In trials and other legal proceedings, attorneys and judges both depend on an accurate record of what transpired, who said what, and how arguments were made. The job of recording these happenings falls in most instances on the court reporter, a professional who transcribes, in real time, everything that is said. Court reporters, also known as stenographers, are trained in extremely fast typing, listening, and communication. They receive this training in stenographer school. Stenographer school is a professional academic program designed to prepare students for careers in stenography, and to receive their stenographer's license.
Training as a stenographer does not typically require much background education. Stenographer training programs exist in every country that supports an active trial law system, but the formation of strictly stenographer schools is a largely American phenomenon. Different jurisdictions have different requirements for the skills that licensed or registered stenographers must possess, but few places actually set requirements on a prospective stenographer’s educational background. Most of the time, all that a stenographer school requires for admission is a high school level education, and fluency in the local language.
Stenographer school is typically a two-year program. In it, students learn the skills of a stenotype reporter, including how to use a range of stenography tools and equipment, how to be a careful and all-inclusive listener, and how to accurately transcribe court proceedings. Students can often choose between typed and voice transcription. Typed transcription is done using a stenography machine, and requires stenographers to type, word-for-word, what parties are saying and to whom they are saying it. Voice transcription involves the use of a stenomask writer, a voice dictation system that allows a stenographer to dictate happenings into a mask-like apparatus that will not disturb on-going proceedings.
Even with the advent of digital recording and video technology, there is still demand for in-person court transcription services: that is, for someone to actually transcribe court proceedings. A court transcriptionist provides not only a recording of what happened, but also a hard-copy script that can be read back, searched, and filed for easy reference. Stenography has adapted to technological advances, and most stenographers are trained in the use of technological tools to make their jobs easier.
Most stenographer school graduates go on to pursue careers in court reporting, but a courtroom is not the only place where stenographers find work. Some stenographers work directly for attorneys or law firms, and are hired to transcribe pre-trial meetings or proceedings, creating records for future reference. Other stenographers work in media as television captioners, and still others work as medical transcriptionists. Most stenographer schools have career placement offices that can help students identify stenographic career paths that will be both personally satisfying and profitable.