What is Court Reporting
and What Does a
Court Reporter Do?

what is a court reporter and what does a court reporter do

If you’re thinking about a career in court reporting, you’re probably wondering “what is court reporting” and “what does a court reporter actually do?” A career in court reporting and captioning can go far beyond the walls of the courtroom. To give you a glimpse into the life of a court reporter, we’ve summarized some relevant details below.  

What Does a Court Reporter Do?

According to the NCRA, court reporters are “highly trained professionals who share a unique ability to convert the spoken word into information that can be read, searched and archived.” Court reporters, also known as stenographers or Certified Shorthand Reporters (CSRs), capture and preserve a record of what transpired during legal proceedings, including depositions, hearings, arbitrations and trials. The final deliverable, a verbatim transcript of the proceeding, can be used as evidence at trial. In addition to legal proceedings, court reporters can also provide closed captioning service for live television broadcasts as well as other events. 

Becoming a court reporter requires special education and training, certifications and years of mastering the craft. Upon completion of a court reporting degree or program, a court reporter will be able to type upwards of 225 words per minute! As the NCRA describes, court reporters are at the forefront of technology and constantly upgrade their software and hardware to ensure that they have the most reliable, current and accurate method to capture the record. They even can synchronize their transcript with a digital audio or digital video recording to provide a searchable, multimedia record. 

What Type of Careers are Available to Court Reporters? 

Did you know that the subtitles you see on your favorite television show have been written by a captioner or court reporter? According to the NCRA, more than 70 percent of the nation’s 50,000+ court reporters work outside of the court. There are many career options available to court reporters, including positions such as: 

Freelance Court Reporter

Freelance court reporters can be thought of as independent contractors. They fulfill the same job duties as a standard court reporter, but they hold the capability to choose the jobs they want and pass on the jobs they don’t. They can work in various occupational areas including pretrial depositions, municipal hearings, board meetings, arbitrations and more. 

Legislative Court Reporter 

Legislative court reporters mainly transcribe cases within the United States Congress, as well as state legislatures. 

Official Court Reporter 

Official court reporters work at all levels of the United State’s court system. They prepare verbatim transcripts to be used by attorneys, judges and litigants. No matter the type of case, whether it be a controversial criminal trial or a government corruption trial, official court reporters produce a complete and accurate record of the proceedings. 

Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) Provider 

CART stands for Communication Access Realtime Translation, the instant translation of spoken word into text. A CART provider is skilled and trained in using a steno machine, a computer and realtime software to provide a word-to-text translation for individuals who may benefit from this assistive technology, such as those who are late-deafened, hard of hearing, or have cochlear implants.

Scopist 

Scopists aid court reporters as the editor for the official transcript. Scopists spot errors and help ensure accuracy of the transcript. From here, the transcript can be passed onto a proofreader before being returned to the court reporter.

Proofreader  

Proofreaders make the final rundown of the transcript before handing it off to the court reporter. They look for typos, incorrect punctuation, wrong/missing words and anything the scopist might have missed.

Broadcast Captioner 

Broadcast captioners provide captions for television programs to for deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers or those who are viewing television programs in public spaces where listening may be more difficult. Broadcast captioners can work for national channels or for local stations in any vertical.

The legal industry is currently facing a national stenographer shortage. Our litigious environment, coupled with the growing number of retiring stenographers, plus low student enrollment rates, has led to a dramatic supply gap between the demand for services and available stenographers. It’s safe to say that a career in court reporting will remain lucrative well into the future!  

Beyond the Transcript  

A career in court reporting can be flexible to fit your lifestyle and needs. For example, freelance reporters can take jobs when they choose to do so, allowing them to tailor their hours and schedule to their professional and personal life. For some, this means working part-time, while for others it can be a full-time position.  

According to the NCRA, a court reporter can typically earn a starting salary of $45,000 per year on average. However, depending on their certifications, location and the jobs they choose to report, many court reporters earn much more, upwards of six figures a year.   

How to Get Started with a Career in Court Reporting   

How do you know if the court reporting profession is for you? Register for a free 6-week Basic Steno Training course through Project Steno to learn the basics of shorthand theory and become familiar with the stenograph keyboard and machine. After completing your introductory course, you can enroll in school to begin your journey to becoming a court reporter. 

There are court reporter training programs located across the country at various schools, community colleges and universities. These programs typically take 2-3 years and require strict dedication to honing your skillset. See a list of programs through the NCRA and Project Steno Partner Court Reporting programs. 

Court Reporting Student Resources from
U.S. Legal Support  

U.S. Legal Support offers a variety of resources to court reporting students. Students are invited to join our mentorship and internship programs for real world, hands-on learning experience. Learn more here.  

For additional court reporting student resources in your area, visit the NCRA’s website.