One of the greatest things about working in the field of court reporting is that you never lack opportunities for work. It’s a “recession-proof, high-demand career” that will keep you employed as long as you want to be. Why? The answer is simple: crime doesn’t go away, and therefore the need for workers in the legal system will only continue to grow. But what’s it like being a court reporter?
What is a court reporter?
The NRCA (National Court Reporting Association) calls court reporters guardians of the record because of their unique role in the judicial process. A court reporter, sometimes referred to as a court stenographer, is a person who records courtroom or other legal proceedings word-for-word and in real time. They are highly trained to record exactly what they hear on specialized machines at a rate of over 200 words per minute. These words are then transcribed, archived and searchable in legal databases.
Court reporters don’t always work in the courtroom, though. Most attorneys hire their own court reporters to record things such as mediations or consultations. For example, a DUI lawyer might keep a court reporter on staff to accompany him or her to both formal and informal proceedings and meetings.
People with court reporter training can also provide live captioning for broadcasts, work in state legislature, or become professional scopists (people who edit court reports for errors). In fact, most court reporters end up working outside the actual courtroom, either as freelancers or skilled stenographers in other fields.
How do you become a court reporter?
Although court reporters don’t need four-year degrees, they do require specialized intense training. Some schools offer certificates and others offer associate’s degrees. The actual requirements may vary a little by state, but overall, most are required to at least obtain a certificate. For example, Fort Lauderdale court reporters are required to complete a formal training program and pass the Florida Professional Reporters Certification exam. Most training programs last about two years, but can last up to five years depending on how much work you put into practicing to pass the test.
How much do court reporters make?
The average court reporter earns about $56,000 per year, but this can go much higher depending on the type and amount of work you’re willing to do. To be specific, the average range is between $40,559 and $73,576 per year, but most rookies start out at about $40,000 and work their way up. A seasoned professional willing to put in more hours, learn different skills, or obtain higher certifications can reach the six-figure mark within a short amount of time. Salary can also vary depending on certain factors like specialized certifications, location, years in the field, and the type of work you take on. For example, a court reporter employed by a county court may earn a fixed salary, but may also take on freelance work from area attorneys to make extra money. They may also choose to expand their work to closed captioning or other steno work if time allows.
With the many opportunities a career in court reporting can offer, it’s a great option for someone struggling to choose an occupational path, or who simply craves variety in their work. The pay has unlimited potential for someone willing to work hard and pick up skills in other areas. Also, the variety of projects you can choose keeps it from getting boring, and the flexibility it offers allows most professionals to set their own schedules. Becoming a court reporter takes some time and work, but mastering the field and continuing to learn are the secrets to a long career.