Transcription Equipment: What Do You Need to Work as a Transcriptionist?

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Transcription Equipment

Working as a transcriptionist is a practical and flexible way to make money from home. If you’ve got some typing skills, this may be a job or side hustle that you’ll want to consider.

To work as a transcriptionist, you’ll need a few basic pieces of equipment. This article covers the most essential transcription equipment that will help you to get started working and making money with one of the best transcription jobs.

Some of the equipment is necessary, and a few things are optional (the optional ones are indicated). You may even have some of these things already.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to get started as a transcriptionist, please see my article and interview with Janet Shaughnessy, How to Become a Transcriptionist.

Transcription Equipment

Here are the different transcriptionist tools you’ll need.

1. PC (Desktop or Laptop)

The most basic piece of transcribing equipment that you’ll need is a PC. You don’t need anything fancy or expensive, just a simple (but reliable) PC will do the job. Some of the leading transcription software is Windows-only, so I recommend going with a PC instead of a Mac for the purposes of working as a transcriber.

Chances are, you probably already have a PC that will get the job done. If you currently have a Mac and no PC, you can choose software and equipment that will work with your Mac to avoid buying a PC.

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2. Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word is the leading word processor. Most Microsoft Word alternatives are able to open files saved in Word, so having access to Word is a great way to ensure the files that you create and save are able to be used by just about anyone.

3. Headset

A good headset is essential transcription equipment. As a transcriber, you’ll be wearing a headset most of the time you’re working, so you’ll want to choose carefully. The headset should be comfortable since you will be wearing it so much.

There are a few different types of headsets you could choose from.

Over-the-ear headsets cover your entire ear. Noise-canceling headphones will often come in this style, and over-the-ear headphones tend to be very comfortable as well.

Other headsets will rest on your ears instead of covering the whole ear. Some will be more comfortable than others, and it may be a matter of personal preference.

Earbuds and in-ear headphones are another option, although some people find that they’re not as comfortable for long periods of time.

You can also consider wireless headphones. The wire or cord can get caught on your chair or get in your way, so wireless headphones are preferred by some transcribers. The wireless varieties do tend to cost more money, and sometimes they are not as reliable, so there is a tradeoff.

ECS OHUSB WordSlinger Deluxe Overhead USB Transcription Headset

This headset is made specifically for transcribing and dictating. It has a 7-foot cord and a USB plug. You can easily adjust the volume on the headset without touching the computer. These on-ear headphones were designed for comfort with thick foam padding.

ECS OHUSB WordSlinger Deluxe Overhead USB Transcription Headset

Spectra USB Transcription Headset

This headset is a good bit cheaper, and still an excellent option. The cord is 10-feet long and has a USB plug. You’ll also be able to control the volume from the headset.

Spectra USB Transcription Headset

4. Transcription Software

The software you choose is one of the most important transcription tools and will have a big impact on your work. There are some free options available, but they’re all limited and you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get much better software. Here’s a look at a few of the leading options.

Express Scribe

One of the most popular options, Express Scribe is suitable for beginners as well as more advanced and experienced transcribers. It costs less than $40, so it’s not going to set you back a lot. It works with both audio and video files and comes in PC and Mac versions. You can use Express Scribe with a foot pedal (more on that later) or with hotkeys.

The FTW Transcriber

The FTW Transcriber comes with a free version that has limited functionality, or you can upgrade for $1 per month. This software is for PC and a Mac version is not available. There’s a version you can use on an Android device, but in general, you’ll want to use a desktop or laptop for your transcription work.


Inqscribe is another good option that can be used with both PC and Mac, and with audio or video files. A 14-day free trial is available, and the full version costs $99.

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5. Foot Pedal

The foot pedal is another important piece of transcription equipment. You can use the foot pedal for things like pausing the audio, fast-forwarding, and rewinding. Being able to do these things with your feet will free up your hands (as opposed to using hotkeys) and allow you to work faster.

There are many different foot pedals available. When choosing, be sure that the foot pedal is compatible with your preferred digital transcription software, and also be sure that you’re getting the right version (PC or Mac). If you’re going to be doing a lot of transcription work, you’ll probably want to avoid the cheapest options because they are usually not very durable.

  • Infinity IN-USB-1 USB Computer Transcription Foot Pedal – This is a high-quality, durable foot pedal made with an ergonomic design to prevent foot fatigue. It has a USB cable and works with most popular transcription software (for PC).
  • Digital USB Foot Pedal for Express Scribe Pro Software – If you are using the Express Scribe software, this is an excellent foot pedal. It is also a quality, durable option that features ergonomic design. This one also has configurable functions, so you can set it up however you like.
  • Philips ACC2310 3-Pedal Foot Control – This is another excellent choice that will work with most of the leading software options, including Express Scribe. Like the others listed here, this one features an ergonomic design.

Transcription Kit (Optional)

Instead of buying the headset, software, and foot pedal separately, you could buy all of them together in a transcription kit. You’ll also find kits with just the software and foot pedal, which can be a good option if you already have headphones that you like.

One of the nice things about a kit is that you know all of the transcriber equipment pieces will be compatible with each other.

The downside of buying a kit is that the individual items may not be your preferred choice. For example, you may not find a kit or bundle that includes the software you want to use, along with a foot pedal that you like and headset of your favorite style.

The good news is there are many different kits available, so you can probably find one that works well for you. Here are a few good options.

6. Ergonomic Desk Chair

Since you’ll be spending a lot of time sitting at a computer desk, it’s important that you have a quality, comfortable ergonomic office chair. A good chair can make a huge difference for your back and neck, and you’ll be glad you spent a little extra to get a good quality chair. So while it’s not technically essential transcriptionist equipment, it is highly recommended.

Ergonomic chairs can get very expensive, with some costing more than $1,000. That is out of the budget for most people, but the three options here are all much, much more affordable.

Duramont Ergonomic Adjustable Office Chair

Duramont Ergonomic Adjustable Office Chair

Amazon Basics High-Back Desk Chair

Amazon Basics High-Back Desk Chair

Sihoo Ergonomics Office Chair

Sihoo Ergonomics Office Chair

7. Text Expander (Optional)

The use of a text expander is not 100% necessary, but it can save you a lot of time and help you to type faster, which makes you more money. In addition to the speed benefits, a text expander can also help to reduce errors.

Text expanders work somewhat similar to the way autocomplete works on a smartphone. With the help of a text expander you can use abbreviations or shortened forms of words or phrases and it will type out the whole thing for you.

The best practice is to use text expanders for words and phrases that you type repeatedly. Rather than typing the same things over and over again, you can type a shortened version to save time. For both legal and medical transcription, you will find that you type some of the same words and phrases a lot, so there is plenty of use for a text expander.

Some people claim that a text expander can improve typing speeds by up to 30%! When you are being paid based on your speed, that’s a big deal.

One of the leading options is Phrase Express, which works for both Windows and Mac. The price ranges from $49 – $219, depending on the version that you need.

If you’re just getting started with transcription, this is an expense that you can do without for now. But once you know that you want to spend more time working as a transcriber, this will be well worth the investment.

8. Law Dictionary or Medical Dictionary (Optional)

If you’re working in the legal or medical fields, like most transcriptionists, there will be a lot of technical terms involved in your work. It’s helpful to have a specialized dictionary handy in case you need to look something up to understand the meaning or to verify a spelling.

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law and Merriam-Webster’s Medical Dictionary are great options (you can buy these used to save some money).


There’s really not that much equipment that you’ll need to work as a transcriptionist, and you may already have some of the items. Hopefully, this article helps you to find the remaining items that you need in order to get started.

Be sure to check out Transcription Foundations: Free 7-Lesson Mini-Course with Janet Shaughnessy to learn how to get started making money right away.

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