Become a Stenographer

by Nancy

Stenography refers to the process of writing with a special shorthand language, known as steno. Steno focuses on spoken syllables instead of writing words out letter by letter.

This allows recorders, known as stenographers, to quickly record conversations without having to ask either party to pause. They use specialized keyboards, which allow them to accurately record over 200 words per minute. As of writing, the standard keyboard is the Luminex.

Stenographers are mostly employed in a courtroom setting. While the bulk of the work is done in court, there are other instances where a stenographer is needed. Some stenographers work with television studios, providing closed captioning for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Stenographers are also used to record certain government proceedings as well. Companies may also temporarily hire a stenographer to record important business proceedings. More information about starting a career as a stenographer is detailed below.

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Becoming a Stenographer

There are several necessary skills to become a stenographer. Typing fast is a priority, but you must also have a basic understanding of what you are typing. While it is not technically required, you are strongly encouraged to complete an associate’s degree for stenography. It normally takes between two to three years to earn an associate degree. During this period, you learn how to use programs related to stenography. You also learn about different legal, medical and courtroom terminology. Taking classes is also one of the best ways to develop your typing skills and get practical experience. At a minimum, you must be able to type 200 words per minute if you want to succeed as a stenographer.

If you are more interested in working for a television studio, consider taking an American Sign Language (ASL) or deaf studies course. Taking these classes is not required to be a stenographer, but it is an excellent addition to your resume. It shows potential employers you care and understand the needs of the deaf community.

Obtaining your Stenography License

Once you have an associate degree, or feel you are confident enough in your abilities without one, the next step is to apply for a state license. The requirements to become a stenographer vary depending on where you live. In some states, you can take the certification test whenever you are ready, while other states require you to be a notary public before completing the exam. There may also be additional certifications based on your specialty. For example, in some states, you must be a Certified Verbatim Reporter for broadcast stenography.

Certification is available from two separate groups. The first is the States Court Reporters Association (USCRA). The second is the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA). There may also be additional tests available from your local state departments. These exams are short, primarily focusing on your ability to record dictation, testing both your accuracy and how many words you write per minute.

Real Time vs. Offline Captioning

There are two different types of stenographers, real time and offline. Real time means you attend live events and directly transcribe events as they are happening. If there is a live news report, you create the captions while the speakers are talking. This is sometimes referred to as broadcast stenography. In comparison, offline captioning is when you receive a copy of a speech and make transcriptions based on the recording.

The majority of stenography jobs occur in real time, but there is an increase in demand for offline stenographers. Despite what the name implies, many online services require an offline stenographer. For example, podcast hosts hire stenographers to write out the entire episode, allowing deaf users to read and understand what is happening. Larger content creators on video hosting sites may also hire an offline stenographer to go through the video and create captions.

You do not need to specialize in either real time or offline captioning. One of the benefits of offline captioning is you can do it during your downtime, taking jobs whenever you need extra income, while prioritizing real time stenography. Because real time stenography is more difficult, it typically pays more than offline stenography. On average, stenographers make around $68,000 if they work for a court or government, or $50,000 if they work with corporations or businesses. Because it has a more erratic schedule, and the cost per job varies so much, it is harder to predict the cost of offline stenography.

Benefits of Becoming a Stenographer

There are many benefits for becoming a stenographer. While it may seem like a unique position, stenographers are in high demand, especially if you work in the legal system. These are also some of the highest paying jobs. In some of the larger cities, such as New York or Los Angeles, you can make close to $90,000.

It is also a high paying career with minimal education requirements. You must understand basic terminology and have good grammar, but otherwise, the biggest requirement is your ability to write. It is a career with flexible schedules, often allowing you to set specific hours and days you want to work.