- Most court reporters receive formal training at a community college or vocational school.
- Since steno masks and stenotype machines are complex pieces of equipment, they can take years to master.
- There are two different educational "classes" of court reporters: those who know how to use stenotype machines and those who rely exclusively on steno masks and digital recorders.
- Although stenotypists must complete two to four years of intensive training, they appear more competitive to prospective employers and may command higher starting salaries.
- Those who stick to steno masks and digital recorders may complete their formal education within six months.
What you study:
Aspiring court reporters are encouraged to study the following subjects:
- Audiovisual science
- Basic programming
- English phonetics
- Basic legal theory
- Legal terminology
Briefly introduces the stenotype, or court room, reporter occupation. Produced for the US Department of Labor.
A Day in the Life
After you decided to become a court reporter, you were pleasantly surprised to discover that you would have a great deal of control over the setting in which you worked. You were also intrigued to learn that you wouldn't necessarily have to work full-time. Many court reporters work on a part-time or even freelance basis.
You've stuck with your occupation for several years and have become a respected member of your local legal community. After working for two years as a freelancer, you've moved up in the world and now work on a full-time basis.
Although some of your colleagues work as in-house stenographers at law firms and private corporations, you followed a plurality of your peers and chose to work for your local district court. Even if you had chosen to work in the private sector, your job duties would be roughly equivalent to your current workload.
You spend many of your days in a courtroom. However, formal legal proceedings and trials aren't the only events that you're required to record. Today, you'll be recording a courtroom proceeding in the morning and transitioning to an out-of-court arbitration matter in the afternoon.
You arrive at the district court at 8:15 a.m. and set up your station in the courtroom to which you're assigned. The basic tools of your trade consist of a stenotype machine, a "steno mask" microphone and a high-quality digital recording device that can pick up even the faintest spoken words. All three of these devices sit before you on your desk. To prepare, you take a moment to review the court docket for the day. It doesn't look particularly stimulating: Most of the cases are routine preliminary hearings that shouldn't be difficult to record.
The proceedings begin promptly at 9 a.m. As soon as the judge calls the court to order, you turn on your digital recording device and leave it running for the duration of the morning. As each defendant introduces him or herself to the court, you use the stenotype machine's shorthand interface to create a play-by-play transcript of the proceedings. As you type, a program known as "computer-assisted transcription" automatically translates your shorthand into legible prose. Later, you'll review this transcription for inaccuracies before committing it to the official record.
During breaks in the action between hearings, you use your steno mask to describe certain elements of the proceedings in greater detail. For instance, you give a brief outline of each defendant's appearance and mannerisms. This spoken record will complement the written record that you've created with your stenotype machine.
When the judge adjourns the court for lunch, you quickly run across the street to your favorite sandwich shop and satiate your hunger. While you're grateful to get an official lunch break, you often can't enjoy it to the fullest extent. After all, you're due in another wing of an adjacent building in just 30 minutes.
You arrive at the arbitration proceeding with a few minutes to spare and repeat the setup routine that you employed in the courtroom. From what you understand, this meeting involves a legal dispute between the city and a private landowner. Since it's not a routine case, you take a moment to describe its nature using the steno mask. This description will orient anyone who may need to review the official record of the case.
Once this preliminary task is out of the way, the proceeding unfolds as expected. Due to the technical nature of the laws over which the two parties are arguing, you need to stop them at several points to ask for clarification. While your digital recorder picks up these clarifications, you also use the steno mask to translate the explanations into even simpler terms. At certain times, you also use the steno mask to describe the participants' actions and attitudes.
Once the meeting is over, both parties thank you for your patience and leave. Since you can feel invisible at times, you're grateful to be recognized for your work.
Before you leave for the day, you provide the judge who presided over this morning's hearings with a copy of your transcript. Since it's your responsibility to ensure that the legal record is complete and up-to-date, this has become a daily routine for you. Once you've fulfilled your obligations for the day, you leave the building and go home. Thanks to your regular schedule, you can't remember the last time you missed dinner with your family.
Certifications and Licensing
Depending upon the sub-field in which aspiring court reporters wish to work, they may obtain several different certifications. The most common is a "Certification as a Registered Professional Reporter" designation that requires reporters to demonstrate mastery of shorthand and type at 225 words per minute or higher. Meanwhile, the National Court Reporters Association offers a stenotype certification that looks attractive to prospective employers. In some states, court reporters who wish to work in a courtroom setting must obtain a specific license that tests their familiarity with the law as well as their reporting accuracy.
Full-time versus part-time and work location:
Not all court reporters work in official courts of law. While many do, some work for private corporations or law firms and may concern themselves exclusively with arbitration proceedings, shareholder meetings and other proceedings that must be recorded in an official capacity. A minority of court reporters may make official recordings and transcripts of television programs for closed-captioning purposes.
These "captioners" have flexible work schedules and may work on a part-time or freelance basis. While some captioners work at television stations or production companies, other may work from home. In general, other types of court reporters work on-site in courtrooms, boardrooms, law offices and other "official" settings. Most experienced reporters end up working full-time during regular business hours. While freelance reporting is possible, freelancers typically have less job security.
These websites may be useful for individuals who wish to pursue a career as a court reporter:
- National Verbatim Reporters Association -- This organization aggregates career-related resources for court reporters, stenographers, legislative reporters and other individuals who may work in related fields. It offers information about licensing, education requirements and basic career expectations. Prospective court reporters can find a wide range of location-specific job postings here as well.
- American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers -- The American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers offers a full pre-certification course and administers a test that demonstrates mastery in electronic court reporting techniques. In addition to this primary mission, the AAERT also offers professional-development and continuing-education resources.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics -- The U.S. Labor Department maintains a convenient primer that offers crucial insights into the world of court reporting. Its fact sheet offers information about job duties, salary ranges, projected out-year job growth, educational requirements and licensing procedures. It also provides links to other educational and job-search resources.
- National Court Reporters Association -- The NCRA is a full-service organization that connects prospective court reporters with educational resources, certification tests and prospective employers. It maintains a network of job listings and also sponsors career fairs in various parts of the country. The NCRA's site features an exhaustive listing of job duties and starting salaries for court reporters.
Salaries by City
See typical salaries and ranges for this career below*. Shift click to sort by more than one column -- for example first shift-click on state and then shift-click on salary to find best and worst salaries in each state.
|State||City / Region||Typical Salary||Salary Range||Job Count||% of All Jobs|
|AL||Birmingham - Hoover||$45,680||N/A||N/A|
|AR||Little Rock - North Little Rock - Conway||$49,660||50||0.01%|
|AZ||Phoenix - Mesa - Glendale||$46,660||160||0.01%|
|CA||Los Angeles - Long Beach - Glendale (Metro Area)||$81,590||920||0.02%|
|CA||Riverside - San Bernardino - Ontario||$84,880||170||0.01%|
|CA||Sacramento - Arden - Arcade - Roseville||$70,360||50||0.01%|
|CA||San Diego - Carlsbad - San Marcos||$84,260||130||0.01%|
|CA||San Francisco - San Mateo - Redwood City (Metro Area)||$86,730||90||0.01%|
|CA||San Jose - Sunnyvale - Santa Clara||$83,080||90||0.01%|
|CO||Denver - Aurora - Broomfield||$71,790||150||0.01%|
|DC||Washington - Arlington - Alexandria (Metro Area)||$35,560||470||0.02%|
|DE||Wilmington (Metro Area)||$41,430||80||0.02%|
|FL||Lakeland - Winter Haven||$29,770||N/A||N/A|
|FL||Naples - Marco Island||$34,930||N/A||N/A|
|FL||Orlando - Kissimmee - Sanford||$45,960||240||0.02%|
|FL||Tampa - St. Petersburg - Clearwater||$36,540||N/A||N/A|
|FL||West Palm Beach - Boca Raton - Boynton Beach (Metro Area)||$19,120||160||0.03%|
|GA||Atlanta - Sandy Springs - Marietta||$63,740||400||0.02%|
|IA||Davenport - Moline - Rock Island||$36,720||N/A||N/A|
|IA||Des Moines - West Des Moines||$71,640||50||0.02%|
|IL||Chicago - Joliet - Naperville (Metro Area)||$45,890||N/A||N/A|
|IN||Gary (Metro Area)||$36,180||N/A||N/A|
|IN||Indianapolis - Carmel||$39,240||150||0.02%|
|KY||Louisville - Jefferson County||$27,000||40||0.01%|
|LA||New Orleans - Metairie - Kenner||$37,420||140||0.03%|
|LA||Shreveport - Bossier City||$52,590||100||0.06%|
|MA||Boston - Cambridge - Quincy (Metro Area)||$51,360||80||0.00%|
|MD||Baltimore - Towson||$37,800||N/A||N/A|
|MI||Detroit - Livonia - Dearborn (Metro Area)||$50,010||120||0.02%|
|MI||Grand Rapids - Wyoming||$47,770||30||0.01%|
|MI||Lansing - East Lansing||$36,880||40||0.02%|
|MI||Warren - Troy - Farmington Hills (Metro Area)||$55,300||80||0.01%|
|MN||Minneapolis - St. Paul - Bloomington||$63,700||210||0.01%|
|NJ||Camden (Metro Area)||$45,700||N/A||N/A|
|NJ||Edison - New Brunswick (Metro Area)||$51,790||40||0.00%|
|NV||Las Vegas - Paradise||$44,130||N/A||N/A|
|NY||Albany - Schenectady - Troy||$29,480||N/A||N/A|
|NY||Buffalo - Niagara Falls||$68,440||80||0.02%|
|NY||Nassau - Suffolk (Metro Area)||$90,690||190||0.02%|
|NY||New York - White Plains - Wayne (Metro Area)||$97,850||700||0.01%|
|OH||Cincinnati - Middletown||$46,560||70||0.01%|
|OH||Cleveland - Elyria - Mentor||$62,110||70||0.01%|
|OR||Portland - Vancouver - Hillsboro||N/A||90||0.01%|
|PA||Philadelphia (Metro Area)||$50,770||250||0.01%|
|PR||San Juan - Caguas - Guaynabo||$27,830||150||0.02%|
|RI||Providence - Fall River - Warwick||$74,070||70||0.01%|
|SC||Charleston - North Charleston - Summerville||$32,190||40||0.01%|
|TX||Austin - Round Rock - San Marcos||$80,600||N/A||N/A|
|TX||Dallas - Plano - Irving (Metro Area)||$66,830||300||0.01%|
|TX||Fort Worth - Arlington (Metro Area)||$82,790||50||0.01%|
|TX||Houston - Sugar Land - Baytown||$66,640||320||0.01%|
|TX||San Antonio - New Braunfels||$82,150||70||0.01%|
|UT||Provo - Orem||$28,020||N/A||N/A|
|VA||Virginia Beach - Norfolk - Newport News||$53,520||N/A||N/A|
|VT||Burlington - South Burlington||$54,380||N/A||N/A|
|WA||Seattle - Bellevue - Everett (Metro Area)||$35,070||150||0.01%|