Transcriptionists vs. Captioners: What’s the Difference?

In today’s fast-paced, constantly-connected world, it’s more important than ever to have accurate and accessible transcripts of audio and video content. Two different types of professionals provide these services, and for this article, we’ll compare transcriptionists vs. captioners.

Though their job descriptions may sound similar, some key differences exist. And knowing the difference between the two can make a big impact on the quality of the final product.

This article will cover the differences between transcriptionists and captioners and why it matters for your business.

Transcriptionists vs. Captioners – What’s the Difference?

At its core, transcription means converting audio and video files into written text. This can be done for various applications, such as creating transcripts for educational purposes or even in court reporting and the medical fields. On the other hand, captioning involves transcribing audio into the text to be displayed on a screen- usually in the form of subtitles.

What is Captioning?

Captioners typically focus on providing written text that corresponds with the audio track of a video. This text is then displayed on the screen as the video is playing. Captioning is typically used for videos watched by people who are deaf or hard of hearing or for those who need captions in foreign languages.

There are two main types of captioning: closed captioning and real-time.

Closed captioning, also known as offline captioning, is created after the video or audio content has been completed. Take, for example, a TV show or a radio program. In this case, the captioner listens to the recording and transcribes what is being said. Then the captions are synced up with the video and displayed on the television screen.

Captioners perform real-time captioning as the event happens, like at a sports event or live television show. The certified real-time captioner listens to what the presenter(s) is saying and types it out. The captions get displayed in real-time.

Which type of captioning you need depends on your needs. For example, you will need closed captioning if you want captions for a recorded event, such as a TV show, movie, or radio program. For live events such as real-time meetings, you will need real-time captioning.

What Is Transcription?

Transcription is translating recorded audio or video into a typed format or text.

General transcription services are provided for businesses, academic institutions, creative or entertainment purposes, and many other fields. The most widespread transcription is from spoken word to text, such as an audio file typed into an editable document such as a Google Doc or Microsoft Word Document.

Examples of general transcription include transcribing audio from meetings and then converted into text for meeting minutes.

In short, the main difference between transcriptionists and captioners is the purpose for which the text is intended. Transcriptionists may create transcripts for various purposes to be read later, while captioners create text intended to be displayed on the screen as a video is playing in real time.

Why Does This Matter For Your Business?

a man wondering the difference between a transcriptionist and a captioner

If you need transcription services, it is essential to understand the difference between transcriptionists and captioners to choose the right professional for your project.

If you need a transcript of a meeting or lecture, you will want to hire a general transcriptionist. Transcriptionists are better at taking verbatim notes of audio or video recordings. This means they capture everything said, including pauses, stutters, or filler words. And it can be helpful in legal proceedings or cases where an accurate record is needed.

On the other hand, if you need closed captions, also known as subtitles for a video (perhaps with sound effects), you will want to hire a captioner.

Understanding the difference between these two professions will help you ensure whether you require captioning services or a transcriptionist and choose the right professional.

The Skills Required For Being a Transcriptionist

There are many skills required to be a successful transcriptionist. First, transcriptionists must have excellent listening skills and be able to type quickly and accurately. Attention to detail and following established rules and style guides are essential to produce accurate transcripts.

Transcriptionists listen to audio files on transcription machines to get the job done. Some also use a stenography machine in real-time to provide verbatim transcripts that include everything spoken. Furthermore, transcriptionists must also have a strong command of grammar and punctuation and an extensive vocabulary.

Additionally, transcriptionists must be able to work independently and meet deadlines. Finally, it is helpful if transcriptionists are familiar with medical or legal terminology and looking for a career in the medical or legal field.

The Skills Required For Being a Captionist

Captionists are responsible for providing on-screen text to accompany live or pre-recorded audio content. These captions (a.k.a. closed captions) are often a legal requirement of the broadcast. Captioning includes creating real-time captions for live broadcasts, as well as creating closed captions for pre-recorded programs such as training videos that will be played back at a later time.

To be a captionist, you must have excellent English grammar and spelling skills. Typing quickly and accurately while listening to the audio recordings is also essential. It can be a challenging job and very rewarding at the same time.

Ultimately, a captioner needs to focus intently, be accurate with typing their “closed captions,” and have fast reflexes to keep up with the speaker. They also need to be able to use specialized software to create the captions.

Transcriptionist And Captioner Training

There are several essential differences between transcriptionists and captioners, including the training each profession requires.


General transcriptionists start at the bottom and work their way up with experience. More specialized transcriptionists, like those in the medical or legal fields, will often need certification or a degree. For example, students might consider appropriate education for their field. For example, some transcription jobs require an associate degree in transcription, while medical transcriptionists can expect, at a minimum, RHDS certification. That said, in law enforcement, transcriptionists come from many different backgrounds. Those with knowledge or previous law enforcement experience are excellent candidates for this remote transcription work.

As a transcriptionist, you must be a fast typist and proficient in computer software like Micro Soft office. Also, excellent reading, listening, and management skills will go a long way to providing accurate transcription services to your employer.


On the other hand, captioners will learn how to create closed captions (transcripts) of live audio recordings or video content. Then, they learn how to write captions using proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling while adhering to specific style guides – all while ignoring background noise. Moreover, entering commands or time stamps into the captions ensures that the text is perfectly synced with the dialogue.

Captioners looking to work in the legal field will want to consider accreditation from the National Court Reporters Association. For example, the Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC) credential confirms that a captioner possesses advanced captioning skills and helps them prepare for employment in more advanced areas of captioning, such as broadcast television.

The Work Environment For Transcriptionist vs. Captioner

A career as a transcriptionist or captioner can be rewarding. Both positions offer a wide variety of work environments, from the traditional office setting to the more relaxed home-based environment.

The work environment for a transcriptionist is typically an office setting. There may be some flexibility in hours, and transcriptionists generally do the work during regular business hours. The work can be monotonous at times, so it is vital to have a support system in place. However, a general transcriptionist can also work from home.

The work environment for a captioner is often more flexible than that of a transcriptionist. Captioners often can work from home, which can be a great perk as the jobs pay hourly. The working hours can be tricky, though, as captioning often happens live: as events happen. This can include working early mornings, late nights, and even weekends.

Salary Of A Transcriptionist

Several opportunities for transcriptionists exist in a broad range of applications. The average salary of a full-time transcriptionist is around $50,000 per year. However, experienced transcriptionists in the medical or legal field can earn more.

Salary of a Captionist

The national average salary of a full-time skilled captioner is around $50,000 per year.


Transcriptionists and captioners both have an essential role in the world of communication. Transcriptionists help provide a written record of spoken words, while captioners ensure those exact words are accessible to deaf or hard-of-hearing people. Ultimately, both professions are essential for ensuring everyone has access to information. 

Ditto Specializes In Business Transcription

All sizes and types of businesses rely on Ditto Transcripts for their transcription needs. We use U.S.-based human transcriptionists who undergo a criminal background check before working on your vital audio and video files.

Ditto is HIPAA and CJIS-compliant, offers quick turnaround times, and custom transcription services. Contact us directly at (720) 287-3710 or email our management team at [email protected].

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