A court reporter transcribes the events of legal proceedings. You will be attending and recording the dialogue that occurs in trials, administrative hearings and depositions. You will use stenography machines and other specialized equipment to catch the dialogue that occurs. You will include gestures, actions and names of speakers in your recording.
Your work is indispensable to the legal process since you are responsible for getting an accurate record of everything that was said and done. Thus, you will be asking the speakers to clarify what they said in their testimonies or defense in case these were not delivered clearly. If the judge wishes to hear a part of the proceedings, you will be responsible for providing a report of it right away.
After the hearing, it is your responsibility to review your notes so that the transcripts you prepare will be correct and free from typographical errors. It will also be your task to provide copies of the transcripts to everyone involved in the case—from the courts to the lawyers and to the other parties of the proceedings.
If you do not wish to work in a court setting, you may still be a reporter but can become broadcast captioners or communication access real-time translation (CART) providers. As a broadcast captioner, you will be serving viewers who are deaf or have difficulty hearing or those watching a broadcast publicly. Your task will be to transcribe the dialogue of television programs to television monitors so that the viewers will know what is happening. Closed captioning may be done in real time while the broadcast is going on or after the program has been concluded.
CART providers also work with people who are deaf but instead of in a court setting, they assist them in their appointments and meetings where translation is needed. This can be in doctor’s appointments or in school where the CART provider’s role is to get a transcript of the classes so the hard-of-hearing student can still catch up with the classroom discussions. Both broadcast captioners and CART providers can work even without having to go with the client to the actual event. This is now possible because of advances in Internet and communication technologies.
To succeed as a court reporter, you must be sharp of hearing. You have to be able to capture each word that is said so that you will be able to produce an accurate record. This also requires the ability to concentrate for long periods of time since there are bound to be noises that would distract you from your work. Accuracy is essential in this job since you are going to be making transcripts that will be filed as legal records of the proceedings. You have to be able to produce error-free work.
Why Become A Court Reporter
A career as a court reporter is not for everybody. However, it is one of the most fulfilling professions for those who have excellent listening skills. It is also a dream career for those who want to play a role in ensuring the accuracy of legal records. Knowing that you are helping those who are hearing impaired also gives you a sense of fulfillment.
The pay as a court reporter is decent and government data projects a good employment outlook for court reporters in the next few years—two good reasons to strive to become a court reporter. Those who have a keen interest in legal proceedings may also get to work in a court setting without having to go through the same lengthy education as lawyers.
Court Reporter Work Environment
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2012 that most court reporters were employed by the courts or legislatures of local and state governments. Data showed that 31 percent worked for local governments while 30 percent were hired by state governments. Twenty-seven percent of court reporters were employed by companies in the administrative and support services industry while two percent were in the information industry.
Court reporters employed by the courts generally follow a fulltime schedule. However, there are those who work freelance and as such have more flexibility when it comes to arranging their work hours. Broadcast captioners and CART providers can work from their home office or from the central office of the company that hires them.
Court Reporter Salary
The May 2013 Occupational Employment and Wages report of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the mean annual wage of court reporters was $54,760. This is higher than the $47,340 given to title examiners, abstractors and searchers which are classified together with court reporters under the miscellaneous legal support workers heading. The 2012 report of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that in that year, the highest paid court reporters earned more than over $90,530.
Court Reporter Career Outlook
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that for the ten-year period covering 2012 to 2022, the employment rate of court reporters is going to rise 10 percent, a rate that is about as fast as the average for all job types. The demand will come from the continued need of television programs for closed captioning. Online programs will also need closed captions which will add to the demand. Another driver for the need of CART providers is the rise of the senior population who are hard-of-hearing. Thus, those court reporters who are trained and experienced in CART and captioning in real time would have good job opportunities.
The growing use of digital audio recording technology (DAR) will negatively impact the job outlook of court reporters. In some states, this new technology has already taken the place of stenographic court reporters and other states are checking if doing so would be feasible.
Court Reporter Degree
Aspiring court reporters need to obtain a certificate or associate’s degree in court reporting which can take anywhere from one to two years. These courses are usually offered in community colleges and technical institutes. This training will enable court reporters to get entry-level jobs.
Court reporters wishing to work in a court setting must obtain a license. Each state has its own requirements which will also be determined by the court reporting method employed. There 22 states that accept or require certification instead of licensing. Certification as a Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) can be obtained from the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA). This requires the passing of a written exam and skills test comprised of three parts. One part requires applicants to type a certain number of words per minute. The NCRA also requires court reporters to finish continuing education classes and online training in order to keep their certification.