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Court Reporter

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A lawyer questioning a suspect
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What is a Court Reporter?:

Court reporters - also known as stenographers or stenocaptioners - create a verbatim written transcript of the spoken word. By using special equipment called a stenotype, court reporters capture the sound of words in a phonetic code, with each line of characters representing one sound or syllable. Court reporters transcribe court testimony, speeches, meetings, depositions, legal proceedings, cyber-conferences and other events at rates exceeding 225 words per minute. Court reporters also prepare, review and proof printed or magnetic media transcripts using computer-aided transcription software.

Related Court Reporting Careers:

Some court reporters perform broadcast captioning and real-time reporting for webcasts. Realtime technology allows court reporters to instantly convert speech into written text to be displayed on computer monitors or projection screens for viewing by large groups in courtrooms, conference rooms, classrooms and other venues.

Other court reporters use a form of captioning known as Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) to convey the spoken word to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Education:

According to the National Court Reporter's Association (NCRA), training for court reporters is offered by 130 programs, including proprietary schools, community colleges, four-year universities and distance learning programs. About 62 of these programs are certified by the NCRA. NCRA-certified programs require graduates to capture a minimum of 225 words per minute, a requirement for federal government employment and many other practice environments.

Training and Certification:

The amount of training required to become a court reporter ranges from less than a year for a novice voice writer to an average of 33 months for a realtime stenotypist. It takes a minimum of two years to become proficient at realtime voice writing. Electronic reporters, who operate recording equipment and do not use a steno machine, can be trained in as little as three months and learn most of their skills on the job.

Many court reporter advance their careers through additional certifications that demonstrate higher levels of experience and competency.

Skills:

Court reporters must master the use of the stenotype and stenographic technology such as computer-aided transcription (CAT) software, speech recognition equipment and real-time technology.

Other essential court reporting abilities include listening skills and an excellent command of English grammar, vocabulary and punctuation. Transcription speeds in excess of 225 words per minute are vital to the court reporter’s work as well as the ability to maintain confidentiality. Court reporters must also be detail-oriented, accurate, punctual, disciplined and work well under pressure.

Practice Environments:

Court reporters held about 19,000 jobs in 2006, according to the Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). More than half worked for State and local governments, evidencing the large number of court reporters employed in courts, legislatures and government agencies. Many court reporters are also employed by court reporting agencies and television networks. Around 8 percent of court reporters are self-employed freelancers, according to the BLS.

Salary:

Court reporter salaries vary according to the region of employment and type of reporting job as well as the court reporter’s level of certification and experience.

A survey by the National Court Reporters Association found that the average income for court reporters was $64,672 with salaried positions for broadcast captioners ranging from $45,000 to $75,000 and salaries for independent contractors ranging from $36,000 to more than twice that amount, depending on the number of on-air hours. The NCRA reports that CART reporters can earn between $35,000 and $65,000 per year.

Job Outlook:

A national shortage of court reporters has created a demand for qualified reporters. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of court reporters is projected to grow 25 percent, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Demand for court reporting services is fueled by the continuing need for accurate transcription of proceedings in courts and in pretrial depositions, by the growing need to create captions for live television, and by the need to provide other real-time broadcast captioning and translating services for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, according to the BLS.

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