What Does a Court Reporter Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image by Alexandra Gordon © The Balance 2019 

A court reporter produces official written transcripts of legal proceedings, for example, trials, hearings, and legislative meetings. Also called a court stenographer, he or she provides an accurate, word-for-word, complete record of these events so that interested parties like lawyers, judges, plaintiffs, defendants, and the jury, can reference them as needed.

Some people who are trained as court reporters don't work in a legal setting. They may caption live or recorded television broadcasts and public events for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Someone who does this is called a broadcast captioner, caption writer, closed caption editor or, simply, a captioner.

communication access real-time translation (CART) provider, also called a real-time captioner, assists people who are deaf or hard of hearing by translating speech into text during meetings, doctor's appointments, and classes. They sometimes accompany their clients, but more often they work remotely via the Internet or phone.

Court Reporter Duties & Responsibilities

This job requires candidates to be able to perform duties that include the following:

  • Attend hearings, depositions, proceedings, and other types of events that need a written transcript
  • In addition to spoken words, they must report the speaker's identification, actions, and gestures
  • Use specialized stenography machines, microphones, recording devices, audio, and video equipment
  • Play back or read back any part of the proceedings at the judge's request
  • Ask speakers for clarification on any unclear or inaudible testimony or statements
  • Provide the courts, legal counsels, and involved parties with copies of their transcriptions
  • Transcribe the dialogue of movies or television programs for deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals

Many court reporter work in a courtroom, but not all do. Some court reporters work for broadcasting companies to provide the closed captions for television programs. Others may work as Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) providers to transcribe business meetings or high school or college classes and provide a copy to deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals at the end of the session or event.

Court Reporter Salary

  • Median Annual Salary: $55,120 ($26.50/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $100,270 ($48.21/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $26,160 ($12.58/hour)

Education, Training, Licensing, and Certification

Court reporter jobs generally require at least two years of college-level education, and some states may require a professional license:

  • Education: To train to become a court reporter, take classes at a community college or technical school. Depending on the program, you may earn either an associate degree or post-secondary certificate upon completion.
  • License: Some states require a professional license to work in this field. To get one, you will have to pass a written exam. Your training program will usually prepare you for this test. To find out what the licensing requirements are in the state in which you want to work, visit the Licensed Occupations Tool on CareerOneStop.
  • Certification: Various professional associations offer voluntary certification. While this credential isn't required, it can make you a more desirable job candidate.

Court Reporter Skills & Competencies

In addition to formal training and licensing requirements, to be a successful court reporter, you need particular soft skills. These are personal qualities with which you are either born or acquire through life experience.

  • Listening Skills: To record what transpires during proceedings, you must be able to understand everything you hear.
  • Writing Skills: Court reporters must be good writers; you will need to have extensive knowledge of grammar and an excellent vocabulary.
  • Reading Comprehension: You must be able to understand written documents
  • Concentration: It is essential to maintain focus for long stretches of time.
  • Attention to Detail: Accuracy is crucial; missing anything can be detrimental.

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the outlook for court reporters over the next decade relative to other occupations and industries is lower than the average for all occupations, driven by tightening budgets and increasing use of technology.

Employment is expected to grow by about 3 percent over the next ten years, which is lower the average growth projected for all occupations between 2016 and 2026. Growth for other legal support worker jobs is projected to be 11 percent over the next ten years.

These growth rates compare to the projected 7 percent growth for all occupations. Individuals that graduate from court reporting programs, or have training and experience in real-time captioning and CART will have more opportunities for employment. 

Work Environment 

Slightly more than one-third of court reporters work in courtrooms, while another 30 percent work in business support services roles. Some court reporters work on a freelance basis as needed. The speed and accuracy requirements, along with the time-sensitive nature of the work, may cause a degree of stress in this job.

Work Schedule 

Court reporters typically work a 40-hour schedule if they work in a courtroom environment. Freelance court reporters may set their own schedules.

How to Get the Job

APPLY

You can look for open court reporter positions through online job search sites, such as Indeed.com, Monster.com, or Glassdoor.com. You can also locate and apply to court reporter jobs directly through the courthouse or through specialized job-search sites that cater to the legal industry. The career center of your court reporter school may also have job postings.


FIND A COURT REPORTER INTERNSHIP

You can contact the career center at your court reporter school and work with them to locate internship opportunities.

Comparing Similar Jobs 

Individuals interested in becoming a court reporter may also be interested in the following similar positions, listed here with their annual salaries: