How To Become a Stenographer

A stenographer is someone who is familiar with stenography, which refers to the art or science of writing using shorthand or abbreviated symbols. In contrast with normal writing by hand, stenography is faster because the stenographer uses short forms of letters, words, phrases, and sentences.

Stenographers are often prized employees in the secretarial and legal services industry, primarily because of the speed by which stenographers can take dictation, take notes fast, and transcribe audio recordings. In addition, most stenographers also have quite blazing typing speeds.

If you want to explore the area of stenography with the intent of pursuing a career as a stenographer, the tips discussed in this article may work for you.

  • If you wish to work as a court stenographer, you must complete a court reporter’s training program. You need to be a high school graduate to be able to join such a program, which typically lasts around two years. Such a program will include courses such as legal and medical terminology, realtime reporting, business communications, office and secretarial administration, etc. Afterwards, take the court reporting exam in your state. Most states require their court reporters to pass such an exam in order to earn a license. In Michigan, for example, such a test is administered by the Court Reporting and Recording Board of Review and is done twice a year. Once you earn your license and certification from your state, pursue continuing education to keep yourself abreast of the new methods in your field.
  • Learn shorthand writing systems. There are several shorthand methods and writing systems, but the most popular one used by a lot of stenographers worldwide is the so-called Gregg Shorthand system. This writing system was developed and published by John Robert Gregg in 1888. It is currently the most widely used stenographic writing system used today.
  • Increase your typing speed. The faster your typing speed, the more precious you are as a stenographer. According to many experts, the average stenographer must be able to type at an average of 100 WPM (words per minute) on a standard typewriter or keyboard. With computer keyboards, this is very easy to achieve because you can practice the habit of touch typing. You also need to learn how to type fast using a stenographic machine, also known as a stenotype, a special keyboard that has stenographic symbols in place of the usual alphabetic and numeric characters on a typical keyboard.
  • Develop your language skills. Not only should you have stellar-quality listening and writing skills. You should also be strongly familiar with legalese or jargon used in the legal world. Expanding your vocabulary to include business jargon, too, will also be very beneficial to you.
  • Practice your administrative and clerical skills. Clerical skills are part of the package that a stenographer will be hired for. This includes the ability to perform the tasks of a secretary or an administrative assistant. Examples of such tasks include file management, record keeping, transcription, business correspondence writing, scheduling, and appointments management.
  • Improve your listening skills. You will need these skills for transcription. When you perform transcription service, you listen to spoken communication and note the spoken words onto paper using stenographic notation. Spoken communication can be anything from a letter dictated to you by your boss, or a business meeting in which you are the notekeeper, or even a dialogue between two people that requires a written transcript. In the courtroom, the stenographer transcribes the court proceedings on the fly. Thus, listening acuity is a precious skill for stenographers.

Based on current estimates, the average stenographer can expect to earn around $35,000 yearly. But then, this average income will depend on several other factors, the most influential of which is geographic location. According to studies, stenographers tend to find more lucrative employment in urban areas and large cities because the demand for stenographic services in such areas tends to be also greater.


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