Captioning Corner: Students' Questions About Captioning

By Deanna Baker

Do I need to still get my RPR to become a captioner?

Well, this all depends on where you'll be working. If you are applying for a full-time job with some companies, this may be mandatory. Otherwise as a freelance captioner it may not be mandatory, but highly, highly suggested not just for your own skill level, but to show the captioning companies you may be working for what your minimal skills are. And I say minimal, as the speeds associated with captioning are more in line with the Merit exam than the RPR.

What machine do you recommend: paperless or the 8000?

The machines aren't too much an issue, more what you're comfortable with. As a captioner you don't need paper, ink, or RAM memory. What you don't want to happen is what's called "polling" and that means the machine holds some steno and "spits" while it's saving into memory. With all machines that have memory, you should be able to turn that function off.

Should I get further training after I graduate or should I work as a court reporter for a while?

Again, this would depend on the reporting school you have graduated from and if there is a captioning track where you've learned the software and hardware needed for captioning. For instance, you will need an absolutely conflict-free theory and an absolutely solid number theory, as well as need to be able to fingerspell. There may be some captioning companies that will train you directly after graduation, while others may want some work experience in other arenas, CART included.

There is other "book learning" needed outside a normal court reporting course needed for captioning, mainly in the various terminologies needed, such as sports, news, international names, country names, politicians' names, geography, etc.

Where could I find additional training?

In my July-August 2004 column, I talked about the various seminars that are offered for captioning. If you don't have that issue handy, you can also check out the article on the NCRA Web site at Also, if you are hired by a captioning company, they may train you on their style and format. Otherwise, read all the articles and Web sites you can find on the subject.

I was wondering when I should consider getting into captioning?

I would say that you can certainly start reading everything you can possibly get your hands on regarding captioning, and see if that is the path you want to take your reporting career. The NCRA Web site ( has many, many articles from various different people that may be very helpful to you. Look through all the areas on that site, that is certainly a start.

As for the writing end of things, I wouldn't worry about that until about 180, as captioning is a high speed activity after you're writing is stable.

Do I start training now? If so, where would I get that training?

Again, as I mentioned the training you can do now, aside from continuing your steno theory, is reading everything you can get you hands on regarding captioning. Simply doing the infamous Google search should keep you extremely busy.

Many of the seminars offered in the JCR magazine require the attendees to have a reporting graduate degree or RPR minimum. But you can sure contact those folks, too.

And what is the average salary for the captioning industry?

This means different things to different people. For full time employment with various agencies, check with these companies:

As a freelance independent captioner, you work for various captioning companies, supplying all your own hardware/software, quarterly taxes, phonelines/service, and you are being paid per hour with the work the company's assign to you. Pay can vary quite a bit, from about $50-100/hour or $25-50 per half hour.

Captioning is a 365 day a year, 24 hour a day job. You may not work 40 hours a week. You can decide which hours you want to work and then see what's available with the captioning companies that have hired you.

About the Author

Deanna Baker, RMR, is from Flagstaff, Ariz. If you have a question about captioning, you can ask her at