What Is Captioning? (Different Types With Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 23, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you want to pursue a career as a transcriptionist or a captioner, it's necessary to first understand the distinctions between these two occupations. Both positions come with particular schooling requirements, credentials and typical income rates. Learning more about the details of captioning can help you decide if it's the right career choice for you.

In this article, we answer the question, "What is captioning?", discuss what a captioner is, review different types of stenographers, explore the definition of a transcriptionist, discover how transcribing and captioning are similar, identify the differences between the roles of a transcriptionist and captioner, and answer frequently asked questions about these careers.

What is captioning?

If you're interested in a career as a captioner or transcriptionist, you may have wondered what captioning is exactly. Captioning is the process of turning the audio data of a television broadcast, webcast, movie, video, or live event into text and displaying it on a screen, monitor, or another visual display device. Not only can captions show words as the textual counterpart of spoken conversation or narration, but they also incorporate information about the speaker, sound effects, and music.

It's critical that the captions be in sync with the audio and display at nearly the same time. They include speaker identification, sound effects, and are meant to be easily accessible and available to individuals. It's also vital for captions to be large enough and contrasted from the background to help ensure ease of reading.

What is a captioner?

A captioner, or stenographer, is an expert who uses a stenotype machine to transcribe television episodes and movies for use as captions. Captioning is a subtype of transcribing. There are two primary types of captioning:

  • Offline captioning: This refers to any captioning performed from prerecorded audio or video, such as a TV show, movie, or online video, rather than during live shows or events.

  • Real-time captioning: Real-time captioning is when a captioner transcribes live events, like sporting events, broadcasts, and live television shows. This type of captioning is more intense and requires high levels of accuracy and speed.

Because real-time captioning requires a greater level of expertise than offline captioning, real-time captioners often earn more money. Captioners perform their duties to assist individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing and cannot hear the audio of what they are watching.

Captioners segment their captions into smaller portions of text that may be time-coded to correspond to each frame of the video and synchronize with the audio. They then add captions to the bottom of a video screen so that viewers may read them while viewing the video.

Related: Guidelines on Writing a Proper Interview Transcript

Different types of stenographers

Stenographers often transcribe the words said by a speaker, and also their behaviours, gestures, and identities. While some stenographers work exclusively in courtrooms, others work in the entertainment business or as independent contractors. Stenographers who act as court reporters utilize a stenography machine to record witness testimony verbatim during court hearings and depositions. Types of stenographers include:

  • Courtroom stenographers: These stenographers record court proceedings to get testimonies from witnesses testifying in court. This may entail court appearances and trials, depositions and discovery, and sworn statements, among other activities.

  • Broadcast stenographers: Broadcast stenographers provide closed captioning for film and television viewers.

  • Real-time captioning stenographers: These stenographers provide real-time captioning for news programs and live events.

  • Legislative stenographers: Legislative committees write and amend laws for cities and nations to utilize. Stenographers record the committee's conversations throughout the legislative process.

  • Military stenographers: These stenographers record military proceedings.

What is a transcriptionist?

A transcriptionist is an individual who converts audio recordings to text or document forms. Medical, legal, and general transcriptionists are the most prevalent categories of transcriptionists. Podcasts, video transcription, webcasts, lectures, talk radio programs, and insurance adjustment transcriptions are all examples of general transcription assignments. Many transcriptionists work with simple text formats. These specialists listen to the audio and then enter their findings into the document.

Additionally, some transcriptionists conduct text-to-text transcription, which requires the conversion of one media file to another. Numerous transcriptionists depend on virtual reality editing software that automatically transcribes audio recordings. Following that, the transcriptionist can check the recording for accuracy. The following industries make use of transcriptionists:

  • Business

  • Media

  • Academic

  • Marketing

  • Finance

  • Religious

  • Legal

  • Law enforcement

  • Entertainment

  • Medical

  • Insurance

  • Government

Related: How to Become a Sound Designer (With Steps and Tips)

How are transcribing and captioning similar?

Both transcription and captioning entail the conversion of audio to text. Transcriptionists and captioners are also required to follow certain style standards and regulations while executing their tasks. These stylistic recommendations and regulations can change according to the nature of the captioning or transcription assignment.

Additionally, both professions often rely on digital tools to assist them in the transcription and captioning processes. Another similarity between a transcriptionist and captioner role is that both often have flexible schedules. Many transcriptionists and captioners work from home, allowing them to work at times that fit their schedules.

Related: Finding Online Transcription Jobs

Differences between transcriptionists and captioners

There are several differences between the job of a transcriptionist and that of a captioner. Here's a list of the most important differences between the two roles:


The average annual salary of transcriptionists and captioners is one primary difference between these two careers. The national average salary for a stenographer is $23.87 per hour, while the national average salary for a transcriptionist is $21.80 per hour. These salaries may vary depending on the experience, skill level, and place of employment of the transcriptionist or captioner.

For instance, captioners who work in real-time earn far more than those who work in offline captioning. Additionally, transcriptionists working for major institutions, such as hospitals, often earn higher pay than those employed by smaller businesses or on a freelance basis.

Related: How to Negotiate Salary (With Examples)


The majority of transcriptionist occupations need a diploma or certification from a transcriptionist school. If a transcriptionist works in a certain field, such as legal or medical, they may need a specialist understanding of the industry's vocabulary, ethics, and rules. Additionally, it's vital for transcribers to possess a variety of hard skills, which include training in documentation, research, and industry-specific systems. It's also vital for them to be able to format and operate software and transcribing programs.

Job duties

The responsibilities of a transcriptionist and captioner vary depending on the type of work they are doing and their place of employment. Here's a list of some transcriptionist primary duties:

  • Listening to audio recordings and creating text based on what you hear

  • Transcribing real-time meetings

  • Editing transcriptions before sending them to a client or employer

  • Expanding shorthand notes taken during live meetings

  • Organizing transcriptions for future use

Here's a list of some captioner primary duties:

  • Using stenotype equipment to produce immediate word captions

  • Watching TV shows, movies, and other media and transcribing what's being said for use as captions

  • Writing captions for translations in foreign languages

  • Choosing whether they may omit or add a caption phrase

  • Editing captions and ensuring profanity isn't within it for general viewing audiences

  • Using specialized captioning systems

FAQs about transcriptionists and captioners

The following are a few frequently asked questions related to careers as a transcriptionist or captioner to help you learn more about the field of work and consider whether it suits your career goals and interests:

What are the benefits of transcription?

Transcription offers several benefits to those who utilize this form of recording. Here's a list of some of the primary benefits:

  • Provides a resourceful supplement to accompany audio or video content

  • Functions as a great accessibility tool

  • Improved turnaround time for video editors

  • Improved comprehension by ESL listeners or those who are deaf or hard of hearing

  • Increases the value of video content

  • Improved user interaction

  • More optimized SEO

Related: Guidelines on Writing a Proper Interview Transcript

What are the benefits of captioning?

The following are a few of the most prominent benefits of captioning:

  • Helps people with comprehending dialogue in media

  • Improves accessibility for viewers with hearing difficulties

  • Enables viewers to watch media in a sound-sensitive setting

  • Allows media content to be accessible to those who are deaf or hard of hearing

  • Offers assistance to those who speak English as a second language

  • Provides a better user experience for watching and searching within a video

What industries most commonly hire captioners?

Here are a few of the most common industries that hire captioners:

  • Media

  • Entertainment

  • Legal

  • Government

  • Religious

  • Webcasting

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