Stenographers, who take their name from the stenography machine they use to type dictation, are more commonly called court reporters, even though their services may be used just as much outside of the courtroom as inside it. Stenographers are responsible for making exact accounts of oral conversation and transferring the words to the computer screen and page. For stenographers not using stenotype machines, word processing programs, dictation machines and speciality keyboards are the tools of the trade.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2009 that the average salary for stenographers nationwide was £34,099 per year. The BLS also noted several organisations paying slightly higher stenographer salaries. Both local and state governments averaged higher stenographer salaries, at £36,770 and £35,314 respectively. The federal executive branch of the government followed closely at £35,191 per year.
No specific pattern emerged from the BLS list of top-paying states for stenographers. Oregon led the country, with nearly double the national rate, at £65,383 per year, far higher than even the second-highest state, New York, at £52,598. Colorado and California also had higher-than-average salaries of £50,895 and £50,557 per year. The state of Washington rounded out the top five with an average stenographer salary of £44,980 annually.
There is no single standardised requirement to becoming a stenographer. Some employers will hire applicants with just a high school diploma or GED and perform on-the-job and stenotype machine training. Another option is to obtain postsecondary education in the field. The National Court Reporters' Association approves stenotype training at community colleges and technical schools in 27 states and Canada, usually comprised of a one-to-two-year certificate program. Prospective stenographers should note that graduation from one of these approved programs requires the ability to type a minimum of 225 words per minute.
The BLS expects an 18 per cent growth rate in employment of stenographers through 2018, adding 3,900 jobs. The bureau suggests that court reporters who have attained voluntary certifications will have the best opportunities to find work, as well as those stenographers who seek employment in rural and big-city areas.