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Closed captions. Those words that pop up in boxes or scroll across the bottom of your screen, allowing you to read the dialogue and sound effects while watching a video. 

Ever wondered about the men and women who put them there? The dedicated souls with those critical captioning jobs?

Ever wondered what it takes? What a day in their life is like? How much they earn? Where they find their captioning jobs?

 If you could be one of them?

That’s what this guide is all about. We’ll help you explore the wide, varied world of closed captionist jobs, and give you all the info you need to decide if it’s the right career for you. 

Closed Captioning Work Defined

The main two types of closed captioning work are: 

  • CART – real-time captioners working during live broadcasts. 
  • Broadcast captioners – who caption television programs and films before airing but after recording to video. 

The US Department of Labor actually lists closed captioning work as a subset of court reporters and stenographers. 

This is due in large part because of the CART captioners – those real-time captioning experts. They require the same type of training as those who sit in courtrooms typing transcriptions of trial proceedings. Live closed captioners must have the same speed and accuracy as court reporters. 

Broadcast captioners, however, don’t have the same pressure or demands. They can stop, review, repeat, go back and forth within the dialogue and sound effects until they get it right. Offline captioning affords them that luxury. 

Even in real-time positions, many captioners work from home and are freelancers or contract workers.

Here are just some of the captioning positions available:

  • Captions for YouTube creators
  • Real-time captioning for online classes
  • Captioning editors/checkers
  • Caption Assistant for a deaf/HoH charity

Captioning Jobs Salaries and Demands

The average salary for closed captioning work in the United States is around $65,000 a year. Many start lower than that, of course, with some closed captioners only earning about half that, depending on experience and employer. 

The main causes of the differences in salary are: 

  • Who you work for 
  • How much work you do, 
  • Whether you work full-time or part-time 
  • Whether you do real-time captioning or offline captioning 

According to recent job postings on Indeed, a local television station that needs a closed captioner to type their daily live broadcasts may only pay $25,000 to $35,000 for that part-time position, even though it’s in their studios. 

A major network or film studio, on the other hand, may pay in the $50,000 to $60,000 range for full-time, work from home captioning work.

Universities and colleges also hire captioning jobs, as online learning and real-time sporting events are both growing. The size of the school and the amount of work to be done determines the salary range, in addition to full-time or part-time positions, and whether you work from home or in a studio. 

Specialist companies who cater to the deaf and hard of hearing communities often need to hire captioners to keep up with the demand for online video content. 

Closed captioning directors and editors can top six figures annually, as their jobs require not only closed captioning experience but administrative and executive experience as well. 

One good thing about captioning jobs is the job outlook. The Dept. of Labor estimates that the field will grow by nearly 10% in the next 20 years. This demand is being fueled by several factors, including an aging population, the growing popularity of online video courses and content, and a growing awareness of disability accessibility. As more and more people need captioned video content, more captioners will be needed to fulfill those jobs. 

Nearly all who pursue captioning careers acquire the same basic education, so only the quality of the school or training program really makes much difference in salary. 

Captioning Jobs Education

To acquire one of these jobs, you will need some special training. 

Typically, you can get that through a post-secondary certification program, similar to our many courses here at Small Revolution. Court reporter schools and online courses are good places to look since the skillset needed for both jobs is essentially the same. 

One thing a closed captioner needs is good customer service skills, and since much of the work is done from home, good working habits, as well. Small Revolution offers courses in both. 

You can find more information on our Customer Service course here on our website. And our Successful Behaviors and Habits course for online workers would definitely be a boost to your skillset, regardless of whether you are working full-time or not. 

Closed Captioning Jobs – Where to Find Them?

pen book top of the news paper
Source: pixabay.com by trudi1

So you’ve completed your training, including a certificate in customer service, and now you’re ready to start looking for a job.

You should start your jobs search close to home, inquiring at local tv stations, college and university HR departments, and any independent movie companies in your area. 

Online, you can go to sites like Indeed and other job search sites where you can search for “closed captioning” and either choose your general location or simply type in “remote”. 

One benefit of using job sites is their job alerts. Even once you find a job, keeping job alerts active can help you find more and sometimes better job possibilities. 

Don’t let your lack of experience keep you from applying for any and every job you find appealing. Many firms contract out jobs to a number of captioners with varying levels of experience. 

While you may find your pay is not as high until you gain that all-important job experience, you can still earn decent money, work from home, improve job skills like customer service, and pad that resume with one more captioning job to add to your employment history. 

Closed Captioning Job – A Day in the Life

You’ve decided that a job in captioning sounds like a good idea and you’re ready to get started. Congratulations! Here’s what a typical broadcast captioner’s day might be like:

You’ll be working from home, so your time is pretty much your own. Your hours are flexible and all you need to worry about is hitting deadlines.

man working using laptop
Source: pixabay.com by balouriarajesh

When you open your laptop, you’ll most likely find a video awaiting you. You’ll have some sort of captioning software or app to work with. 

Depending on the client’s demands, you may have to caption every bit of audio – sound effects, music, noises, etc. – or you may just have to do the dialogue. 

You’ll spend anywhere from an hour to several hours on each video captioning job you are assigned. It’s easy to see how even though you are working from home, you could end up with a nearly full-time working experience. 

You’ll want to edit, polish, and perfect each caption, so a rewatch will definitely be in order.

Once you’ve finished with the day’s jobs, you’ll deliver them to your employer or leave some for the next day, close the laptop, and be done. Quitting time!

Closed Captioning Vs. Subtitles

One thing we should mention is that closed captioning work is related to, but not the same as, providing subtitles. Subtitles are text added to a film or broadcast so that speakers of a different language can understand the dialogue. 

Closed captions are specifically made for the deaf or hard of hearing who speak the same language as the speakers in the broadcast or on the film. 

Many people also use closed captions now when watching videos on their phones or laptops in public settings, whether commuting or working around others. This allows them to mute the sound, not have to depend on earphones or earbuds, and still understand what is being said. 

If you are a bilingual individual, you could be open to more job opportunities as a captionist. Especially if you are a native Spanish speaker, as there are many networks, programs, and films for you to work on. 

Closed Captioning and You

Now that we’ve covered just about everything there is to know about training for, acquiring, and performing closed captioning work, have you come to a decision about whether or not a career in the field is right for you? 

Perhaps you’d like to begin training in customer service or building working from home best behaviors and habits while you decide? 

It is a rewarding, growing field, with plenty of opportunities, whether you are seeking full-time or part-time work. It’s a job with a mission, a real purpose, and you can help change someone’s life while you work.

Photo by Karlyukav / CC BY

 

Author

I'm Katrina McKinnon, founder of McKinnon Group and Small Revolution. I'm using my 20 years' experience in building and operating online businesses to create engaging educational materials that helps others become successful online workers. Find me on LinkedIn and Twitter.