Court Reporter

Career Information

Court scene
••• Comstock / Getty Images

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 and 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.

Quick Facts

  • Court reporters earn a median annual salary of $55,120 (2017).
  • About 19,600 people work in this occupation (2016).
  • State or local courts or legislatures employ most court reporters. Hours are typically full-time during regular business hours.
  • Some courts reporters, including broadcast captioners and CART Providers, are freelancers who work on an as-needed basis.
  • The job outlook for this occupation isn't good. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job growth will be slower than the average for all occupations between 2016 and 2026.

A Day in a Court Reporter's Life

These are some typical job duties taken from online ads for court reporter, broadcast captioner, and CART provider positions found on Indeed.com:

Court Reporter

  • "Attend all sessions of the court and stenographically record all court proceedings by taking full shorthand and/or stenograph machine notes of all oral testimony, rulings, and remarks of the Court"
  • "Utilize state-of-the-art recording equipment, capture notes, and proofread legal transcripts"
  • Identify participants by name to facilitate reporting"
  • "Read aloud statements of participants as requested during proceedings"
  • "Maintain stenographic records in such a way that they are readily accessible for the period of time required by law"

Broadcast Captioner

  • "Transcribe the audio portion of a program and create a timed text track intended for use by deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers"
  • "Listen to production and write caption phrases for dialogue"
  • "Write captions to describe music and background noises"

CART Provider

  • "Interpret in real-time captioning through the use of a steno machine, notebook computer, and real-time software to render instant speech to text translation on a computer monitor"
  • "Caption all verbal communication that occurs in the classroom for students who are hard of hearing or who have other communication barriers"
  • "Troubleshoot and solve hardware/software or other technical problems with the captioning equipment"

    Education, Training, Licensing, and Certification

    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.

    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.

    Various professional associations offer voluntary certification. While this credential isn't required, it can make you a more desirable job candidate.

    What Soft Skills Do You Need to Succeed in This Field?

    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.

    What Employers Will Expect

    Employers whose job announcements appeared on Indeed.com  specified that court reporter job candidates meet the following qualifications, in addition to their training and experience:

    • "Ability to work under courtroom pressure for long periods of time without rest"
    • "Punctual attendance"
    • "Must possess excellent organizational skills and able to prioritize, meet deadlines, work with minimal supervision and multiple interruptions, exercise judgment and adapt instructions/directions from one assignment to another"
    • "Professional demeanor in/out of the courtroom"

    Is This Career a Good Fit for You?

    Your interestspersonality type, and work-related values must be a good fit for any occupation you choose. Court reporters should have the following traits:

    Occupations With Related Activities and Tasks

     DescriptionAnnual Salary (2017)Educational Requirements
    ParalegalSupports lawyers by doing research, drafting documents, and meeting with witnesses$50,410Associate or Bachelor's Degree in Paralegal Studies
    Court ClerkPerform clerical duties in a court, such as preparing dockets and getting information from witnesses, lawyers, and litigants.$37,300High School or GED Diploma

    Medical Transcriptionist

    Translates dictated reports from doctors into written documents$35,250Post-secondary Training at a community college or vocational school

    Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,  Occupational Outlook Handbook; Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor,  O*NET Online (visited April 19, 2018).