I may earn a commission (at NO cost to you) if you buy using links on this page. This helps keep content free on Project Untethered, so thank you for your support! (See full disclosure)
So you want to become a transcriptionist, eh?
You’re in good company.
Freelance transcription gives you the freedom to work when you want and where you want.
And if you’re willing to sharpen your skills and hustle, you can make an honest living from the comfort of, well…anywhere.
Yes, you can technically teach yourself how to become a transcriptionist — more on that later. But for most people, this isn’t as easy as it sounds and usually ends in ripping your hair out.
A good transcription certification program makes your life easier, slashes the (surprisingly frustrating) learning curve, and helps you start earning money ASAP.
After 20+ hours of digging through various programs, here are the best transcription courses — both free and paid — that show you the fastest way to becoming a legit transcriptionist.
Table of Contents
- 5 Best transcription courses and online certifications
- What are the best medical transcription courses?
- What are the best legal transcription training courses?
- Are there any free transcription courses online?
- Do you need a transcription certification to work as a transcriptionist?
- Are online transcription courses worth it?
- TL;DR – Which transcriptionist course is right for you?
5 Best transcription courses and online certifications
1. Transcribe Anywhere
Transcribe Anywhere is the best transcription course on the market. It’s also one of the only transcriptionist courses approved by the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT).
I’ve taken both of them, and they both include everything you need to become a professional transcriptionist.
There’s no stone left unturned. They take you from a complete noob to an experienced transcriptionist.
Two things make Transcribe Anywhere really shine.
The first is the REAL practice tests (i.e. audio files that clients have actually needed to be transcribed). Most other courses give made-up practice assignment audio files, and these don’t do a good job of training you on real-life scenarios.
In real life, you might have to transcribe poor audio quality, strong accents, people interrupting each other, etc. Transcribe Anywhere prepares you for this, while other programs give “perfect condition” practice assignments that aren’t realistic.
The second is the forum and support. Many transcription certification programs unload a bunch of material on you, then disappear when you run into obstacles. This isn’t the case with Transcribe Anywhere.
Their team pretty much begs you to reach out for feedback and help if you need it. In other courses, you might get stuck and give up. But with TA, you have a team of experts in your corner ready to help.
The downside to TA is I wouldn’t exactly call the lessons “entertaining”. The bulk of it is text, and it kind of has a university course vibe.
But in the end, it comes down to the content itself, which is absolute gold — covering everything you need to know to succeed. Also, when it comes to learning transcription, reading text is easier to review and study than having to skip around a video.
Your best bet is to start with Janet’s free transcription course first to get your feet wet.
What you’ll learn:
Everything you need to know to become a general or legal transcriptionist. Keep in mind, if you start with the legal transcription course, you will automatically learn most of what’s in the general course.
✔️ Most comprehensive transcription course that we’ve found.
✔️ One of few courses accredited by the AAERT.
✔️ Time- and money-saving tips from a veteran transcriptionist.
✔️ Real-life practice material that prepares you for the real world.
✔️ Crazy good support and genuinely helpful community forum so you never feel alone on your journey.
✔️ Lifetime access.
❌ Pricey. (But you get what you pay for).
❌ No refunds. When you purchase, you’re committing to becoming a professional transcriptionist. No backing out.
Two to six months if you have a busy life. If you’re able to dedicate a few hours per day, you could potentially finish much faster.
Remember, this isn’t just a bunch of head knowledge you have to memorize. Transcribing is an actual skill you need to practice.
Compare it to learning to type, for example. You can’t just read about how to type and instantly become a speedy typer. You have to put in the reps to level up your typing skills. Same goes for transcription (no matter which course you choose).
💰 General transcription course: $497
💰 Legal transcription course: $597
💰 Bundle of both courses: $797
💰 Mini-course: Free
See my full Transcribe Anywhere review for an inside look into the course:
2. Transcription Certification Institute
The Transcription Certification Institute (TCI) is an alternative to Transcribe Anywhere for learning general transcription (no option for legal transcription).
TCI is self-paced with a mix of video and multimedia. It also offers a guaranteed internship after you graduate. This unpaid “internship” is technically just transcribing five hours of audio files for a real company.
Not super impressive, but certainly better than nothing.
They make no guarantees that the internship will turn into a paid gig, but it’s possible. Even if it doesn’t, the experience will beef up your portfolio with real work experience.
The downside is TCI isn’t accredited by the AAERT, and the information is more basic than Transcribe Anywhere. That means the “certification” you get is just something they invented, which may or may not help you in your job search.
The website is also a bit buggy, which can get frustrating.
Pricing is similar to the Transcribe Anywhere General Transcription course, so you have to decide which is more important to you…
If it’s certification with an AAERT-approved program, more detailed training (from beginner to advanced), and unlimited access to expert support, then Transcribe Anywhere is the way to go.
But if you like the idea of a guaranteed (unpaid) internship, then TCI can help.
If TCI weren’t so expensive, I’d be more excited to promote it. But since it costs the same as Transcribe Anywhere — which I consider the gold standard — your money is better spent there.
✔️ Practice transcription files with a range of difficulty levels, including access to their accuracy assessment tool.
✔️ Guaranteed internship — 5 hours of unpaid transcription work with a client or transcription company to build your resume (that could potentially lead to a job).
✔️ Covers all the bases (just not as in-depth).
❌ Not as in-depth as Transcribe Anywhere, yet costs the same.
❌ No free trial or mini-course to test the waters.
❌ Refund policy only valid before you reach Lesson 4.
❌ Website is buggy, which seems unprofessional.
❌ It can be hard to find the exact point in a video that has the information you’re looking for.
Self-paced, but they recommend completing it between three weeks and three months — any less and you’re not giving yourself enough time to practice; any more and you’re dragging your feet.
💰 $499 single payment or three $199 installments.
3. Transcription Skills – Learn Beginning to Advanced Skills
This is the highest-rated Udemy transcription course on Udemy’s platform, with over 2,200 ratings and 11,000 students.
It’s the best place to start for anyone who doesn’t have the budget for Transcribe Anywhere.
It doesn’t go into nearly as much detail as Transcribe Anywhere and is not approved by the AAERT, but it is enough to learn the ins and outs of transcription (if you’re self-motivated).
Being self-motivated is key though, as there is not any outside support or many opportunities to practice.
You learn the grammar and the basics of transcription software, but you’re on your own when it comes to practicing your skills (which is the hardest part), finding jobs once you’ve mastered the skills, managing your transcription business, etc.
Don’t expect super in-depth explanations or tons of examples. That’s not the goal here. The goal is to give you a solid overview of the skills you need to develop.
If you can afford to invest in Transcribe Anywhere, the extra guidance gives you a much better chance of success and will take you from beginner to actually earning money.
But if the TA’s price tag is preventing you from moving forward with transcription, this Udemy course can give you a strong start in the right direction.
It’s also a decent option if you’re not quite convinced that you even want to do transcription, and you’re simply interesting in learning more about what it’s like (without investing in a big training program).
✔️ A “crash course” you can finish in a day or two.
✔️ 30-day money-back guarantee.
❌ No support if you get stuck.
❌ Limited practice material — you will have to find your own if you want to get good enough to actually work as a transcriptionist.
❌ Video lessons were recorded a couple years ago, so software menus look a bit different now (but it’s still possible to figure out).
1 hour 30 minutes of video
💰 $64.99, but there are often discounts of 50% or more (check current discount with button below).
4. Learn How to Transcribe
This course by Elizabeth Le Roux is the top transcription course on Skillshare.
It’s similar to Udemy’s Transcription Skills in the sense that it’s not intended to go into the topic with super detail.
Instead, it’s a beginner’s course that gives you an overview of what you have to do as a professional transcriptionist, plus a few actionable tips to get started.
In my opinion, the best reason to sign up for this course is that you can get it for free with this extra-long free trial offer.
✔️ Focuses on the listening and comprehension aspects of transcribing.
✔️ Great crash course to learn to transcribe for beginners
✔️ You can finish it before your free Skillshare trial expires, so you pay nothing.
❌ Just covers the basics, not a comprehensive A to Z training program.
❌ If you don’t want to pay for a Skillshare monthly membership, you’ll lose access after your free trial is up.
❌ Not a lot of content, examples, or practice material.
1 hour 22 minutes
💰 Free if you use the affiliate button below that gives you an extra-long free trial.
5. Step-by-Step Transcription from Home
This is another one of the best transcription courses on Skillshare.
It’s similar to Learn How to Transcribe, and if you sign up for a free trial, you can take both courses.
Again, it’s a crash course for beginners, but it doesn’t go into enough depth to give you a distinct advantage over other newbie transcriptionists.
✔️ Gives a good idea of what it’s like to work as a transcriptionist.
✔️ It’s short, and you can go through it in one sitting.
✔️ Free with trial.
❌ Don’t expect a lot of depth in the courses’ modules.
❌ You only get free access for a limited time.
1 hour 48 minutes
💰 Free if you use the affiliate button below that gives you an extra-long free trial.
What are the best medical transcription courses?
The two main differences between medical and general transcription are the specific terminology and the fact that some states require medical transcriptions to be certified by an accredited institution.
This means that not every online medical transcription course will give you the credentials to land a job.
You need to be careful that the transcriptionist certification you’re earning is recognized in the state you want to work in.
Medical transcription programs are often offered as diploma programs or associate degrees at community colleges, and many of these options are available completely online.
To make sure you’re choosing a program that’ll work for you, you should first research the requirements for medical transcriptionists in your area.
Since these requirements vary by location, it’s impossible to recommend one medical transcription course to rule them all.
What are the best legal transcription training courses?
The best legal transcription course online is the one provided by Transcribe Anywhere.
I have yet to find another online legal transcription training that gives a comparable amount of depth and detail.
The alternative would be to enroll in an associate’s degree program for legal administrative assistants and paralegals. These programs often include legal transcription as part of the curriculum. Some community colleges offer programs specifically for transcription, but these are rare.
That said, an associate’s degree for paralegals is overkill for someone who just wants to become a legal transcriptionist. Not only would this route take nearly two years longer, but tuition would likely cost thousands of dollars more than Transcribe Anywhere.
Compared to a pricey associate’s degree, Transcribe Anywhere’s Legal Transcription program costs $597, which can be spread out into four payments of $150.
Are there any free transcription courses online?
There are a few free transcription courses online that are worth your time.
The first is the free mini-course offered by Transcribe Anywhere.
It’s a seven-lesson transcription training course that covers the basics of how to get started as a transcriptionist.
Another option is to take advantage of the free trial period on Skillshare, which houses several transcription courses. That said, other than the courses we highlighted in this article, they may be hit or miss.
Do you need a transcription certification to work as a transcriptionist?
For the most part, you do not need any particular certification to work as a general or legal transcriptionist.
Most platforms or employers are more interested in your ability to get the job done. The catch is, to get the job done, you have to actually be a skilled transcriptionist.
This doesn’t happen magically by itself, and — without a proper training program — requires high levels of discipline, resourcefulness, and patience.
People without these traits tend to give up unless they are following a structured transcriptionist program.
That said, if you do have these traits, nothing is stopping you from teaching yourself.
You need to be willing to do your own research, create your own learning plan, decide which transcription tools are worth investing in (and which you can skip), teach yourself the ins and outs of transcription software, find practice assignments with progressive difficulty levels, stick to a practice regiment, and learn how to find work once you’ve mastered your skills.
As you can see, this route is best if you don’t have money to invest in a course, but you do have plenty of extra TIME to invest.
The exception to all this is medical transcription where you may need certification from an accredited institution. The requirements vary by state, so do some digging for information about where you live.
For example, some institutions require you to complete the Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist (RHDS) exam or the Certified Healthcare Documentation Specialist (CHDS) to be eligible for employment.
Are online transcription courses worth it?
If it’s a good one, the answer is yes — online transcription courses are worth it.
Sure, you can technically open up a bunch of random Youtube videos and blog posts and try to learn how to transcribe. But not all the information you come across will be reliable.
And even if it is, your time is valuable.
Piecing together a plan is tedious, requires lots of time, and offers no guarantee of success. It might feel like you’re learning for “free”. But if it takes 50+ extra hours to learn the “free” way, those are 50 hours you could have been earning money had you followed a proven program.
There’s nothing wrong with teaching yourself. But the time, trial-and-error, and frustration that a good transcription course saves you make it a worthwhile shortcut.
TL;DR – Which transcriptionist course is right for you?
If you are just toying with the idea of becoming a transcriptionist, then your best bet is to start with the free 7-day mini-course we mentioned.
This will teach you all about transcription without requiring you to commit to anything.
If you are 100% sure transcription is for you and you plan to make a career out of it, then you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t take this course.
Sure, you can dabble with the other free and cheap transcription courses mentioned in this article. You’ll find some good nuggets, but they only get you so far.
Starting a new career is a big life decision. You want to do everything in your power to maximize your odds of success.
Mitch is your typical nomadic backpacker. Or at least, he was. But after stopping in Colombia to take “one week” of salsa lessons, his life took a sharp left turn. He met a cute Colombian girl in dance class, fell in love, and got married. Over half a decade has passed since he left his career to travel the world as a digital nomad, and he’s never looked back.
Nowadays, he’s the blogger behind Project Untethered — where he runs an awesome email newsletter and Youtube channel teaching adventure-craved wanderlusters how to escape the rat race, earn money from anywhere, and build an “untethered life”.
His advice has been featured in Forbes, USA Today, Yahoo, MSN, Reader’s Digest, Condé Nast Traveler, and more.
Mitch's Travel Recommendations:
Travel Planning Resources - Everything you need to plan your trip on one convenient page.
Going Cheap Flights Newsletter - Get flight deals from your airport up to 90% off sent straight to your inbox.
Safetywing Insurance - This cheap travel insurance has saved me over $15,000 in medical bills.
Booking.com - Book accommodation without adding your credit card (in case you need to cancel).
Trusted House Sitters - Take care of pets in exchange for free (sometimes luxury) accommodation.
Flexjobs - Find remote jobs without having to sift through crappy ones.
Skillshare - Free trial to take unlimited classes that teach digital nomad skills.
Wise - Send and receive money abroad cheaply (great for freelancers).