- Job prospects are expected to be excellent as job openings
continue to outnumber jobseekers.
- Demand for real-time and broadcast captioning and translating
will spur employment growth.
- The amount of training required to become a court reporter
varies with the type of reporting chosen.
- Job opportunities should be best for those with certification.
Court reporters typically create verbatim transcripts of speeches,
conversations, legal proceedings, meetings, and other events when
written accounts of spoken words are necessary for correspondence,
records, or legal proof. Court reporters play a critical role
not only in judicial proceedings, but also at every meeting where
the spoken word must be preserved as a written transcript. They
are responsible for ensuring a complete, accurate, and secure
legal record. In addition to preparing and protecting the legal
record, many court reporters assist judges and trial attorneys
in a variety of ways, such as organizing and searching for information
in the official record or making suggestions to judges and attorneys
regarding courtroom administration and procedure. Increasingly,
court reporters are providing closed-captioning and real-time
translating services to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.
There are several methods of court reporting. The most common
method is called stenographic. Using a stenotype machine, stenotypists
document all statements made in official proceedings. The
machine allows them to press multiple keys at a time to record
combinations of letters representing sounds, words, or phrases.
These symbols are electronically recorded and then translated
and displayed as text in a process called computer-aided transcription.
Real-time court reporting is another method of court reporting,
wherein stenotype machines used for real-time captioning are linked
directly to the computer. As the reporter keys in the symbols,
they instantly appear as text on the screen. This process, called
Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART), is used in
courts, in classrooms, at meetings, and for closed captioning
for the hearing-impaired on television.
Electronic reporting refers to the use of audio equipment to
record court proceedings. The court reporter monitors the process,
takes notes to identify speakers, and listens to the recording
to ensure clarity and quality. The equipment used may include
analog tape recorders or digital equipment. Electronic reporters
and transcribers often are responsible for producing a subsequent
written transcript of the recorded proceeding.
Another method of court reporting is called voice writing. Using
the voice-writing method, a court reporter speaks directly into
a voice silencer—a hand-held mask containing a microphone. As
the reporter repeats the testimony into the recorder, the mask
prevents the reporter from being heard during testimony. Voice
writers record everything that is said by judges, witnesses, attorneys,
and other parties to a proceeding, including gestures and emotional
Regardless of the method used, accuracy in court reporting is
crucial because the court reporter is the only person creating
an official transcript. In a judicial setting, for example, appeals
often depend on the court reporter’s transcript.
Some voice writers produce a transcript in real time, using computer
speech recognition technology. Other voice writers prefer to translate
their voice files after the proceeding is over, or they transcribe
the files manually, without using speech recognition at all. In
any event, speech recognition-enabled voice writers pursue not
only court reporting careers, but also careers as closed captioners,
CART reporters for hearing-impaired individuals, and Internet
streaming text providers or caption providers.
Court reporters who use either the stenographic or voice-writing
method are responsible for a number of duties both before and
after transcribing events. First, they must create and maintain
the computer dictionary that they use to translate stenographic
strokes or voice files into written text. They may customize the
dictionary with parts of words, entire words, or terminology specific
to the proceeding, program, or event—such as a religious service—they
plan to transcribe. After documenting proceedings, court reporters
must edit their CAT translation for correct grammar, for accurate
identification of proper names and places, and to ensure that
the record or testimony is discernible. They usually prepare written
transcripts, make copies, and provide information from the transcript
to courts, counsels, parties, and the public on request. Court
reporters also develop procedures for easy storage and retrieval
of all stenographic notes and voice files in paper or digital
Although many court reporters record official proceedings in
the courtroom, others work outside the courtroom. For example,
they may take depositions for attorneys in offices and document
proceedings of meetings, conventions, and other private activities.
Still others capture the proceedings taking place in government
agencies at all levels, from the U.S. Congress to State and local
governing bodies. Court reporters who specialize in captioning
live television programming for people with hearing loss are commonly
known as stenocaptioners. They work for television networks or
cable stations, captioning news, emergency broadcasts, sporting
events, and other programming. With CART and broadcast captioning,
the level of understanding gained by a person with hearing loss
depends entirely on the skill of the stenocaptioner. In an emergency,
such as a tornado or a hurricane, people’s safety may depend on
the accuracy of information provided in the form of captioning.
The majority of court reporters work in comfortable settings,
such as offices of attorneys, courtrooms, legislatures, and conventions.
An increasing number of court reporters work from home-based offices
as independent contractors, or freelancers.
Work in this occupation presents few hazards, although sitting
in the same position for long periods can be tiring, and workers
can suffer wrist, back, neck, or eye strain. Workers also risk
repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. In
addition, the pressure to be accurate and fast can be stressful.
Many official court reporters work a standard 40-hour week. Self-employed
court reporters, or freelancers, usually work flexible hours,
including part time, evenings, and weekends, or they may be on
The amount of training required to become a court reporter varies
with the type of reporting chosen. It usually takes less than
a year to become a voice writer, while electronic reporters and
transcribers learn their skills on the job. In contrast, the average
length of time it takes to become a stenotypist is 33 months.
Training is offered by about 160 postsecondary vocational and
technical schools and colleges. The National Court Reporters Association
(NCRA) has approved about 70 programs, all of which offer courses
in stenotype computer-aided transcription and real-time reporting.
NCRA-approved programs require students to capture a minimum of
225 words per minute, a requirement for Federal Government employment
Some States require court reporters to be notary publics. Others
require the Certified Court Reporter (CCR) designation, for which
a reporter must pass a State test administered by a board of examiners.
The NCRA confers the entry-level designation Registered Professional
Reporter (RPR) upon those who pass a four-part examination and
participate in mandatory continuing education programs. Although
voluntary, the designation is recognized as a mark of distinction
in the field. A reporter may obtain additional certifications
that demonstrate higher levels of competency, such as Registered
Merit Reporter (RMR) or Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR). The
RDR is the highest level of certification available to court reporters.
To earn it, a court reporter must either have 5 consecutive years
of experience as an RMR or be an RMR and hold a 4-year bachelor’s
The NCRA also offers the designations Certified Realtime Reporter
(CRR), Certified Broadcast Captioner (CBC), and Certified CART
Provider (CCP). These designations promote and recognize competence
in instantaneously converting the spoken word into the written
Some States require voice writers to pass a test and to earn
State licensure. As a substitute for State licensure, the National
Verbatim Reporters Association offers three national certifications
to voice writers: Certified Verbatim Reporter (CVR), the Certificate
of Merit (CM), and Real-Time Verbatim Reporter (RVR). Earning
these certifications is sufficient to be licensed in States where
the voice method of court reporting is permitted. To get the CM
or RVR, one must first earn the CVR. Candidates for the CVR must
pass a written test covering spelling, punctuation, vocabulary,
legal and medical terminology, and also must pass three 5-minute
dictation and transcription examinations that test for speed,
accuracy, and silence. Passing the CM exam requires high levels
of speed, knowledge, and accuracy. The RVR measures the candidate’s
skill at real-time transcription. To retain these certifications,
the voice writer must obtain continuing education credits. Credits
are given for voice writer education courses, continuing legal
education courses, and college courses.
The American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers
(AAERT) certifies electronic court reporters. Certification is
voluntary and includes a written and a practical examination.
To be eligible to take the exams, candidates must have at least
2 years of court reporting or transcribing experience, must be
eligible for notary public commissions in their States, and must
have completed high school. AAERT offers three types of certificates—Certified
Electronic Court Reporter (CER), Certified Electronic Court Transcriber
(CET), and Certified Electronic Court Reporter and Transcriber
(CERT). Some employers may require electronic court reporters
and transcribers to obtain certificates once they are eligible.
In addition to possessing speed and accuracy, court reporters
must have excellent listening skills, as well as good English
grammar, vocabulary, and punctuation skills. Voice writers must
learn to listen and speak simultaneously and very quickly, while
also identifying speakers and describing peripheral activities
in the courtroom or deposition room. They must be aware of business
practices and current events as well as the correct spelling of
names of people, places, and events that may be mentioned in a
broadcast or in court proceedings. For those who work in courtrooms,
an expert knowledge of legal terminology and criminal and appellate
procedure is essential. Because capturing proceedings requires
the use of computerized stenography or speech recognition equipment,
court reporters must be knowledgeable about computer hardware
and software applications.
With experience and education, court reporters can advance to
administrative and management, consulting, or teaching positions.
Court reporters held about 18,000 jobs in 2004. About 60 percent
worked for State and local governments, a reflection of the large
number of court reporters working in courts, legislatures, and
various agencies. Most of the remaining wage and salary workers
worked for court reporting agencies. Around 13 percent of court
reporters were self-employed.
Job opportunities for court reporters are expected to be excellent
as job openings continue to outnumber jobseekers. Court reporters
with certification should have the best job opportunities. The
favorable job market reflects the fact that fewer people are entering
this profession, particularly as stenographic typists.
Employment of court reporters is projected to grow about as fast
as average for all occupations through 2014. Demand for court
reporter services will be spurred by the continuing need for accurate
transcription of proceedings in courts and in pretrial depositions,
and by the growing need to create captions for live or prerecorded
television and to provide other real-time translating services
for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Voice writers have
become more widely accepted because of the difficulty in attracting
workers and as the accuracy of speech recognition technology improves.
Still, many courts allow only stenotypists to perform court reporting
duties; as a result, demand for these highly skilled reporters
will remain high.
Federal legislation mandates that, by 2006, all new television
programming must be captioned for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.
In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act gives deaf and
hard-of-hearing students in colleges and universities the right
to request access to real-time translation in their classes. Both
of these factors are expected to increase demand for court reporters
to provide real-time captioning and CART services. Although these
services forgo transcripts and differ from traditional court reporting,
which uses computer-aided transcription to turn spoken words into
permanent text, they require the same skills that court reporters
learn in their training.
Despite increasing numbers of civil and criminal cases, budget
constraints are expected to limit the ability of Federal, State,
and local courts to expand, thereby also limiting the demand for
traditional court reporting services in courtrooms and other legal
venues. Further, because of the difficulty in attracting workers
and in efforts to control costs, many courtrooms have installed
tape recorders that are maintained by electronic court reporters
and transcribers to record court proceedings. However, courts
use electronic reporters and transcribers only in a limited capacity,
and court reporters will continue to be used in felony trials
and other proceedings. Despite the use of audiotape and videotape
technology, court reporters can quickly turn spoken words into
readable, searchable, permanent text, and they will continue to
be needed to produce written legal transcripts and proceedings
Court reporters had median annual earnings of $42,920 in May
2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $30,680 and $60,760.
The lowest paid 10 percent earned less than $23,690, and the highest
paid 10 percent earned more than $80,300. Median annual earnings
in May 2004 were $41,070 for court reporters working in local
Both compensation and compensation methods for court reporters
vary with the type of reporting job, the experience of the individual
reporter, the level of certification achieved, and the region
of the country. Official court reporters earn a salary and a per-page
fee for transcripts. Many salaried court reporters supplement
their income by doing freelance work. Freelance court reporters
are paid per job and receive a per-page fee for transcripts. CART
providers are paid by the hour. Stenocaptioners receive a salary
and benefits if they work as employees of a captioning company;
stenocaptioners working as independent contractors are paid by
Workers in several other occupations type, record information,
and process paperwork. Among these are secretaries and administrative
assistants; medical transcriptionists; data entry and information
processing workers; receptionists and information clerks; and
human resources assistants, except payroll and timekeeping. Other
workers who provide legal support include paralegals and legal
assistants. See the Careers Database
to view these careers.
|Sources of Additional Information
State employment service offices can provide information about
job openings for court reporters.
For information about careers, training, and certification in
court reporting, contact:
- United States Court Reporters Association, P.O. Box 465, Chicago,
IL 60690-0465. Internet: http://www.uscra.org/
- National Verbatim Reporters Association, 207 Third Ave., Hattiesburg,
MS 39401. Internet: http://www.nvra.org/
- American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers,
23812 Rock Circle, Bothell, WA 98021-8573. Internet: http://www.aaert.org/
Source: Bureau of Labor
Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational
Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition,