Typist, Transcriptionist, Stenographer – What’s the Difference?

elizabeth   |   Jul 26, 2012

transcriptionistFrequently businesses require someone to type their documents, notes, correspondence and other materials. But who is suited for such a job? What is the difference between people who type documents for a living – a typist, stenographer and a transcriptionist? Although all of these professions have similar-sounding jobs, their skills, experience and methods all vary greatly.

The term “typist” is almost outdated – imagine the show Mad Men, with rows of women working away on typewriters. This has gone away as companies became more efficient and increased their use of technology. However, in general a typist is an employee of a company who types documents, much like a secretary who types correspondence. They may or may not have other duties at the company, including filing, answering phones and other general office duties. However, a typist’s main job is to type documents extremely quickly to produce hard copies of letters, reports and more. They might produce document from recordings, by typing as someone dictates out loud, or by taking notes and typing them up later. Typists are not necessarily skilled in any one field, and can reasonably be compared to a general transcriptionist.

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A stenographer is used for real time transcription services, such as in a courtroom, in academic settings, for closed captioning or other events where the transcript must be available immediately. Stenographers can either use regular computers or special machines that allow them to type in shorthand. They are often called on, especially in courtrooms (where they are also called court reporters,) to read back what was said to help clarify dialogue for the listeners. Stenographers can be employees or independent contractors. In the past their work has been limited to their geographic location, as they had to be present to record an event. However, in recent years improvements in technology and internet speed have allowed stenographers to work remotely. If working remotely, the term CART (or Communication Access Realtime Translation) specialist is often used to describe their work.

In comparison, a transcriptionist is one who is skilled in a particular field and used to produce reports, correspondence and more for that specialty. Type of transcriptionists include: medical transcriptionist (skilled in medical terminology and types of medical reports,) legal transcriptionist (skilled in legal terminology and formatting for court documents,) academic transcriptionist, law enforcement transcriptionist and financial transcriptionist. Quite often, transcriptionists have other work experience in their field of specialty – for instance, many legal transcriptionists are former lawyers or paralegals. A transcriptionist produces a written record from a video or audio recording. They use a regular computer hooked up to a foot pedal to help them stop, start and rewind the recording, increasing their typing speed. Transcriptionists can either be in-house employees or independent contractors. Whether or not a company chooses to outsource their transcription work depends on their budget, volume of work and other factors.

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Transcription Outsourcing, LLC is a Denver, Colorado-based online transcription services company. We provide fast, accurate and reliable transcription services for individuals, offices, departments and agencies of all sizes.