Career Profile: Court Reporter

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Court reporters use special equipment—a device called a stenotype—to capture a verbatim written transcript of the spoken word. The stenotype allows the court reporter to depict the sound of words in phonetic code, where each of the characters represents a sound or a syllable.

Court reporters transcribe speeches, meetings, depositions, court testimony, legal proceedings, cyber-conferences, and other proceedings at rates faster than 225 words per minute. Another function of court reporters is to prepare, review, and proofread printed or magnetic media transcripts using CAT (computer-aided transcription) software.

Other job possibilities for court reporters include: broadcast captioning and real-time reporting for webcasts, where the court reporter instantly converts speech into written text that is then displayed on computer monitors or large projection screens for viewing by large groups, such as seminars, conferences, or classrooms.  Still other court reporters convey spoken words to those who are deaf or hard of hearing. This is accomplished by a type of captioning known as communication access real-time translation (CART).

Education Requirements for Court Reporting

The educational requirements to become a court reporter are simple: Attend one of 62 training programs certified by the National Court Reporters’ Association (NCRA). The training programs are offered by community colleges, universities, distance learning programs, and private schools. Programs certified by the NCRA require graduates to be able to capture at least 225 words per minute. Novice voice writers can finish training in less than a year, while real-time stenotypists train for an average of 33 months. Electronic reporters, who utilize recording equipment rather than a steno machine, may complete training in three months.

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Skills

Court reporters need good listening skills and a command of English grammar, vocabulary, and punctuation. In addition, court reporters should be detail-oriented, punctual, disciplined, and work well under stressful conditions.  Many court reporters are bonded because they are required to maintain high levels of confidentiality.

More than half of all court reporters work for state or local governments. Many more are employed by court reporting agencies and television networks, with less than 10 percent being self-employed.

Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, at the present time there is a national shortage of court reporters. This shortage means that employment of court reporters is expected to grow by 25 percent through 2020. The demand for court reporters is based upon a continuing need for accurate transcription of legal proceedings and depositions, along with a growing need for television captions.

The NCRA reported that the average yearly income for court reporters was $64,672, with the salaries of broadcast captioners ranging between $45,000 and $75,000 per year.

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