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Court Reporting (Reporter) Careers, Jobs and Training Information Profiles

Court Reporting Career and Job Highlights

  • Court reporters typically require a 2 or 4-year postsecondary degree.
  • Employment growth in this field is due to the need of real-time and broadcast captioning and translating.
  • Individuals with certification have the greatest career outlook.

Courter Reporter Career Overview and Job Profile

Court reporters usually record exact reports of speeches, discussions, legal proceedings, meetings and similar situations where it is essential that a written transcript of what was said is be taken for correspondence, legal proof, or records. In judicial proceedings, as well as in other meetings, court reporters play an integral part in maintaining a written record of the spoken word. Besides guaranteeing a complete, correct and secure written legal record, a court reporter’s responsibilities may include helping judges and trial lawyers to find and organize information needed in the official record and assisting in the courtroom and in procedural administration. In addition, court reporters use their skills to make closed-captioning and realtime translating services available to the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

Stenotyping and voice writing are the two main types of court reporting. In stenotyping, all records are made of court proceedings are made by using a stenotype machine. The stenotype machine permits a Stenotypist to push several keys at one time to note combinations of letters that signify whole phrases, words, or individual sounds. These combinations are then put on computer disks or CD-ROMS. The computer, in a method called computer-aided transcription, translates and presents the stenotyped symbols as text. Because there is only one person recording court proceedings, it is important that the transcription is accurate. For instance, court appeals regularly refer to the court reporter’s transcript. When realtime captioning is required, the stenotype machines are connected to a computer, which immediately displays the typed symbols as text on the screen. This process is referred to as CART, communications access realtime translation. CART is often used in courts, classrooms, and official meetings. It is also used for the hearing-impaired for closed-captioned television.

Voice writing is another type of court reporting. In this method, the reporter holds a mask with a microphone and a voice silencer, and speaks directly into it. The mask and silencer allow the court reporter to remain unheard, while repeating the statements into the microphone. Everything is documented by the voice writer, including the emotions and gestures of the individuals speaking.

Voice writing can be recorded in real time, using a computer to translate the record to text. A voice writer may then convert the voice recording into text after the meeting is over, using the computer’s speech recognition technology. However, by using a computer, a voice writer’s career options are open to different fields other than court reporting, such as caption providers for those that are hearing impaired, for captioning Internet steaming text, or as CART reporters.

Besides transcribing proceedings, court reporters are also required to generate and keep a computer dictionary of the stenographic symbols or voice recordings that they translate to text. This dictionary should be customized with words or terminology that will be used during the meeting they will be transcribing. After the meeting, court reporters must proofread their record or the computer translation. They make certain that the grammar is correct, names and places are accurate, and that the information is understandable. Their responsibilities also include preparing the transcripts and copying them. It is important that a court reporter develop a system of easy storage and retrieval of their records. If requested, court reporters must provide information from the transcripts they take to courts, attorneys, judges, other parties and the public.

Court reporting careers are not limited to the courtroom. Court reporters may work in attorney’s offices taking a record of depositions, meetings, or other gatherings. Government agencies, from the U.S. Congress to state or local governments also have a need for those with stenotyping or voice writing skills. Court reporters that work captioning television programs for those with hearing impairments are called stenocaptioners. Stenocaptioners caption news programs, emergency alerts, sports programs, and other shows for both television networks and cable stations.

While most official court reporters have a normal 40- hour work week, those that free-lance or are self employed are able to work hours they set themselves which may include nights, weekends, or odd hours.

Court Reporting Career Training and Job Qualifications

Depending on the type of reporting being done, the required training may vary from less than a year (for voice writing) to nearly three years (for stenotyping). Someone who is interested in a career as a court reporter or a related can receive training from 160 postsecondary vocational and technical schools and colleges located throughout the United States. The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) requires that students are able to record a minimum of 225 words per minute, which is also required by the Federal Government as well. There are about 82 training programs that are approved by the NCRA.

Different states have different requirements. For example, some states require that court reporters be notary publics. Other states may require that a court reporter pass a certification test administered by the state board of examiners, providing a reporter the certified court reporter (CCR) title. Upon passing a four-part exam and also taking required continuing education classes, the NCRA gives entry-level court reporters the designation of RPR otherwise referred to as a “registered professional reporter.” This designation is done on a voluntary basis, but provides those that acquire it a certain level of distinction. If desired, a court reporter may continue to enhance their certification and expertise by achieving the position of a “registered merit reporter” (RMR) or the highest level of certification, the “registered diplomate reporter” (RDR). To achieve this level, 5 successive years of work as a RMR must be completed or one must be a RMR and have a 4-year baccalaureate degree.

There are other designations used to distinguish and promote those with specialized skills in translating the spoken word to text immediately. These are the “certified realtime reporter” (CRR), the “certified broadcast captioner” (CBC), and the “certified CART provider” (CCP).

In some states, reporters are required to pass an examination and earn a State licensure. Instead of a state license, the Nation Verbatim Reporters Association offers voice writers three different national certifications: “certified verbatim reporter” (CVR), the “certificate of merit” (CM), and the “real-time verbatim reporter” (RVR). In some cases, obtaining these certifications allows State licensure. The CVR must be obtained first to earn the CM or RVR. The CVR is earned by completing a written exam that covers the skills needed by a reporter such as punctuation, grammar, spelling, definitions and legal terminology. In addition, candidates must pass three different five-minute transcription tests that check for speed and accuracy. The speed and accuracy requirements for the CM exam are even greater than those required by the CVR exam. To achieve the RVR certification, a specified level of real-time transcription ability is required. Voice recorders are expected to continue their education in order to keep their certification current.

Good listening skills are essential to be a success court reporter. Court reporters must be able to listen to the speakers while quickly repeating the spoken word, describing the physical actions in the room, and identifying the speakers. To record accurately, they must be skilled in grammar, vocabulary, and punctuation. They should be able to spell the names of people, places, and events exactly as they are spoken in the meeting or courtroom. In the courtroom, it is imperative that court reporters understand legal terminology, as it is used frequently in the proceedings. They should also know the criminal and appellate procedure. Court reporters should also have knowledge of computer technology and hardware, as computers play an important role in their career.

There are many opportunities for court reporters to progress in their careers by continuing their education and by gaining relevant experience. Court reporters may achieve administrative, management or consulting positions, or may even become teachers in their field.

Court Reporter Job and Employment Opportunities

Court reporter employment is expected to grow at the same rate as other careers through 2012. There is a persistent need for court reporters due to the need for closed captions for the hearing impaired for television programs as well as the need for other realtime translating services. There is also increasing demand for more court reporters as over time less and less individuals have sought careers in this field. Stenographic typists are highest demand and have great job opportunities.

Those that are deaf or are hearing impaired benefit greatly by those with court reporting skills, making the demand for these skills increase. By 2006, all new television shows must have closed-captioning, as mandated by federal legislation. Additionally, deaf or hearing-impaired students have the right to realtime translation of their college classes if they desire – as designated in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Local courts, as well as Federal and State courts, are not expected to expand because of a limited budget, even though they have an increased workload, thereby limiting their need for more court reporters. Some courts have tried to cut their spending by employing tape recorders or video cameras in place of court reporters. However, these options have a higher error rate and are unable to convert the spoken word into written text.

Historical Earnings Information

In 2002, court reporters earned an average annual income of $41,550. The top ten percent of court reporters reported earned more than $73,440 per year while the lowest ten percent earned less than $23,120.

Compensation for court reporting differs according to the certification level, experience, and the type of reporting being required. Compensation also varies in different regions in the nation. Official court reporters many times are paid a “per-page” fee in addition to a salary. They may also increase their income by free-lancing. Reporters that work in real-time translation are paid by the hour. If working for a captioning company as a stenocaptioner, the reporter is salaried and is given benefits. Freelance stenocaptioners are paid hourly.