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Secretary vs. Stenographer — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Maham Liaqat — Updated on May 16, 2024
A secretary manages administrative tasks, including scheduling and correspondence, while a stenographer transcribes spoken words quickly into written form, often using shorthand or a stenotype machine.
Secretary vs. Stenographer — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Secretary and Stenographer


Key Differences

A secretary is responsible for a variety of administrative and clerical duties in an office setting. This role often includes managing schedules, handling correspondence, organizing files, and performing general office tasks. A stenographer, on the other hand, specializes in transcribing spoken words into written text quickly and accurately. This is typically done using shorthand or a stenotype machine. Stenographers are often employed in legal settings, such as courtrooms, where they create verbatim transcripts of proceedings.
Secretaries typically perform a broader range of tasks that support office management and efficiency. Their role is essential in keeping office operations running smoothly by coordinating various administrative functions. Conversely, stenographers focus on the specific task of transcription, requiring specialized skills in shorthand or using stenotype machines to ensure accuracy and speed in capturing spoken language.
The training and skills required for each profession also differ. Secretaries need strong organizational, communication, and multitasking abilities, often requiring proficiency in office software. In contrast, stenographers require specialized training in transcription techniques and must achieve a high degree of typing accuracy and speed, often exceeding 200 words per minute.
While both roles are crucial in their respective fields, the scope of a secretary's work is broader and more varied, encompassing numerous administrative duties. A stenographer's work is more specialized, centering on the precise and rapid transcription of spoken words.

Comparison Chart

Primary Duties

Administrative tasks, scheduling, correspondence
Transcribing spoken words into written form

Work Environment

Offices, various industries
Legal settings, courtrooms, business meetings

Skills Required

Organizational, communication, multitasking
Shorthand, stenotype machine proficiency, typing speed


Office software, administrative procedures
Specialized training in transcription techniques

Scope of Work

Broad range of administrative duties
Specific task of transcription

Example Tasks

Managing schedules, answering calls, preparing documents
Creating verbatim transcripts of legal proceedings

Speed Requirement

Not typically speed-focused
High typing speed, often over 200 words per minute

Role Focus

Office management and efficiency
Accurate and rapid transcription

Compare with Definitions


An administrative professional who handles various office tasks.
The secretary scheduled all the appointments for the week.


An expert in producing written records of spoken words quickly.
During the conference, the stenographer documented all discussions.


A person responsible for correspondence and record keeping.
She works as a secretary, managing emails and filing documents.


A person who transcribes spoken words using shorthand or stenotype.
The stenographer recorded the entire courtroom testimony.


An office worker who performs clerical tasks to support the organization.
The secretary handled all travel arrangements for the team.


A professional who creates verbatim transcripts of meetings or proceedings.
As a stenographer, she provides accurate records of depositions.


An employee who supports executives with administrative duties.
The secretary prepared the meeting agenda and took notes.


A job requiring proficiency in shorthand or using a stenotype machine.
The stenographer used her stenotype machine to keep up with the speaker.


A role that includes organizing files and managing office supplies.
The secretary ensured all office supplies were stocked.


Someone skilled in fast and accurate transcription.
The stenographer captured every word of the interview.


A secretary, administrative professional, or personal assistant is a person whose work consists of supporting management, including executives, using a variety of project management, communication, or organizational skills. However this role should not be confused with the role of an executive secretary, who differs from a personal assistant.


One skilled in stenography, especially one employed to transcribe court proceedings verbatim.


A person employed by an individual or in an office to assist with correspondence, make appointments, and carry out administrative tasks
She was secretary to David Wilby MP


Someone skilled in the transcription of speech (for example, a secretary who takes dictation).


A person employed to handle correspondence, keep files, and do clerical work for another person or an organization.


One who is skilled in stenography; a writer of shorthand.


An officer who keeps records, takes minutes of the meetings, and answers correspondence, as for a company.


Someone skilled in the transcription of speech (especially dictation)


An official who presides over an administrative department of state.


A desk with a small bookcase on top.


(obsolete) Someone entrusted with a secret; a confidant.


(obsolete) Someone employed as a scribe for personal correspondence.


A person who keeps records, takes notes and handles general clerical work.
I have a personal secretary to help me organize my clients.
The secretary at the school is in charge of communication between parents, students, and staff.


The head of a department of government.


A managerial or leading position in certain non-profit organizations, such as political parties, trade unions, international organizations.


(US) A type of desk, secretary desk; a secretaire.


A secretary bird, a bird of the species Sagittarius serpentarius.


(transitive) To serve as a secretary of.


One who keeps, or is intrusted with, secrets.


A person employed to write orders, letters, dispatches, public or private papers, records, and the like; an official scribe, amanuensis, or writer; one who attends to correspondence, and transacts other business, for an association, a public body, or an individual.
That which is most of all profitable is acquaintance with the secretaries, and employed men of ambassadors.


An officer of state whose business is to superintend and manage the affairs of a particular department of government, and who is usually a member of the cabinet or advisory council of the chief executive; as, the secretary of state, who conducts the correspondence and attends to the relations of a government with foreign courts; the secretary of the treasury, who manages the department of finance; the secretary of war, etc.


A piece of furniture, with conveniences for writing and for the arrangement of papers; an escritoire.


The secretary bird.


A person who is head of an administrative department of government


An assistant who handles correspondence and clerical work for a boss or an organization


A person to whom a secret is entrusted


A desk used for writing

Common Curiosities

Where do secretaries typically work?

Secretaries work in various office environments across many industries.

What does a stenographer do?

A stenographer transcribes spoken words into written form quickly and accurately, often in legal settings.

What skills are needed to be a stenographer?

Proficiency in shorthand or using a stenotype machine, high typing speed, and accuracy.

What skills are needed to be a secretary?

Organizational, communication, and multitasking skills, along with proficiency in office software.

Is typing speed important for a stenographer?

Yes, stenographers must type quickly and accurately, often exceeding 200 words per minute.

What kind of training does a secretary need?

Training in office software, administrative procedures, and effective communication.

What does a secretary do?

A secretary manages administrative tasks such as scheduling, correspondence, and organizing files.

Can a secretary's role include transcription duties?

Sometimes, but transcription is not the primary focus of a secretary's role.

Where do stenographers typically work?

Stenographers often work in legal settings, such as courtrooms, and at business meetings or conferences.

What kind of training does a stenographer need?

Specialized training in transcription techniques, shorthand, or using a stenotype machine.

Is typing speed important for a secretary?

Typing speed is helpful but not as critical as it is for a stenographer.

Are secretaries and stenographers interchangeable?

No, they have distinct roles with different primary duties and required skill sets.

Can a stenographer perform administrative duties?

Typically, stenographers focus on transcription and do not perform general administrative tasks.

How does the role of a secretary support an office?

By managing schedules, handling correspondence, and organizing office tasks to ensure efficiency.

How does the role of a stenographer support legal proceedings?

By providing accurate and timely transcripts of spoken words, essential for official records.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Maham Liaqat
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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