Court Reporters

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What Court Reporters Do[About this section] [To Top]

Court reporters create word-for-word transcriptions at trials, depositions, administrative hearings, and other legal proceedings. Some court reporters provide captioning for television and real-time translation for deaf or hard-of-hearing people at public events, in business meetings, and in classrooms.

Duties of Court Reporters

Court reporters typically do the following:

  • Attend depositions, hearings, proceedings, and other events that require written transcripts
  • Capture spoken dialogue with specialized equipment, including stenography machines, video and audio recording devices, and covered microphones
  • Report speakers’ identification, gestures, and actions
  • Read or play back all or a portion of the proceedings upon request from the judge
  • Ask speakers to clarify inaudible or unclear statements or testimony
  • Review the notes they have taken regarding the names of speakers and any technical terminology they used
  • Edit transcripts for typographical errors
  • Provide copies of transcripts and recordings to the courts, counsels, and parties involved
  • Transcribe television or movie dialogue onto screens to help deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers
  • Provide real-time translation in classes and other public forums in which deaf or hard-of-hearing students and other individuals are participating

Court reporters create word-for-word transcripts of speeches, conversations, legal proceedings, meetings, or other events.

Court reporters play a critical role in legal proceedings, which require an exact record of what was said. They are responsible for producing a complete, accurate, and secure legal transcript of courtroom proceedings, witnesses’ testimonies, and depositions.

Court reporters in the legal setting also help judges and attorneys by capturing, organizing, and producing the official record of the proceedings. The official record allows users to efficiently search for important information contained in the transcript. Court reporters also index and catalog exhibits used during court proceedings.

Some court reporters, however, do not work in the legal setting or in courtrooms. These reporters primarily serve people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing by transcribing speech to text as the speech occurs.

The following are examples of types of court reporters who do not work in the legal setting:

Broadcast captioners are court reporters who provide captions for television programs (called closed captions). These reporters transcribe dialogue onto television monitors to help deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers or others viewing television programs in public places. Some broadcast captioners may translate dialogue in real time during broadcasts; others may caption during the postproduction of a program.

Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) providers are court reporters who work primarily with deaf or hard-of-hearing people in a variety of settings. They assist clients during board meetings, doctor’s appointments, or any other events in which real-time translation is needed. For example, CART providers may caption the dialogue of high school and college classes and provide an immediate transcript to students who are hard-of-hearing or who are learning English as a second language.

Although some court reporters may accompany their clients to events, many broadcast captioners and CART providers work remotely. An Internet or phone connection allows them to hear and type without having to be in the room.

Court reporters who work with deaf or hard-of-hearing people turn speech into text. For information on workers who help deaf or hard-of-hearing people through sign language, cued speech, or other spoken or gestural means, see the profile on interpreters and translators.

Court reporters may use different methods for recording speech, such as stenotype machine recording, steno mask recording, and electronic recording.

Court reporters use stenotype machines to record dialogue as it is spoken. Stenotype machines work like keyboards, but create words through key combinations rather than single characters, allowing court reporters to keep up with fast-moving dialogue. Court reporters who use stenotype machines are known as stenographers.

Key combinations entered on a stenotype machine are recorded in a computer program. The program uses computer-assisted transcription to translate the key combinations into the words and phrases they represent, creating real-time, readable text. The court reporter then reviews the text for accuracy and corrects spelling and grammatical errors.

Court reporters also may use steno masks to transcribe speech. Court reporters who use steno masks speak directly into a covered microphone, recording dialogue and reporting gestures and actions. Because the microphone is covered, others cannot hear what the reporter is saying. The recording is sometimes converted by computerized voice-recognition software into a transcript that the court reporter reviews for accuracy, spelling, and grammar.

For both stenotype machine recording and steno mask recording, court reporters must create, maintain, and continuously update an online dictionary that the computer software uses to transcribe the key presses or voice recordings into text. For example, court reporters may put in the names of people involved in a court case or the specific words or specialized, technical jargon that are typically used in that type of legal proceeding.

Court reporters also may use digital recorders in their job. Digital recording creates an audio or video record rather than a written transcript. Court reporters who use digital recorders operate and monitor the recording equipment. They also take notes to identify the speakers and provide context for the recording. In some cases, court reporters use the audio recording to create a written transcript.

Work Environment for Court Reporters[About this section] [To Top]

Court reporters held about 20,800 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most court reporters were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals 34%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 32
Business support services 24

Many court reporters work for state or local government in courts or legislatures. Many also work as freelance reporters and are hired by law firms or corporations for pretrial depositions and other events on an as-needed basis.

Many court reporters must travel to various courthouses or offices in different locations. However, some broadcast captioners and Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) providers work remotely from either their home or a central office.

Because of the speed and accuracy required to capture a verbatim record and the time-sensitive nature of legal proceedings, some court reporting positions may be stressful.

Court Reporter Work Schedules

Court reporters who work in a court setting typically work full time recording events and preparing transcripts. Freelance reporters have more flexibility in setting their work schedules.

How to Become a Court Reporter[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Court Reporters near you!

Many community colleges and technical institutes offer postsecondary certificate programs for court reporters. Many states require court reporters who work in legal settings to be licensed by a state or certified by a professional association.

Court Reporter Education

Many court reporters receive formal training at community colleges or technical institutes, which have different programs that lead to either a certificate or an associate’s degree in court reporting. Either degree will qualify applicants for many entry-level positions. Certification programs prepare students to pass the licensing exams and typing-speed tests required by most states and employers.

Most court reporting programs include courses in English grammar and phonetics, legal procedures, and legal terminology. Students also practice preparing transcripts to improve the speed and accuracy of their work.

Some schools also offer training in the use of different transcription machines, such as stenotype machines or steno masks.

Graduating from a court reporting program can take between 2 and 5 years.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Many states require court reporters who work in legal settings to be licensed or certified by a professional association. Licensing requirements vary by state and by method of court reporting.

The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) offers certification for court reporters, broadcast captioners, and Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) providers. Currently, 22 states accept or use the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) certification in place of a state certification or licensing exam.

Digital and voice reporters may obtain certification through the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT), which offers the Certified Electronic Reporter (CER) and Certified Electronic Transcriber (CET) designations.

Voice reporters may also obtain certification through the National Verbatim Reporters Association (NVRA). As with the RPR designation, some states with certification or licensing requirements will accept the NVRA designation in place of the state license.

Certification through the NCRA, AAERT, and NVRA all require the successful completion of a written test, as well as a skills test in which applicants must type, record, or transcribe a minimum number of words per minute with a high level of accuracy.

In addition, all associations require court reporters to obtain a certain amount of continuing education credits in order to renew their certification.

For more information on certification, exam, and continuing education requirements, visit the specific association’s website. State licensing and continuing education requirements can be found by visiting the state association’s or state judicial agency's website.

Court Reporter Training

After completing their formal program, court reporters must undergo a few weeks of on-the-job training. This typically includes additional skills training as well as training on the more technical terminology that may be used during complex medical or legal proceedings.

Important Qualities for Court Reporters

Concentration. Court reporters must be able to concentrate for long periods. They must remain focused on the dialogue they are recording, even in the presence of auditory distractions.

Detail oriented. Court reporters must be able to produce error-free work, because they create transcripts that serve as legal records.

Listening skills. Court reporters must give their full attention to speakers and capture every word that is said.

Writing skills. Court reporters need a good command of grammar, vocabulary, and punctuation.

Would a career as a Court Reporter be a good fit for you? Take our Career Test to find out.

Court Reporter Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for court reporters was $49,500 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,180, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $90,510.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for court reporters in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals $53,550
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 52,290
Business support services 42,860

Freelance court reporters are paid for their time, but can also sell their transcripts per page for an additional profit.

Court reporters who work in a court setting typically work full time recording events and preparing transcripts. Freelance reporters have more flexibility in setting their work schedules.

Job Outlook for Court Reporters[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of court reporters is projected to grow 2 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations. Demand for court reporters will be influenced by new federal regulations requiring an expanded use of captioning for television, the Internet, and other technologies.

Reporters will increasingly be needed for captioning outside of legal proceedings. All new television programming will continue to need closed captioning. In addition, new federal regulations have expanded captioning requirements and set quality and accuracy standards for both live and prerecorded programs. Networks will likely increase their use of broadcast captioners in order to comply with these new federal regulations.

Growth of the elderly population also will increase demand for court reporters who are Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) providers or who can accompany their clients to doctor’s appointments, townhall meetings, and religious services. In addition, movie theaters and sports stadiums will provide closed captioning for deaf or hard-of-hearing customers.

Employment growth, however, may be somewhat limited because of budgetary constraints in state and local governments. Although local and state revenue and spending have increased since the end of the recession, continued budget uncertainty and other spending obligations may lead to only modest growth in government hiring.

The increased use of digital audio recording technology also may hinder employment growth. Some states already have replaced stenographic court reporters with this technology; other states are currently assessing the reliability, accuracy, and costs associated with installing and maintaining digital audio and video equipment and software.

However, even with the increased use of digital recorders, electronic reporters should still be needed to monitor the courtroom equipment and to transcribe, verify, and supervise the production of transcripts after proceedings have been recorded.

Court Reporters Job Prospects

Job prospects for graduates of court reporting programs are expected to be very good. Court reporters with experience and training in CART and real-time captioning will have the best job prospects.

Employment projections data for Court Reporters, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Court reporters 20,800 21,100 2 300

*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Used by permission.

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