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Court Reporter Job Description, Career as a Court Reporter, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training High school plus training

Salary Median—$42,920 per year

Employment Outlook Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Court reporters create verbatim transcripts of legal proceedings, speeches, meetings, and even conversations. They use several methods to ensure that the spoken word is accurately recorded.

Some court reporters use stenotype machines. When they press multiple keys on the machine at the same time, it records combinations of letters that represent sounds, words, or phrases. The combinations are recorded electronically and displayed as text. This process is known as computer-aided transcription.

Stenotype machines are also used in real-time court reporting. Reporters type in text that appears instantly as real-time captions on display screens. Called Communication Access Realtime Translation, this process is primarily used in courtroom settings, although it is also used for closed-captioning of television programs for the hearing impaired. Reporters that specialize in this type of work are called stenocaptioners. They may be employed by television and cable stations, sporting events, and a variety of other businesses.

When court reporters use voice writing, they repeat the court testimony directly into voice silencers, which are hand-held masks containing microphones. The masks prevent their voices from being heard in courtrooms. Some reporters then create written transcripts after the proceedings. Others utilize speech-recognition technology to create transcripts in real time.

Court reporters who use stenographic or voice-writing methods must also create and maintain the dictionary the computer uses to translate their keystrokes. The dictionary contains parts of words, entire words, or specific terminology common in the type of reporting they do. After the proceedings are complete, stenotypists and voice writers must carefully review their transcripts to check for misspellings and grammatical errors. They also create storage and retrieval procedures for their stenographic notes and voice files.

Some workers use audio or digital recording systems. During court proceedings, reporters take notes to indicate speakers and other relevant issues and monitor the recording sessions. Once the proceedings have ended, the reporters review the tapes and make accurate transcripts.

Education and Training Requirements

A high school diploma or its equivalent is required to become a court reporter. About one hundred sixty vocational and technical schools and community colleges provide instruction in the different methods of court reporting. Becoming a voice writer usually takes less than a year of training, while electronic reporting skills can be learned on the job. Training for stenotypists takes thirty-three months and involves instruction in both computer-aided transcription and real-time reporting. A stenotypist should be able to capture two hundred twenty-five words per minute, which is the federal requirement for court reporting.

Some states require a court reporter to pass state examinations to obtain Certified Court Reporter designation. The National Court Reporters Association administers an examination for certification as a Registered Professional Reporter. Other levels of certification are available. Some states require a court reporter to be a notary public.

A number of states require a voice writer to have a license, which requires testing, or to be certified by the National Verbatim Reporters Association. The organization offers three levels of certification: Certified Verbatim Reporter, Certificate of Merit, and Real-time Verbatim Reporter. Earning all three types of certification is equivalent to being licensed. Once certified, a reporter must take courses to retain that status.

An electronic reporter may also be certified. The American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers offers three types of certification: Certified Electronic Court Reporter; Certified Electronic Court Transcriber; and Certified Electronic Court Reporter and Transcriber. Although certification is voluntary, a growing number of employers are requiring it.

Getting the Job

School placement offices or state employment services can help graduates find jobs. Another path to employment is working with freelance reporters who have many clients.

Applicants for jobs as court reporters in federal agencies must take civil service examinations. Licensing or certification may be necessary for state courts or agencies.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Court reporters may advance to administrative or management work. They may also become consultants or instructors.

Employment of court reporters is expected to increase as fast as the average for all occupations through 2014. Business and government expansion should result in more hearings, trials, and conferences that must be recorded. Growth of court-reporting services, however, will be affected by federal and state budgets. Demand for real-time closed-captioning services is strong, particularly in television, classrooms, and business settings, and should provide many job opportunities.

Where to Go for More Information

American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers
23812 Rock Circle
Bothell, WA 98021-8573
(800) 233-5306

National Court Reporters Association
8224 Old Courthouse Rd.
Vienna, VA 22182-3808
(800) 272-6272

National Verbatim Reporters Association
207 Third Ave.
Hattiesburg, MS 39401
(610) 582-4345

U.S. Court Reporters Association
4731 N. Western Ave.
Chicago, IL 60625-2012
(800) 628-2730

Working Conditions

Most court reporters work forty-hour weeks, usually in comfortable settings such as lawyers' offices or courtrooms. Freelance reporters may work evenings and weekends or be on call for last-minute jobs. They may do some of their work at home.

Court reporters risk repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Sitting in the same position for long periods can strain the back, neck, eyes, and wrists. The job can be both stressful and tedious.

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries vary by type of reporting job, experience, and location. Some reporters earn base salaries and per-page fees for transcripts, while others are paid by the job.

In 2004 the median salary for court reporters was $42,920 per year. The most experienced reporters earned more than $80,300 per year. Freelance reporters usually earned less, depending on their skills, the availability of work, and the region of the country.

Most salaried court reporters receive paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and retirement plans. Freelance reporters must provide their own benefits.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesLaw and Public Service