Court Reporters Overview

The level and length of training depends on the specialization of the court reporter. Many choose to earn certification as a court reporter before entering the profession. Excellent job prospects should be enjoyed by all, but especially for those with certification in court reporting. Job growth will be spurred by the demand for real-time broadcast captioning and translating.

Nature of the Work for Court Reporters

Court Reporters

Typically, court reporters are hired to write verbatim transcripts in order to for correspondence, legal or record proof. They create transcripts of conversation, legal proceedings, speeches, meetings and other events. At all meetings where all spoken words must be transcribed, court reporters are necessary to ensure an accurate and secure legal report. Court reporters usually also assist trial attorneys and judges with arranging and searching for information in the official record. It is becoming more popular for court reporters to provide real-time and close-captioning services to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.

The most common type of court reporting is called stenographic. In order to record all statements from official proceedings, a stenotypist uses a stenotype machine, a sophisticated instrument that allows the person to press multiple keys at once that record combinations of letters to represent words, phrases or sounds. Next, a process called computer-aided transcription (CAT) translates and displays the electronically recorded symbols into text. During real-time reporting, such as for television shows, the stenotype machine is hooked up to a computer, which displays the text immediately after the words are spoken.

Other court reporters use electronic reporting, which uses audio equipment to record court proceedings. They listen to the recording to ensure clarity and accuracy. Often, they are required to produce a written transcription of the recording.

Another type of court reporting is called voice writing, which involves using a hand-held mask with a microphone to repeat testimony into the recorder. This prevents the reporter from being heard during the testimony. After the meeting, written transcripts are always prepared from the recording.

In addition to transcribing, court reporters are responsible for a number of other duties before and after the event. Both stenographic and voice-writing reporters create and update the computer dictionary use to translate keystroke codes or voice files into written text. Afterwards, the stenographic reporter is required to edit the computer-generated translation for proper grammar. Electronic reporters must ensure that the audio is discernable. All court reporters typically write transcripts, make copies and locate information in the transcript for courts, parties, counsels and the public.

Some court reporters work outside the courts as webcasters, or Internet information reporters to capture words spoken into microphones at proceedings, and then translate them into text that appear on the participants computer monitors. This often performed at all levels of the government. Some court reporters, known as broadcast captioners, specialize in captioning live television programming for people with hearing loss.

Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) is a captioning process provided for the deaf and hard-of-hearing people. Typically, CART reporters work with students and people who are learning English as a second language by providing transcripts of each class. They might also accompany deaf clients to events that require verbal communication.

Most court reporters work in comfortable environments including offices of courtrooms, legislatures, attorneys and conventions. It is becoming common for court reporters to work from a home-based office as a freelancer or independent contractor. Many work the standard 40-hour workweek, but it is common to work additional hours at home preparing transcripts. Those who are self-employed enjoy flexible hours.

Court reporter need to be careful of repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, and they sometimes suffer back, wrist, neck or eye strain. There is also pressure to remain accurate and fast.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Court Reporters

Each type of reporting involves a different amount of training. Although it usually takes less than a year to become a voice-writer, it takes at least 2 years to become proficient in real-time voice writing. It usually takes around 33 months for a stenographic court reporter to become a real-time reporter. The National Court Reporters Association has more than 60 certified programs that offer certificates for court reporting. These certificate programs require each student to meet the standard of capturing a minimum of 225 words per minute.

Because they use audio-capture technology, electronic court reporters must have on-the-job training in which they learn how to correctly operate the machinery.

There are a few States that require voice writers to pass a test for licensure, while other States require them to receive a professional certificate in voice writing from the National Verbatim Reporters Association. The Certificate of Merit (CM), Certified Verbatim Reporter (CVR) and Real-Time Verbatim Reporter (RVR) are all licenses offered by the National Verbatim Reporters Associations.

Other qualifications for court reporters include having excellent listening skills and hearing and great grammar and punctuation skills. They must be able to work well under pressure and deadlines and be able to focus for a long period of time. Court reporters must have an impeccable memory that allows them to remember people, events and places. An expert knowledge of legal proceedings is necessary for those who work in the legal system. Voice writers must learn how to speak and listen at the same time.

Court reporters with certifications have better job prospects and are more easily able to advance their careers. The National Court Reporters Association offers the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) to entry-level court reporters. More experienced court reporters may earn additional certifications, such as the Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR) and the Registered Merit Reporter (RMR). Those who work in captioning media programs for the deaf may earn the designation of Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR), Certified Broadcast Captioner (CBC) or Certified CART Provider (CCP). With more experience and education, court reporters may obtain certification for administrative and management, teaching or consulting positions. For example, the United States Court Reporters Associations offers voluntary certification designation, the Federal Certified Realtime Reporter (FCRR).

Top 10 Most Popular Court Reporting Schools

1. New York Career Institute (New York, New York)
2. Long Island Business Institute (Dallas, Texas)
3. Court Reporting Institute, Dallas (Commack, New York)
4. San Antonio College (San Antonio, Texas)
5. AIB College of Business (Des Moines, Iowa)
6. Stone Academy, Hamden (Hamden, Connecticut)
7. SUNY College of Technology at Alfred (Alfred, New York)
8. Business Informatics Center Inc (Valley Stream, New York)
9. South Coast College, Orange (Orange, California)
10. Gadsden State Community College (Gadsden, Alabama)

See All Court Reporting Schools

Most Popular Online Court Reporting Schools

1. Saint Leo University Online
2. Colorado Technical University - Online School

Employment and Job Outlook for Court Reporters

Number of People in Profession

18,780

Changing Employment (2008-2018)

Employment is projected to grow faster than average (increase 14 - 19%).

About 21,500 jobs are held by court reporters. Over 50 percent work for local and State governments. The remaining mostly work as wage and salary workers who are employed by court reporting agencies.

Employment of court reporters is expected to grow by 18 percent in the next decade, which is faster than average for all occupations. Demand will be created as a result of the need for accurate transcriptions in events such as court and pretrial depositions live television.

The growing number of civil and criminal cases is expected to spur a demand for court reporters, however budget strains should limit the ability to hire as many reporters as needed. Although many courts only allow stenotypists to record proceedings, voice writers are becoming increasingly accepted as the accuracy of speech recognition technology continues to improve.

More court reporters are needed outside legal proceedings than every before. In addition to the Federal law that mandates all new television programs be captioned for the deaf and hard of hearing, Spanish-language programming must also be captioned. The Americans with Disabilities Act provides deaf and hard of hearing students in colleges and universities the right to a real-time translation court reporter to translate their classes.

Court reporters will enjoy excellent job prospects because the number of jobseekers is lower than the number of available jobs in some areas. Those who specialize in CART or have earned certification should have the best opportunities. Also, those who are willing to relocate will have good prospects.

Earnings and Salary for Court Reporters

Court reporters have a median annual wage of $47,810. The top 10 percent earn more than $89,240, while the lowest 10 percent earn less than $25,410. The middle 50 percent earn between $34,710 and $67,420.

Compensation varies with each type of reporting based on experience, the level of certification achieved and the area of the country. Court reporters earn a salary plus a per-page fee for transcripts, and some supplement their income by doing freelance work.

Annual Salary for Court Reporters

On average, Court Reporters earn $47,810 per year.

10% 25% 75% 90% $25,410/yr $34,710/yr $67,420/yr $89,240/yr

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook