- Job prospects are expected to be excellent as job openings continue to
- Demand for real-time and broadcast captioning and translating will spur
- 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 Real-time 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 silencera
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 reporters
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 format.
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, peoples 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
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
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 call.
Qualifications, and Advancement
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 as well.
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 bachelors degree.
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 word.
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 candidates 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
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
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 for publication.
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
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 the hour.
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
Sources of Additional
State employment service offices can provide information about job openings
for court reporters.
For information about careers, training, and certification in court
- United States Court Reporters Association, P.O. Box 465, Chicago, IL
- National Verbatim Reporters Association, 207 Third Ave., Hattiesburg, MS
- American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers, 23812 Rock
Circle, Bothell, WA 98021-8573. Internet:
Suggested citation: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S.
Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07
Court Reporters, on the Internet at
(visited May 12, 2006).