Independent Home Study FAQs

Frequently asked questions: Studying medical transcription at home by independent study with The SUM Program units

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Q. How long does it take to complete The SUM Program?

A. The average student completes the transcription portion of Beginning Medical Transcription, 2nd ed., in about 160 hours. An additional 240 hours is needed to complete the reading assignments and exercises-- about 400 hours total. If you study 30 hours per week, it will take less than 4 months; 20 hours per week will take less than 6 months.

The Surgery Transcription Unit can be completed in 160 hours. Each advanced unit (Cardiology, Gastrointestinal, Orthopedics, Radiology, Pathology) takes 80 hours to complete--about 400 hours for all five.

Download the Student Syllabus to see the reading and transcription assignments HPI recommends for students learning on their own from home.

Note: This is a self-directed curriculum which you complete at your own pace. Self directed students do not have an instructor. If you feel you need an instructor, there are many schools and distance learning programs teaching medical transcription with The SUM Program.

Q. Will I need to complete ALL of The SUM Program training units (beginning, intermediate, and advanced) to become a qualified medical transcriptionist?

A. Beginning Medical Transcription, 2nd ed., prepares you to transcribe most physician office dictation. However, it contains no surgeries or advanced dictations, so it does not prepare you to transcribe hospital dictation. Plan to complete the intermediate-level Surgery Transcription Unit and the Advanced Medical Transcription CD, even if you begin working after finishing the beginning unit. Remember, the more skilled you are, the better your earning potential throughout your career.

Q. Will I receive a degree or certificate after completing The SUM Program?

A. No degree or certificate is awarded to students who complete The SUM Program through self-directed study. Health Professions Institute is a private research and development company providing educational materials to schools and hospitals and is NOT a school. Self-directed students who have properly completed beginning, intermediate, and advanced courses in The SUM Program develop marketable job skills. Employers favor a demonstration of skills and ability over a certificate or degree.


Q. Is Health Professions Institute accredited? 

A. HPI is a private research and development company, not a school; thus, it neither accredits nor is it accredited. However, The SUM Program for Medical Transcription Training is used in hundreds of accredited colleges throughout the country in courses that have been reviewed and approved for both academic and vocational credit by the same accrediting bodies that review university courses.  You can find a medical transcription school that uses The SUM Program curriculum.


Q. Do I need a credential to work as a medical transcriptionist?

A. Though a credential is NOT required for employment in the medical transcription field, some facilities may offer incentives to transcriptionists to become credentialed. Check with your local or national professional association for information on credentialing. NOTE: A certificate of completion from a training program is not the equivalent of a professional credential.

Q. Isn’t classroom study better than studying on my own?

A. Thousands of individuals have successfully used The SUM Program outside the classroom to prepare for medical transcription careers. Unlike traditional classroom education, you are not held back or rushed ahead by other students who may have different backgrounds and learning styles. In addition, studying on your own allows you to set up a schedule that corresponds with your best learning times and allows for the demands of family and job responsibilities.  However, some students just won't be successful if they don't have a teacher who sets deadlines for their assignments, evaluates their progress, and mentors them toward a successful career in medical transcription. 

Q. Won’t my training be better if I have a teacher—even if by long distance?

A. Self-directed study is ideal for mature students who are motivated and goal-oriented. Many individuals prefer this method because it can provide benefits that are not available through formal distance education, including flexible study schedules and freedom from the stress of tests and time limits. Self-directed SUM Program students are provided with step-by-step instructions for completing reading, exercise, and transcription practice assignments. They check their own transcripts against the answer keys and retranscribe as often as necessary until they achieve mastery.

Q. If I am not in a classroom, how will I network with other medical transcriptionists?

A.  Networking is important for all prospective medical transcriptionists. Self-directed students are welcomed at professional association meetings and can find many opportunities to interact with colleagues. As well, the Internet has become a global “meeting place” for both prospective and experienced MTs. All students will benefit from meeting professional medical transcriptionists in their communities and online who may serve as mentors or guides.

Q. Will I ever use all these textbooks and reference books after I finish training with The SUM Program?

A. Absolutely. You will use all of these books frequently when working as a transcriptionist, and they will become a permanent part of your professional reference library.

Q. I’ve heard that medical transcriptionists make a great deal of money. How much can I expect to earn?

A. Medical transcription is a rewarding, interesting career that provides maximum flexibility and excellent earning potential that increases steadily over time. Entry-level transcriptionists can expect to earn at least twice the hourly minimum wage in larger cities, perhaps less in other areas. It is not unusual for highly experienced transcriptionists, especially those who are paid on production, to earn $60,000 per year or more. Your income will increase as you gain experience, but medical transcription is not a get-rich-quick profession.

Q. Does HPI offer financial aid?

A. Because HPI is not a school, Pell grants or federally insured student loans cannot be used to purchase The SUM Program. HPI accepts VISA, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, cash, and checks, and will divide an order over multiple charge cards if necessary.


Q. With the availability of sophisticated spellchecking software today, why is it necessary to have good spelling skills?

A. Good spelling skills are a must in medical transcription. There are many similarly spelled words and soundalikes in medicine and pharmacology with completely different meanings. Spellchecking software can detect an incorrectly spelled word but NOT a wrong word choice. Spellcheckers are a helpful tool in the hands of an experienced transcriptionist with good spelling ability. We recommend that beginning transcriptionists NOT use spellchecking software but rely on medical dictionaries and references with definitions.  This will your medical vocabulary and enhance your learning experience in ways that a spellchecker can't.

Q. If I’ve already taken a medical terminology course, can I just skip that part?

A. One of the reasons for the success of The SUM Program is its integration of academic coursework with transcription of related dictation by body system. If you have completed previous course work in medical terminology or another subject area, your review of this material within the framework of The SUM Program will help clarify new concepts.

Q. I already have some transcription experience.  Am I ready for the advanced units?

A. An individual who has transcribed a wide variety of dictations in a multispecialty environment, such as a small hospital or very large clinic, can begin with the advanced SUM Program units. However, if this experience does not include extensive transcription of operative reports, then the Surgery Transcription Unit is the best preparation for the advanced units. Those who have transcribed for one physician or a small group practice and have experience in only a few specialties should start with Beginning Medical Transcription.


Q. I’m a nursing professional with extensive experience and don’t need any more medical training.  Can I just complete the dictation only?

A. Studying medicine from the perspective of a medical transcriptionist is much different from other healthcare fields. Nurses—and even physicians—require a great deal of preparation to build good transcription skills. Your medical background will give you an advantage in your studies, but it is not a substitute for the academic portion of the program.

Q. As a court reporter, I’m already a skilled transcriptionist and have taken many medical depositions. Is there a shortcut for me?

A. Medical transcriptionists work under very different conditions than court reporters and with different goals for the documents they produce. In medical transcription, medical accuracy is preferred over a verbatim transcript. Court reporters make excellent candidates for medical transcription programs and may not require a full course of study to develop the necessary skills.