Stenographer Career Info, Job Duties and Employment Outlook

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

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A stenographer, or court reporter, works in the courtroom and transcribes spoken words by typing them into a steno machine, a kind of shorthand typewriter. Fast and accurate typing skills are vital for a stenographer job. Stenographers have to be licensed and certified in addition to passing a special exam.

Essential Information

Stenographers, sometimes called court reporters, are responsible for court and medical transcription and live broadcast captioning for the deaf and elderly. They use shorthand and a steno machine to transcribe information and commit it to the public record. They train through certificate or associate's degree programs and must be fast and accurate typists. Individuals who work in the court system must be licensed and professionally certified in many states.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that job growth in this field will be slower than average for all occupations through 2024, with the best opportunities for stenographers trained in Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) or those who can go with clients to medical appointments or public meetings to provide transcription services.

Required Education Certificate or associate's degree in court reporting
Other Requirements Many states require licensure and professional certification
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 2% for all court reporters
Median Salary (2015)* $49,500 for all court reporters

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

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Stenographer Career Info

Stenographers are responsible for transcribing exact legal or medical proceedings for the record. Stenographers are employed primarily by courts and those in the legal profession, because lawyers and court officials need an exact transcript to use during trials. There is no room for error in the stenography profession, and most in the occupation learn to type at 225 words per minute in order to capture entire conversations quickly and accurately.

Each state has different requirements for stenographers, but all states require stenographers to pass examinations to gain their credentials before they are employed in courts. In most cases, individuals must pass a voice writer test with a written portion covering grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Job Duties

Stenographers must learn a type of shorthand, an abbreviated language form that is designed for rapid transcription, to take notes on a steno machine in order to catch each word that is spoken. Once the notes are entered into the machine by the stenographer, they are translated by computer software into English. The stenographer responsible for recording the proceedings takes the rough transcript and proofreads it before creating a final transcript and committing it to official record. Stenographers must have a good grasp of legal and, for some jobs, medical terminology as well as complete proficiency in the English language to do their jobs to employer standards.

Career Outlook

According to the BLS, the job outlook for stenographers should be slower than the average for all professions. Court reporting was projected to grow by 2% between years 2014-2024. Court reporters with certification were expected to still be in demand, especially in some federal and state courts. Because of growing costs, courts are at times using digital audio recording to replace stenographers, but other markets, such as live captioning for the deaf and elderly, are growing very quickly.

The more efficiently and accurately a stenographer can type, the higher their chances of finding work. Some schools may even offer associate degree programs for stenographers to increase their skills. The job outlook isn't strong, only progressing at 2%, but may increase more in markets like live captioning.

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