Blog Post

Spitiko > Business > What is a stenographer? How to become one? What is stenography salary?
The stenographer took shorthand

What is a stenographer? How to become one? What is stenography salary?

If transcription work appeals to you, you might want to explore a career in stenography. Knowing the steps to become a stenographer can guide you in planning your education, seeking on-the-job training, and obtaining relevant certifications to achieve your career objectives.

Since stenographers are employed across various industries, understanding the field can help you determine which sector best suits your interests. In this article, we’ll discuss what stenographers do, their responsibilities, how to enter the field, and explore the career prospects and typical salaries for stenographers.

Related article:

What is a stenographer?

A stenographer is a professional who specializes in transcribing spoken words into written form in real-time, typically using a specialized shorthand writing system called stenography. Stenographers often work in various settings such as courtrooms, legislative assemblies, business meetings, and conferences. They use stenotype machines or shorthand symbols to record proceedings quickly and accurately. Their transcripts serve as official records or aids for communication and documentation.

What are their responsibilities?

Stenographers have several key responsibilities, including:

  1. Transcribing Speech: Their primary duty is to accurately transcribe spoken words into written form using shorthand or stenotype machines.
  2. Real-time Recording: Stenographers often work in real-time environments, such as courtrooms or live events, where they must transcribe proceedings as they happen.
  3. Accuracy: They must ensure the accuracy of their transcriptions, capturing all spoken words and nuances correctly.
  4. Confidentiality: Stenographers are entrusted with sensitive information, so they must maintain strict confidentiality and adhere to ethical standards.
  5. Verbatim Reporting: Stenographers aim to capture speech verbatim, including tone, emphasis, and any non-verbal communication that may be relevant.
  6. Editing and Formatting: Depending on the context, stenographers may need to edit and format their transcripts for clarity and readability.
  7. Collaboration: Stenographers often work closely with other professionals, such as judges, lawyers, or event organizers, to ensure accurate transcription and address any specific requirements.
  8. Continuous Learning: Stenography techniques and technologies evolve, so stenographers need to stay updated with the latest tools and practices in their field.

Overall, the responsibilities of a stenographer revolve around accurately capturing spoken language in various professional settings while upholding standards of accuracy, confidentiality, and professionalism.

Stenography Machines

A stenography machine, also known as a steno machine, is a tool court reporters use to create a precise written record of legal proceedings. Whether working live or from recorded sessions, court reporters must maintain speed and accuracy at all times. To meet the demanding speed requirements (at least 225 words per minute), steno machines employ a phonetic shorthand system that allows reporters to write entire words and phrases in a single keystroke, enabling them to achieve high speeds.

How does the keyboard of a steno machine work?

Similar to a QWERTY keyboard, there’s a “home row” where strokes begin, but with steno machines, initial and final consonants of syllables or words are positioned on the left and right sides of the keyboard. Unlike standard keyboards, not every letter has its own key; instead, combinations of keys are pressed simultaneously. Additionally, unlike standard keyboards, multiple keys can be pressed simultaneously.

The asterisk key in the middle, situated between the consonant banks, is used for correcting the last or multiple strokes. Below the consonant keys are four keys for vowels. Although there are five vowels, the vowel “I” doesn’t have its own key; a short “I” is represented by the E and U keys on the right, while a long “I” is indicated by depressing all four vowel keys together, making stenography somewhat akin to a foreign language. Finally, the bar across the top of the machine is reserved for writing numbers.

Steno machines operate without space bars or return keys. Instead, words move the type through the machine without regular spacing.

How to become a stenographer?

While you don’t necessarily need a degree to work as a stenographer, having one can be beneficial, especially if it’s related to communication or language. Degrees in fields like Criminology, English, Information Technology, Journalism, or Law can prepare you well for verbatim reporting.

It’s also helpful to have a degree relevant to the subject area you’ll be reporting on. For instance, if you’re reporting in the medical field, a degree in Biological Science could help you understand key terminology. Similarly, for criminal hearings, a degree in Criminology might come in handy.

Learning Teeline shorthand is essential for stenographers. Many people learn Teeline through courses provided by organizations like the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) or Pitman Training. Some stenographers take shorthand exams offered by institutions like the British Institute for Verbatim Reporters (BIVR) to demonstrate their skills, especially if they work freelance.

You can also consider pursuing an apprenticeship in stenography, also known as court reporting. These apprenticeships are usually at Level 3 and require a minimum of 5 GCSEs at grades 9-4 (A*-C). You might find apprenticeship opportunities advertised by the NCTJ or through local providers.

Here are the outlines of what you’ll actually need to become a stenographer.

Finish high school

Start by completing your secondary education, typically through high school. Developing strong English language skills during this time is crucial for a successful stenography career. Take advantage of courses in English and creative writing to improve your reading, writing, and listening abilities.

Explore post-secondary options

There are two primary paths for aspiring stenographers after high school—vocational school and community college. Vocational school programs often lead to a certificate, while community college programs usually result in an associate degree. Both paths typically take between two to four years to complete. During your post-secondary studies, you’ll delve into subjects such as English grammar, typing, shorthand stenography, and the operation of specialized stenography equipment.

You’ll also learn vocabulary relevant to stenography fields like law, business, and medicine. Additionally, courses may cover judicial ethics and how to record jury charges—instructions given by a judge to a jury regarding their duties. After completing your post-secondary education, you can consider seeking on-the-job training opportunities.

Engage in on-the-job training

Whether you’ve completed secondary school or a post-secondary stenography program, pursuing on-the-job training provides valuable practical experience in stenography, enhancing your career prospects. On-the-job stenography training typically includes:

  • Reviewing equipment manuals with trainers
  • Familiarizing yourself with stenography machines
  • Observing experienced stenographers in action

Select an industry

After finishing your post-secondary education or on-the-job training, consider which industry aligns best with your interests. Researching the speed and accuracy requirements of different industries can help you make an informed decision. Stenographers often find employment in fields such as:

  • Medical
  • Legal
  • Business
  • Entertainment

Obtain state certification as a stenographer: Each state has its own certification criteria for stenographers. Most states mandate obtaining a Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) certificate before starting entry-level stenography roles. To obtain an RPR certification, new stenographers typically need to pass an exam covering fundamental stenography skills like typing, legal terminology, and ethics. Familiarizing yourself with your state’s certification requirements can better prepare you for a successful stenography career.

Keep learning

Stenographers must regularly participate in continuing education and undergo speed tests to maintain their qualifications. For instance, the National Court Reporter Association (NCRA) requires stenographers with RPR certification to complete a minimum of three continuing education units every three years. These courses cover new stenography techniques and technologies, ensuring that stenographers stay current in their field.

Pursue additional certifications

Beyond the RPR certification, stenographers often seek further qualifications, including:

  • Registered Merit Reporter (RMR) certification: Designed for mid-career court reporters looking to enhance their earning potential and networking opportunities.
  • Certified Electronic Court Reporter (CER) certification: Offered by the American Association of Electronic Transcribers for voice reporters and digital transcribers.
  • Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR) certification: Particularly beneficial for stenographers aiming to showcase their proficiency in capturing live events and broadcasts.
  • Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR) certification: The highest level of certification, demonstrating a court reporter’s advanced skills in producing accurate verbatim records of court proceedings, encompassing both spoken and nonverbal communication.

Stenographer skills

As a stenographer, your skills blend rapid transcription with a solid grasp of your industry. Here are some essential skills:

  1. Proficiency in shorthand writing, whether by hand or using a stenograph keyboard.
  2. Ability to convert shorthand into clear, detailed English text.
  3. Strong listening skills to ensure accurate and swift transcription.
  4. Excellent written communication skills for retranscribing audio recordings accurately.
  5. Strong verbal communication skills to confidently present transcriptions.
  6. Familiarity with the relevant fields such as law, medicine, or government, including key vocabulary and terminology.
  7. Competence in using stenography software and a stenotype keyboard, along with error detection skills.
  8. Capability to handle pressure, as stenography demands immediate and continuous attention.
  9. Exceptional concentration skills to maintain accuracy in important recordings.
  10. Effective social skills for collaborating with clients from diverse backgrounds.
  11. Independence and confidence in work execution.
  12. Ability to collaborate effectively within interdisciplinary teams.
  13. Basic business administrative skills, particularly for freelancers managing accounts, seeking clients, and building a professional reputation.

What is the salary range of a stenographer in Australia?

The salary range for stenographers in Australia can vary depending on factors such as experience, location, specialization, and the specific industry in which they work. Generally, salaries for stenographers in Australia can range from around AUD 90,000 to AUD 150,000 per year.

Stenographers working in sectors such as legal, court reporting, or broadcast captioning may tend to earn higher salaries, particularly those with extensive experience or specialized skills. Additionally, stenographers who freelance or work on a contract basis may have varying income levels depending on the demand for their services and their ability to secure clients.

It’s important to note that these salary figures are approximate and can vary based on individual circumstances and market conditions. For the most accurate and up-to-date information on stenographer salaries in Australia, it’s advisable to consult job listings, industry reports, and professional associations within the field.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *