Court reporters are an essential part of the United States legal system. They are responsible for keeping thorough, accurate, and readily available accounts of everything that goes on in the nation’s courts, as well as in other meetings where a record of the proceedings may be necessary to have on file for later use.
This article outlines the job description and education and other requirements necessary to become a court reporter, as well as the 10-year employment outlook and expected yearly earnings for court reporters…
Court reporters generally do their work using one of three main methods:
Stenotyping: Stenotypists use a special typing machine that allows them to type and record faster than normal. These machines often use special abbreviations and symbols to help the stenotypist record at high speeds. Stenotyping machines are often linked to computers to provide real-time captioning for hearing-impaired individuals.
Electronic reporting:Court reporters who use electronic recording equipment make a recording of the proceedings as they are happening. While the equipment is recording, the reporter also takes notes, which will be used later during the transcription process. After the proceedings have ended, the court reporter will transcribe the recording and combine it with the notes to create a full record of the proceedings.
Voice writing: Voice writing stenographers use a specially designed hand-held mask to help them record court proceedings. The voice writer speaks into the mask, saying everything that is said in court, as well as describing the body language, gestures, and facial expressions of the individuals involved. The mask prevents the reporter’s voice from being heard in the courtroom. After the proceedings, the voice writer then transcribes the recording into a written report.
Court reporters generally work regular full-time hours, although they may be called in for special court dates. Their main task is to record proceedings, so much of their time is spent in the courtroom or at a computer where they transcribe the data.
Education and Other Requirements
It is not always necessary to have a bachelor’s degree to become a court reporter, but certification and training programs are an excellent background to have when searching for employment. There are about 100 vocational and technical schools across the country that offer training programs to become a court reporter.
Since it is not required to hold a degree to become a court reporter, most of a reporter’s training happens on the job site. It is said that it takes only a few months to learn but several years to perfect the skill of good court reporting. Individuals interested in becoming court reporters can, in addition to on-site training, take classes to prepare them for the job.
The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) certifies over 60 programs to train stenographers for the workplace. The NCRA requires students to type at a rate of 225 words per minute, which is also a requirement to work for the federal government as a court reporter. The National Verbatim Reporters Association (NVRA) offers three national certifications that voice writers can earn: Certified Verbatim Reporter (CVR), Certificate of Merit (CM), and Real-Time Verbatim Reporter (RVR). There are different requirements for each certification, but they generally include passing a written test and completing a certain number of experience hours.
Some states require voice writers to pass an exam and earn state licensure. It is recommended that a court reporter research the rules and regulations for the state in which he or she wishes to work to learn more about necessary licensure.
10-Year Employment Outlook
Job prospects for court reporters are expected to remain good into the next decade, with the number of available jobs expected to exceed the number of applicants. The increased demand for real-time closed captioning of proceedings and other public broadcasts has led to an increased need for court reporters and anyone who can provide CART (Captioning At Real Time) services.
Certified court reporters, and those who choose to specialize in CART, broadcast captioning, or webcasting should have the easiest time finding work. Court reporters are needed most in large cities and rural areas. Approximately 22,000 individuals are currently employed as court reporters, and that number is expected to reach 25,000 by the end of the next 10 years.
- The average yearly earnings for a court reporter are about $50,000. Yearly earnings tend to range between $25,000 and $84,000. Most court reporters’ earnings hover in the $35,000 to $68,000 range. Official court reporters earn a salary and are paid per page for transcripts. CART providers are paid hourly. Many court reporters also do freelance work.