Court Reporter

A court reporter is a person that transcribes speech into written form. This is done in order to produce official transcripts at various legal proceedings. A transcriber may also be used in other official settings such as conferences or depositions at private law firms, or meetings or hearings at state agencies, trade associations, and non-profit organizations. To explore this concept, consider the following court reporter definition.

Definition of Court Reporter

  1. noun. A stenographer or short hand reporter employed to record and transcribe an official verbatim record of legal proceedings, both in and out of court.

Origin     1890-1895        Americanism

court reporter

What is a Court Reporter

A court reporter, also known as a “court stenographer,” or “stenotype operator,” is a person whose job it is to create official word-for-word transcripts of spoken words at trials, hearings, depositions, and other official proceedings. The majority of court reporters work in state or local governments, most contract privately for proceedings outside the courthouse, and some work for state and federal legislatures, and in other legal environments.

How to Become a Court Reporter

Community colleges as well as technical schools offer various programs that culminate in either a certificate or associate’s degree in court reporting. Some states require that court reporters working in a court setting also be certified by a professional association, such as by the National Court Reporters Association (“NCRA”).

Court reporting courses focus heavily on English grammar and phonetics, and legal terminology. Students also learn a great deal about legal procedures, use of transcription machines, and typing speed. After mastering the required courses, students are given certification or licensing exams, which consist of a written test and a skills test. In most states, after an individual has completed the educational and certification requirements, he or she must complete on the job training.

Requirements to Become a Court Reporter

In many jurisdictions, a court reporter is required to be a notary public, as they must administer oaths to witnesses, and to certify that their transcripts are a true account of what was said during the proceedings. The minimum speed required by the NCRA to become a court reporter is 225 words per minute, and most associations require a 98 percent accuracy rate on testing. Once an individual has become certified or professionally licensed, he or she is required to attend continuing education (“CE”) throughout their career.

Court Reporter Duties

A court reporter’s main duty is to transform speech into written word-for-word transcripts. This is not as simple as it seems, as they must accurately type at a very rapid pace in a unique type of shorthand. Other duties of a court reporter include:

  • Attend court hearings, depositions, and other legal proceedings
  • Use specialized stenography equipment, as well as video and audio recording devices
  • Record in the transcript the speaker’s actions and gestures
  • Read back a portion of the testimony at the judge’s or other presiding person’s request
  • Ask the speaker to clarify unclear speech
  • Review notes to be sure the names of speakers and technical terminology are recorded correctly
  • Edit transcripts
  • Prepare transcripts for official use
  • Provide copies of transcripts to the court, the attorneys, and other related parties
  • Transcribe TV or movie dialogue onto monitors for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Provide real-time translation in public forums or classrooms for the deaf and hard-of-hearing

Court Reporter Jobs

Court reporters play a critical role in the courtroom process, and they most frequently work in legal settings. However, some court reporters assist judges and attorneys with certain tasks, such as organizing records so that users can search for information efficiently. In some instances, court reporters do not work in a legal setting. For example, one of the popular court reporter jobs is broadcast captioner, whose duty it is to provide closed captions for television programs. Whatever the type of transcription career, court reporter salary is a draw to many.

Court Reporter Salary

As of 2014, court reporter jobs are one of the best available that does not require a four-year college degree. The median court reporter salary is $55,000 per year, which can be broken down into a mean hourly wage of $26.44 per hour. A mean salary is a salary at which half the workers in a given occupation earn less, and half earn more.

According to reports by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2014, the top court reporters in the United States earned over $94,000 per year. A court reporter’s salary is rather high considering it does not require a high-level degree. The employment opportunities for court reporters are projected to increase at least 10 percent by 2022, which is average for most occupations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the states employing the most court reporters, in May 2014, include:

State Employment Per Thousand Jobs Mean Hourly Wage Mean Annual Wage
Maryland 0.93 $19.56 $40,680
California 0.13 $40.59 $84,430
Texas 0.12 $29.78 $61,950
Florida 0.18 $20.04 $41,690
New York 0.14 $42.51 $88,420

 Related Legal Terms and Issues

  • Deposition – The out-of-court sworn oral testimony by a witness, which is transcribed into writing for use in a legal proceeding. The witness is questioned by the attorneys for both parties, and no judge is present.
  • Jurisdiction – The legal authority to hear legal cases and make judgments; the geographical region of authority to enforce justice.
  • Professional License – A document provided to an individual who has completed a series of examinations and/or practices in a certain subject, proving that he has the knowledge, skills, and experience to perform a specific job.
  • Trial – A formal presentation of evidence before a judge and jury for the purpose of determining guilt or innocence in a criminal case, or to make a determination in a civil matter.