Stenographers take dictation from clients and either transcribe their notes using a work processor or type directly into a dictating machine. Their dictation is often used to create letters, legal documents, technical or statistical data, and other types of documents. They ensure that these documents have correct grammar, punctuation, spelling, and capitalization. They must make distinctions between words that have different meanings but sound the same. They often use dictionaries for reference when completing their work. While stenographic work is the main skill for which they are hired, stenographers spend varying time completing these tasks.
When they are not completing specific stenographic tasks, stenographers often do clerical work for their office. They type materials from longhand copy, set up and maintain files, keep records up to date, and compile statistical or other reports based on these records. Sometimes they compose routine letters, sort mail, answer telephones, and perform other receptionist duties. Some become supervisors and direct the work of other stenographers and employees. Some stenographers are specialists in fields such as law, engineering, or medicine. These specialists have knowledge of particular vocabulary and documents common in their field. Most stenographers work in hospitals, education, and varying levels of government. They usually work in well-lit offices, but the work environment may by noisy and busy. They are often required to meet strict deadlines.
Stenographers need to have good hand-eye coordination, as well as manual and finger dexterity. They should have normal or corrected hearing. They need to be able to pay attention to extremely fine details. They also need to be able to follow directions precisely and stay alert for long periods of time.
Earnings for stenographers varies depending on experience, the location of the employer, and the level of responsibility they have in their jobs. Stenographers earn a median hourly wage of around $11. Supervisors may earn $4,000 per month or more. Benefits may include vacations, sick leave, insurance, and pensions.
Training and Education
Employers require applicants for stenographer positions to have a working knowledge of the English language, including spelling, punctuation, grammar, and vocabulary. They must be proficient in typing and shorthand. Some require applicants to know how to use a stenotype machine. Entry-level position require a typing speed of 40 to 55 words per minute and a dictation speed of 80 to 100 words per minute. Stenographers need to know basic math, including fractions, decimals, and percentages. Word processing equipment is becoming more and more standard, and those who are familiar with it will have a major advantage. A high school education with courses in English, grammar, spelling, typing, shorthand, and office skills is usually sufficient. Employers prefer applicants who have completed 1- or 2-year programs in college-level business. Advancement may come in the form of increased salary and responsibility, or in the form of promotion to higher positions, such as secretarial, supervisory, or administrative assistant positions. Visit this page about executive assistant schools for more information on related careers.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of stenographers is expected to decline. However, new specialties within the field are opening up, such as legal stenography, and this will create new opportunities for trained stenographers. A growing shortage of trained applicants means those with quality training will have the best opportunities. Those who have little training may find it difficult to enter the occupation.