Court Reporter

During legal proceedings, speech is transcribed into written form to create official transcripts. The person responsible for producing these records at trials, dispositions, and hearings is known as a court reporter. Individuals in this profession may also work in other settings, such as private law firms, state agencies, and nonprofit organizations. Keep reading to learn more about court reporters.

What Does a Court Reporter Do?

Court reporters create complete and accurate records of legal proceedings, speeches, meetings, and other official events. These records are preserved and sometimes used for clarification, legal proof, and future reference. There are several methods of court reporting.

Stenographic Reporting

Stenographic reporting is the most common, and this technique involves a stenograph machine, which is a specialized chorded keyboard. The reporter presses keys simultaneously to spell out whole syllables, words, and phrases that appear on the screen.

Electronic Reporting

Electronic court reporting is the most popular method in modern times. The reporter uses audio equipment to record the proceedings while monitoring the process and making notes to identify the person speaking.

Voice Writing Reporting

For the voice writing method, the reporter speaks into a voice silencer using a mask with microphone. The reporter repeats every word spoken by judges, juries, attorneys, witness, and other court officials and later uses it to create a written transcription.

While court reporters are often associated with legal proceedings, some serve in other capacities within the profession. This includes providing closed or real-time captioning of political speeches, emergency warnings, and other events for the hard-of-hearing and deaf. Some reporters also perform Communications Access Realtime Reporting (CART), which involves instantly translating speech to text for the hard-of-hearing or deaf

Because the records created are an important part of legal proceedings, a court reporter must be proficient in real-time writing, have a deep understanding of legal principles, and possess a strong degree of professionalism. Having excellent English grammar, punctuation, and spelling skills is also essential.

Professional Requirements to Become a Court Reporter

The first step in the process to become a court reporter is attending a community college or technical institute to receive a certificate or associate’s degree in court reporting. These programs vary in length, and include a variety of courses in legal terminology, grammar, and phonetics. They also allow students to practice transcribing to improve their speed and accuracy. Some programs even provide training on different machinery used during court reporting.

To gain hands-on experience, students can complete internships while attending school. To earn a degree or certification, students must capture at least 225 words per minute (wpm), which is also a standard for a position with the federal government.

Most states require court reporters to have a license to work in a legal setting. In some states, you must pass an exam to receive the proper credentials and in other states, you must be a notary public.

Additional Education and Experience

Individuals looking to broaden their job prospects can obtain voluntary certification from various organizations including the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA).

State boards and certification organizations may require continuing education. The amount of course hours required varies and may include transcription seminars, punctuation workshops, and other events.

Where Can You Work as a Court Reporter?

You have a few options when it comes to where you can work as a court reporter. Most individuals in this profession work in courtrooms or office buildings creating transcriptions during proceedings or administrative hearings. Some however, work as freelance reporters at schools, law firms, or public events providing closed captioning and real-time translation. Freelance workers often have the freedom and luxury of creating their own schedule.

How do Court Reporters Get Paid

How court reporters get paid varies depending on the job they perform. Court reports employed by the government receive a paycheck regularly. Those that work as independent contractors however, are paid on per-job basis directly from clients. The amount of pay is based on the length of the transcripts and most charge per page.

Court Reporter Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”) Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median annual salary for court reporters is $55,120 per year, 29.50/hr as of 2018. Those with real-time captioning and communication access real-time translation training and experience tend to fall on the higher end of the pay scale.

Employment Outlook for Court Reporters

By 2026, the employment rate for court reporters is projected to grow around 3% according to the BLS. This rate is slower than average for occupations in the U.S. Those with training or a background in techniques used to help deaf or the hard-of-hearing have better job prospects.

How to Get a Job as a Court Reporter?

To get a job as a court clerk, first ensure you have the necessary qualifications. To begin the job search, you can take advantage of many resources that are available. Most states have job banks or websites related specifically to available jobs in the government sector. You can also check your local Chamber of Commerce website as some post local job listings.

Another option is to visit websites that connect job opportunities and people. Local job fairs are also a great way to discover available jobs in your area.

Essential Information

Degree Level Associate’s or post-secondary degree
Degree Field(s) Court reporting, stenography
License/Certification Licensure or certification required in most states; voluntary certifications available
Key Skills Detail-oriented, typing, writing, knowledge of stenotype machines and audio recording devices, listening, comprehension, concentration
Number of Jobs (2016) 19,600
Job Outlook
3% growth rate (slower than average growth rate)
Median Salary (2017) $55,120 *
On the Job Training Moderate term of on-the-job training
Top Earners Top earners have real-time captioning and communication access real-time translation training and experience

(*Source: the BLS)