What Do Court Reporters Do?
Court reporters have the important job of accurately transcribing every word spoken in a courtroom or at political events, such as a session of Congress. The transcript produced by the court reporter in any court proceeding is the legal record of the event, and is referenced in appeals and, often, throughout the proceeding itself. Court reporters also use their skills to create closed captioning for television, for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Court Reporters Skills and Abilities
In order to work as a court reporter, you must have a good command of the English language, excellent hearing and knowledge of legal terminology and processes. Clerical and office skills are the basis of the court reporter’s job. You will have to manage your time and your files very well, and you will have to speak clearly, since you will often be asked to read back what you have transcribed.
Court Reporters Duties
Court reporters must record exactly what they hear. They use stenograph machines or other shorthand devices to create a transcript of committee meetings, legislative assemblies and court proceedings, which they then officially file with the court or legislative body. Your specific duties as a court reporter will include:
- Listening intently to every word spoken in the proceeding
- Focusing only on the task at hand and tuning out all distractions
- Taking accurate notes on a stenograph machine
- Transcribing your shorthand notes in appropriate formats depending on the circumstance
- Providing copies of transcripts to the public, to attorneys and to judges
- Keep your original shorthand notes well-organized, for reference
- Double-checking your work
- Asking for clarification when you are unable to hear certain statements
- Reading back portions of proceedings when asked
- Keeping your knowledge and skills up-to-date with technology
Remember, shorthand and transcription skills translate well into other fields, such as closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing. Working as a closed captioning transcriber entails many of the same skills and duties, but in a completely different environment and, most likely, with a completely different vocabulary. No matter where you end up working, staying organized and maintaining your skill level will give you the best results and the best opportunity for continuous employment.
Court Reporters Tools and Technology
As a court reporter, you may use digital voice recorders, microphones, dictation equipment and computers in the course of your day. You will also use court reporting software, voice recognition software and word processing software. Depending on the nature of your employment, you may need to use billing and scheduling software to keep track of when and where you have worked. Sitting and typing all day while watching a monitor can wreak havoc on your body, so include ergonomic equipment in your tool inventory whenever possible.
Education and Training for Court Reporters
A Bachelor’s degree is not required for entry into the field of court reporting. However, shorthand and transcription are highly specific skills and a 2- to 4-year training program at the technical or community college level is usually required to attain the level of accuracy needed. Once you’ve completed your training and have found employment, you can expect some short-term on-the-job training.
Court Reporters Salary
The median annual salary for court reporters in the United States is $49,900, or $23.97 per hour. Most court reporters earn between $12.82 and $45.26 per hour, which equals $26,700 to $94,100 per year.
Court Reporters Jobs by Geography
California is the state with the highest number of court reporters (over 3,000) and a 9.7 percent growth is expected over a ten-year period. At least 20 states expect growth over 10 percent, so expect to find a fair amount of jobs available for court reporters.