Court Reporters

Summary

court reporters image
Court reporters attend legal proceedings to create word-for-word transcriptions.
Quick Facts: Court Reporters
2014 Median Pay $49,860 per year
$23.97 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Postsecondary nondegree award
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Short-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2014 20,800
Job Outlook, 2014-24 2% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 300

What Court Reporters Do

Court reporters create word-for-word transcriptions at trials, depositions, 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, or in classrooms.

Work Environment

Most court reporters work for state or local government in courts or legislatures. However, some work from either their home or a central office providing broadcast captioning for television stations or for hard-of-hearing individuals.

How to Become a Court Reporter

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.

Pay

The median annual wage for court reporters was $49,860 in May 2014.

Job Outlook

Employment of court reporters is projected to grow 2 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations. Those with experience and training in techniques for helping deaf or hard-of-hearing people, such as real-time captioning and Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART), will have the best job prospects.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for court reporters.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of court reporters with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about court reporters by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Court Reporters Do

Court reporters
Court reporters provide an accurate description of court proceedings.

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

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

Court reporters
Court reporters may work in courtrooms or office buildings.

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.

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

Court reporters
Court reporters must give their full attention to the speaker and capture every word that is said.

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.

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.

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

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.

Pay

Court Reporters

Median annual wages, May 2014

Legal occupations

$76,860

Court reporters

$49,860

Total, all occupations

$35,540

 

The median annual wage for court reporters was $49,860 in May 2014. 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 $26,670, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $94,140.

In May 2014, the median annual wages for court reporters in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals $54,940
State government, excluding education and hospitals 51,890
Business support services 41,680

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

Court Reporters

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Total, all occupations

7%

Legal occupations

5%

Court reporters

2%

 

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.

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 SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Court reporters

23-2091 20,800 21,100 2 300 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of court reporters.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2014 MEDIAN PAY
Interpreters and translators

Interpreters and Translators

Interpreters and translators convert information from one language into another language. Interpreters work in spoken or sign language; translators work in written language.

Bachelor's degree $43,590
Medical transcriptionists

Medical Transcriptionists

Medical transcriptionists, sometimes referred to as healthcare documentation specialists, listen to voice recordings that physicians and other healthcare workers make and convert them into written reports. They may also review and edit medical documents created using speech recognition technology. Transcriptionists interpret medical terminology and abbreviations in preparing patients’ medical histories, discharge summaries, and other documents.

Postsecondary nondegree award $34,750

Contacts for More Information

For more information on becoming a court reporter, including information on training programs and certification as a Registered Professional Reporter, visit

National Court Reporters Association

For more information on certification and legal resources, as well as becoming an electronic or digital reporter, visit 

American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers

For more information on voice writing and certification, visit

National Verbatim Reporters Association

O*NET

Court Reporters

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Court Reporters,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/court-reporters.htm (visited February 12, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015