Transcriptionist vs. Captioner: Differences Explained

Transcriptionist vs captioner

Have you ever wondered what the differences are between a transcriptionist and a captioner? Although these roles have different definitions, many people are unaware of how they differ and how each contributes to making content more accessible and user-friendly.

Below, we outline the difference between a transcriptionist and a captioner and highlight how technological advances are changing these professions. 

Transcription vs. Captioning: What’s the Difference?

It’s not uncommon for people to consider transcription vs. caption interchangeable terms. The truth is that while there are similarities, there are different processes involved in creating the finished product and varying reasons why someone may employ a captionist or a transcriptionist.

What is Transcription? (And What Does a Transcriptionist Do?)

To decipher the differences between transcription vs. caption, let’s begin with a general overview of both these terms.

Transcription is the process of converting speech or audio into a plain-text output. These transcriptions will not have any timestamps attached at this stage.

There are two ways someone may choose to transcribe something:

  • Clean Read – A clean read transcription has been edited for fluidity purposes. Excess words, sounds, and utterances are removed from the transcription to leave only the core meaning of a piece of content. Clean read transcription is most commonly used for speaking events, such as interviews or convention speeches.
  • Verbatim – A verbatim transcription is where the audio is transcribed word-for-word, including sound effects. It is the most faithful form of transcription because nothing is removed in post-processing. Scripted speech like TV shows and movies will use verbatim transcriptions.

Expert transcriptionists will be able to create both transcriptions. Verbatim transcriptions are typically more expensive to develop because they take considerably longer.

What is Captioning? (And What Does a Captioner Do?)

The captionist meaning is someone who takes an existing transcribed text and splits it into sections called caption frames. Every frame will have a timecode attached to allow it to be synchronized with a video.

The output of a captioner will appear at the bottom of a video to outline both speech and sound effects. Another aspect of the captioning meaning is that the final result should accurately denote speakers and any sounds that are not apparent visually.

Transcriptionists vs. Captioners

Now that you know the answer to “what is a captioner and transcriptionist?”, you can likely already see a significant difference in their work. However, the skillsets of both professions have considerable crossover. It’s not uncommon to see professionals working as transcriptionists and captioners at various points.

In this section, you will learn about the similarities and differences that define each role so you can figure out when best to use each function within your organization.



The most apparent similarity when comparing a transcript vs. caption is that both will work with audio and video. Plus, both are concerned with making content more accessible to people who are hard-of-hearing, deaf, and non-native speakers. Both also need a good ear to filter out background noise and to pick up everything being said, including sounds.

Did you know that captioning is also another type of transcribing? This is why transcriptionists and captioners are often referred to incorrectly as the same thing.

Transcriptionists should have a basic knowledge of computers and stenography. They must also possess perfect spelling and grammar. Moreover, a transcriptionist should be detail-oriented and be able to follow established rules.

Style guides are a massive part of a profession, and every client will have their own preferences for transcriptions. The key to succeeding as a transcriptionist is to adapt to each client while maintaining a flexible work schedule, which captioners also have in common.


Most transcriptionists possess at least a degree in transcription or a certificate of completion from an accredited transcription course. Transcriptionists within specialized fields, such as the medical and legal industries, may need additional training to negotiate ethical issues, industry regulations, and specialized terminology.

The role of the transcriptionist further diverges from that of the captionist because the transcriber will be expected to work in real-time, ensure accuracy, meet complex formatting requirements, and properly edit transcripts before submission.

There are more opportunities for transcriptionists to find work because they are needed by a broader range of professions, including law enforcement, business, academia, finance, insurance, and medicine.

Despite this, transcriptionists earn an average of just $44,000 per year, compared to the $50,000 captionists command.

Today, transcriptionists are more likely to turn to automated technology like automated transcription services. These services are usually powered by next-generation technologies, such as artificial intelligence, and are designed to make the job faster.

Platforms like Sonix enable you to create accurate video and audio transcriptions in seconds just by setting your parameters and uploading a file. It takes an average of one minute to transcribe one minute of audio/video.



Captioners also need to have confidence around transcriptions. Many of the soft and hard skills required by the professional transcriptionist are also essential within the captioning profession.

Skills like being able to wield technology with confidence, strong spelling and grammar, and a detail-oriented mindset are critical to your success in this field.

You must be able to pick up everything, including audio sounds that are not apparent visually. Captioners focus on making content more accessible to the general public in the same way as the transcriptionist.

This is where the similarities end, and the differences begin between the transcriptionist vs. captioner.


To gain access to the field, captioners need a bachelor’s degree, transcription certificate, experience in stenography or court reporting, or an associate degree. These qualifications can be obtained from community colleges and specialized schools.

Aspiring captioners have more entry points into the field than transcriptionists, enabling you to choose the right qualifications.

The number one expectation for captioners is that they are detail-oriented. However, their responsibilities are wide-ranging because perfect captioning is a legal requirement for any broadcast.

Captioners must be able to write captions that depict sounds, edit/omit captions for the viewing audience, and enter timestamps and commands for synchronizing their captions with the production. Some transcriptionists may also need to encode captions to master tapes for movies and TV shows.

Finally, if performing real-time captioning, captioners must be able to find their way around a stenography machine confidently.

Working as a captionist will command an average salary of $50,000. Captioning is considered to have a higher skill level than a conventional transcriptionist, which is why they enjoy higher wages. Due to the difficulties involved, real-time captioners typically make more than those who perform offline captioning.

Unfortunately, fewer industries provide work opportunities for captioners. You will most likely find captioners within the entertainment, media, and legal fields. There is always a near-constant need for captioners, including within government, religious services, and education ranging from primary to tertiary.

How Will Automated Tools Impact Both Professions?

When assessing transcriptionist vs. captioner, the elephant in the room is the automated transcription tool. New technology has enabled software solutions like Sonix to skip many of the steps involved in creating original transcriptions.

Transcripts are produced by these tools and then further enhanced by humans. There is a fear among transcriptionists and captioners that they risk being replaced by automated tools. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

While reputable companies like Sonix harness next-generation solutions to create highly accurate transcripts, some editing from humans is still required, as spelling and grammar errors often appear within the finished products.

Moreover, voice-recognition software is far from perfect. It may struggle with speakers who have strong regional accents. There are also problems with voice-recognition software picking up slang terms and understanding how they are spelled.

In this case, technology is enhancing both these industries by cutting down on the manual labor of putting a transcript together. Professionals can become more productive and efficient without feeling threatened by new software-based solutions.


The misconceptions surrounding transcriptionist vs. captioner can lead to some believing that these professionals do the same job. As you can see, they are distinct roles with some level of crossover, meaning they often rely on each other to make video and audio content more accessible.

Sonix is the automated all-in-one transcription platform that supports transcriptionists, captioners, and ordinary people in turning audio and video into pinpoint accurate transcripts. Our advanced solutions have utilized state-of-the-art technology to create impressive deliverables regardless of your industry.To find out more about obtaining a more affordable transcription solution, try Sonix for free now and discover why this is the future of transcription.

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