30%, and their placement. I don’t know what their actual placement rate is, but Andrews is over 95% – I don’t think CS is matching that.

    The other factor is supply. If a company isn’t able to hire someone more qualified, they’ll start to look further down the list to fill their requirements. There are only so many qualified MTs and graduates looking for a job at any given time. This is exactly why substandard MTs HAVE jobs (see my other post about that).

    Katie, I admire your enthusiasm but I have to reiterate that you don’t know what you don’t know. The fact that an MT can get hired doesn’t mean they had a great education or even that they’re a good MT – it just means a company is desperate enough for warm bodies to fill the seats.

  8. Why is it that Medquist actually recommends CareerStep? It’s right on their website, plain as the nose on your face.

  9. I was trained on the job, but my significant other graduated from Career Step and now has two to three years of work experience in the field.

    Granted, they may not be the “top-rated” MT school out there, but some people may not have had the bucks to go to the “top-rated” schools.

    And now it’s next to impossible to get trained on the job. Heck, it was getting pretty rare to get trained on the job over 20 years ago, when I competed for and won a trainee job at a major So. Cal. teaching hospital.

    I’ve seen comments which claim that the “top-rated” MT schools actually teach their students in-depth well enough that they are actually ready to work and productive on the job from day one, but I personally find that hard to believe… because I’ve been doing this job for over 20 years now, and I still learn something new every night.

    With the lousy quality of much dictation, I’d be hard-pressed to find a night’s worth of work which didn’t have at least a few reports with a blank or two in them.

    I have to say that I really resent the “dissing” which is nowadays given to occupations which can be learned on the job. Like somehow you aren’t a “real” MT if you’ve learned on the job.

  10. Anyone ever heard of this adage: “Sometimes the ‘perfect’ is the enemy of the ‘good.'”

  11. I was writing in hopes of sharing some information I had found. Now I know the comments on here are almost a year old, but I needed to say this. I found that for people that can't afford CS, they could take classes through Everett Community College online. They are listed on the AHDI website as well as Career Step. They are a community college and have Pell grants as well, meaning they are accredited. The reason I wanted to say this is because they do have a test you have to pass to be enrolled. What surprised me though, is the classes you take are from Career Step. I have spoken with them as I wanted to enroll. I was one point from passing the test and was asked to take time to practice typing faster. My grammar and spelling were fine, but I wasn't fast enough. What I would like to know though when this was written, did you know that a college offers CS classes? I'm not being smart by asking this, please don't take it that way.  I was just asking this because if they are inadequate, then why would a college offer their classes?

  12. I've read this and i was interested in Medical Transcription but if its going to be like this , on the schools and colleges ,I've been  having it ruff on trying to find the right school, Ive been on this computer for 3 months off and on and i cant find the right one,If any one out their that knows of  a good school that is accredited and is approved with AHDI, Could you please write it on here ill check back, Or if any one  can write and let me know the school you went to on  your MT or CMT or RMT/I have been told so many times thru so many different schools and  colleges that no one has to be Certified to work as a Medical Transcription.So whats all the fuss about? I dont think no one is better than any one else in this filed-Medical Transcription, just as you know your the one that is doing the job right , I would say if a person gets a job and they do their best at their job and still working i would think that they have done their best and good at what they do, In the Health Field its Team Work /So you great Medical Transcription out their let me know what school- College you went to and maybe i can get my Diploma or a Certification when  completed the course and just maybe i can take that test CMT  and go from their and get my RMT, But i know i got a long way to go but need to know of a wonderful school- College that is accredited and approved AHDI.Please if any one out their can help im wanting to get started next month June 2010.
     
    Thank you so Much/Good Luck to each and every one .

  13. I wish Katie would post again and say whether she found a job… and what she thinks about her school choice a year later.

  14. To Sheila: Before you actually attempt to learn medical transcription, it’s expected that you will know something about spelling, punctuation, word usage, etc. If your comment above is truly indicative of your normal use/abuse of the English language, may I suggest that you learn how, or refresh your skills in spelling, punctuation, and word usage? Soundalike words will trip you up every time (their/they’re/there, to/two/too), and there are a lot of soundalike words in medical transcription.

  15. Kimberly: When I decided to get into this field, I was already going to college. I knew there were classes offered at the junior college level, but I didn’t want to drop everything else I was doing to take some classes, only to be a trainee anyway.

    I knew how to transcribe from word processing/secretarial jobs I’d already done. I have always been a really good speller, and I can string sentences together that make sense. I didn’t want to take six steps backward, so I decided to see if I could get trained on the job.

    I got a little bit of experience working at home for one transcription service, which gave me a little bit of medical stuff in addition to general business transcription. I also got some experience at a rather rotten transcription company… somehow they didn’t think computers were necessary to do this job! Ack!

    I then competed for, and won, a trainee job at a large Southern California teaching hospital. We took tests, then practiced on actual tapes for about 40 hours, and then took tests again. I was hired, and was the first trainee to be promoted to full transcriptionist level.

    As far as I am concerned, it would still be possible to be trained on the job if anyone were willing to do it.

    And I don’t agree that AHDI should be just handed control of this occupation on a platter. I have so many objections to their schemes for mandatory certification, licensing, etc., that I couldn’t list them all here.

  16. WOW! Some people can really get heated about this. I have worked closely with Career Step for over 5 years now and I think their AHDI approved training is excellent. As I read this article and skimmed through these comments I saw that some people are upset and “boggled” that Career Step doesn’t have live instructors. Well that can be a pro or a con- depending on your learning style. I prefer to self-study rather than have someone read to me something I can read myself. I do know that Career Step designed their course this way to be flexible. This way students can work on their course any time of day- not when an instructor is scheduled. Plus students can work on their course 30 minutes a day or 10 hours a day- whatever they want to. Its flexible.

    As far as having a prescreening test, that seems silly to me. I have gone to a community college and a university- neither of which required me to take a test before I enrolled. That is how a school is structured and Career Step is a school.

    I do know that Career Step uses hours and hours of real doctor dictation. I have heard of graduates from other schools who entered the job market and was unable to actually do the work because they trained with actor dictation who spoke slowly and clearly- which is just unrealistic. Something new that they have done is provided an online demo of their courses so you can see what they are like and how it is structured before you enroll. So for those of you who are unsure- see for yourself http://www.careerstep.com/demo/?uid=ref10077

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