As with many clerical occupations, a good way to gain experience as a typist is through high school work-study programs. Students in these programs work part time for local businesses and attend classes part time. Temporary agencies also provide training and temporary jobs for exploring the field. Another way to gain typing experience is to volunteer to type for friends and family, local community groups, religious groups, or other organizations and to create your own digital reports.
Some typists perform few duties other than typing. These workers spend approximately 75 percent of their time at the keyboard. They may input statistical data, medical reports, legal briefs, addresses, letters, and other documents from handwritten copies. They may work in pools, dividing the work of a large office among many workers under the supervision of a typing section chief. These typists may also be responsible for making photocopies of typewritten materials for distribution.
Beginning typists may start by typing address labels, headings on form letters, and documents from legible handwritten copy. More experienced typists may work from copy that is more difficult to read and requires the use of independent judgment when typing; they may be responsible for typing complex statistical tables, for example.
Clerk-typists spend up to 50 percent of their time typing. They also perform a variety of clerical tasks such as filing, answering the phone, acting as receptionists, and operating copy machines.
Many typists type from audio recordings instead of written or printed copy. Transcribing-machine operators sit at keyboards and wear headsets, through which they hear the spoken contents of letters, reports, and meetings. Typists can control the speed of the recording so they can comfortably type every word they hear. They proofread their finished documents and may erase dictated recordings for future use. Some typists in this subspecialty pursue advanced education to become medical transcriptionists or court reporters.
Most typists today are word processors. These employees put documents into the proper format by entering codes into the word processing software, telling it which lines to center, which words to underline, where the margins should be set, and how the document should be stored and printed. Word processors can edit, change, insert, and delete materials instantly just by pressing keys. Word processing is particularly efficient for form letters, in which only certain parts of a document change on each copy. When a word processor has finished formatting and keying in a document, the document is sent electronically to a printer for a finished copy. The document is normally saved on a removable hard drive or the computer's hard drive so that any subsequent changes to it can be made easily and new copies produced immediately. Word processors also can send electronic files via e-mail or modems to people in different locations.
Braille typists and Braille operators use special typewriter-like machines to transcribe written or spoken English into Braille. By pressing one key or a combination of keys, they create the raised characters of the Braille alphabet. They may print either on special paper or on metal plates, which are later used to print books or other publications.