Stenographers are men and women who specialize in accurately and quickly transcribing spoken messages, speeches, and conversations. Most stenographer jobs are found in legal courts, where professionals known as court reporters record statements, hearings, and rulings. Professionals may also find work at television stations, telephone relay centers, and various offices that require precise legal transcription services.
Court reporters are required to document every word spoken during a proceeding. Even the most skilled typists would have difficulty keeping up with such a demanding, difficult task using a standard computer keyboard. Stenographers frequently employ stenotype machines, keyboard devices that allow users to push multiple keys at a time to form syllables, words, or phrases instantly. Court reporters carefully proofread and edit stenotype machine transcriptions to ensure proper grammar and spelling.
Other stenographer jobs in courts may require professionals to use audio equipment to record a proceeding while taking careful notes about who is speaking at all times and the reactions of defendants, judges, and jury members. A court reporter will use his or her recordings and notes to create a detailed transcript after a hearing. Some court reporters repeat what is said, and who says it, into a handheld recording device, which can be replayed and translated at a later time.
Some stenographer jobs can be found outside of the court system. Television stations and broadcasting centers frequently hire stenographers to provide closed captioning for live and recorded programs. Other professionals are employed by relay centers, where they transcribe telephone conversations for deaf and hard-of-hearing citizens. Occasionally, a freelance stenographer will offer his or her services on a contract, as-needed basis for attorneys' offices, insurance firms, government meetings, and a number of other settings. Stenographers may also attend school lectures or conferences with deaf clients to provide immediate written translations.
To obtain most stenographer jobs, people must be extremely proficient typists and hold at least high school diplomas. Most professional stenographers, especially those involved with court reporting, attend courses at community colleges or vocational schools to master the trade. Training programs may take from one to three years to complete, and consist of intensive classroom instruction as well as practice in simulated court hearings. Some states and countries require graduates of such programs to pass a written and practical exam to become licensed stenographers. Additional certification is not generally required, though some professionals choose to take certifying exams offered by accredited organizations to improve their credentials and chances of finding stenographer jobs.