Education and Training Requirements

High School

Stenographers should have a high school diploma. Some high school students follow a business education curriculum and take courses in typing, shorthand, and business procedures. These students may later enter a business school or college for more advanced technical training. Other students may follow a general education program and take courses in English, history, mathematics, computer science, and the sciences, intending to undergo all of their technical training after graduation.

Postsecondary Training

Some students with a business curriculum background are able to obtain jobs immediately after graduation from high school, but those with a college degree, advanced technical training, or some specialization have better job opportunities and higher salaries. In many instances, training at a business school, vocational school, or college may be required. The more advanced career of court reporter or real-time captioner requires a two-year degree in court and conference reporting, although a four-year degree that includes courses in computers and English is preferable.

Numerous opportunities for advanced training exist. Hundreds of business schools and colleges throughout the country offer technical or degree programs with both day and evening classes.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

To work for the federal government, stenographers must pass a civil service test and be able to take dictation at the rate of 80 words per minute and type at least 40 words per minute. Tests of verbal and mathematical ability are also required. Employers in the private sector may require similar tests. Certification is available for advanced jobs such as court reporters, real-time captioners, and medical transcriptionists.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

No experience is needed for entry-level stenography positions, but those wanting to work in advanced specialties—such as court reporting—will need to complete postsecondary training. 

Stenographers should have good reading comprehension and spelling skills, as well as good finger and hand dexterity. They should also find systematic and orderly work appealing, and they should like to work on detailed tasks. Other personal qualifications include dependability, trustworthiness, and a neat personal appearance, given their high degree of visibility.