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Stenographer: Career Summary and Educational Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a stenographer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

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A stenographer's job is to input dialogue spoken in court into a special typewriter machine for record purposes. A license, certification, and passing an exam are mandatory, and the knowledge and skills needed are obtained through a certificate or degree program.

Essential Information

Stenographers, or court reporters, prepare accounts of meetings, speeches, legal proceedings and other events where exact written transcripts are necessary. Completion of a postsecondary certificate or associate's program is usually required for this profession. Certification as a Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) is often necessary; and a license or certification and typing test is also needed in many states.

Required Education Postsecondary certificate or associate's program usually required
Other Requirements Licensure, RPR certification and typing test often required by states; work requires concentration and sitting for long periods of time
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 2%
Mean Salary (2015)* $54,720 annually

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Summary of a Stenographer

Stenographers use stenotype machines that allow users to record shorthand versions of sounds or words. This system is roughly based on the phonetic sounds of words, allowing stenographers to press multiple keys at one time to make entire words. Although they may often work during court hearings or other legal proceedings, stenographers can also be found at business meetings, press conferences and training seminars.

Job Duties

A stenographer's job begins with the creation of a computer dictionary of words and partial words that is used to translate the stenotype machine keystrokes into text. After transcribing events, stenographers must then prepare and edit the written transcripts to ensure proper spelling of names and places, correct grammar and accurate terminology. They may also provide copies of transcripts as requested.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Salary statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicate court reporters averaged a salary of $54,720 in 2015. The BLS data shows 17,670 court reporters were employed in the U.S. as of May 2015. The field is expected to grow by 2%, adding 300 jobs over the 2014-2024 decade, according to the BLS.

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Educational Requirements for Stenographers

The BLS reports that vocational schools and colleges offer training programs for stenographers that usually take about 33 months to complete (www.bls.gov). The BLS also notes that there are more than 60 programs that are certified by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA). Graduates of these programs are able to take down at least 225 words per minute, which is also the minimum required for federal government work.

Coursework in stenography programs may include word processing and transcript preparation. Students are taught to use specialized instruments and techniques to enhance their transcription speed. Programs may also offer internships in which qualified students may transcribe courtroom events and properly index transcriptions.

Certification Information for Stenographers

While certification is voluntary, stenographers may choose to become certified in order to improve their career opportunities. The NCRA offers the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) designation, which requires passing a 4-part exam that tests students on their courtroom reporting knowledge and skills (www.ncraonline.org). The NCRA also offers certifications for more advanced stenographers, such as the Registered Merit Reporter (RMR) and the Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR) designations. To earn these advanced certifications, candidates must have first received the RPR designation, pass additional tests with both knowledge and skills components and be members of the NCRA for a certain number of years.

Since job growth in this field is quite slow, stenographers with remarkable typing abilities will be the ones getting work. Experience, proficiency and speediness in shorthand machine typing are crucial to this job, along with good concentration skills.

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