Real-Time Captioners


Education and Training Requirements

High School

You should take typing and computer courses to increase your keyboard speed and accuracy and to develop an understanding of word processing programs. Because you'll be working with a variety of news, sports, and entertainment programs, you should keep up on current events by taking journalism, social studies, and government courses. English composition and speech classes can help you develop your vocabulary and grammar skills.

Postsecondary Training

You should first complete training to become a court and conference reporter (stenographer), which takes anywhere from two to four years. An associate's or bachelor's degree in court and conference reporting, or satisfactory completion of other two-year equivalent programs, is usually required. Because of the additional training needed to learn computer and English grammar skills, some two-year programs have become three-year programs. In fact, many real-time reporters and their employers believe that additional formal education in the arts and sciences is needed to perform the work properly and to adapt to the swift technological changes taking place. They are urging the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA), to which most captioners and other reporters belong, to require a bachelor's degree for entry into the court reporting profession, which would extend to captioning as well. About 100 postsecondary vocational and technical schools and colleges offer court reporter training programs, and NCRA has certified approximately 27 programs, many of which offer courses in real-time reporting and computer-aided transcription. A few four-year college programs already exist, to allow students a well-rounded background. A degree in English (or the primary language in which captioning will be done) or linguistics would be helpful. Others argue, however, that while a formal education is beneficial, many court reporters who never earned a four-year degree are working successfully with high skill levels.

Even after graduating from court reporting school, you will have to undergo more specialized training, during which you'll hone your reporting skills to achieve the proficiency needed to create broadcast-quality captions.

Other Education or Training

Real-time captioners must participate in continuing education classes and webinars to stay up to date with industry developments and become eligible to renew their certification. The National Court Reporters Association and the National Verbatim Reporters Association, along with state-level court reporting associations, provide continuing education opportunities. Contact these organizations for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Typically, the reporter considering real-time captioning work has passed the certified realtime captioner, registered professional reporter, or certified realtime reporter exams given by the National Court Reporters Association, or a comparable state certification exam. Potential employers may even require applicants to be certified. Additionally, the National Verbatim Reporters Association offers the following certifications: certified verbatim reporter, certificate of merit, realtime verbatim reporter, registered broadcast captioner, and registered CART provider.

Some states require court reporters (or voice writers) to pass a test and earn state licensure.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

You should have extreme proficiency in machine shorthand skills and an ability to perform under pressure. Familiarity with CAT systems is usually preferred, as is previous court or field reporting experience. It generally takes several years of court reporting experience to be able to transcribe complex testimony with the high levels of speed and accuracy that real-time captioning demands.

Real-time captioners must also possess an incredible amount of concentration. Besides typing accurately at speeds of 200 to 250 words a minute to keep up with the fastest natural speakers, they must also anticipate commercial breaks so as not to cut off captions in mid-sentence, insert appropriate punctuation marks and symbols, and watch their own translation closely to correct any problems on the spot.