Court Reporting Career Options

Are you thinking about becoming a court reporter? A court reporter’s job can be exciting, and many work environments for this job are found in comfortable settings such as attorneys’ offices, courtrooms and conventions. Additionally, an increasing number of court reporters work from home as independent contractors or as freelancers.The court reporter often is pictured in the courtroom, transcribing court proceedings. But, the court reporter also can work as a secretary or administrative assistant, medical transcriptionist, data entry and information processing employee, receptionist or information clerk, human resource assistant and – with further training – as paralegals and legal assistants.

The type of reporting chosen will determine your education. For instance, it usually takes less than one year to become a novice voice writer, but it takes two years to become proficient at real-time voice writing. Many electronic reporters and transcribers learn their skills on the job, and the average length of time it takes to become a real-time stenotypist is about thirty-three months. The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) lists about 70 certified programs, which offer courses in computer-aided transcription and real-time reporting.

There are three types of court reporting. The stenographic form of court reporting uses a stenotype machine for official proceedings. Electronic reporting uses audio equipment to record court proceedings. In the voice-writing method of court reporting, the court reporter uses a voice silencer to monitor the process, take notes and listen to proceedings. The court reporter speaks directly into the recorder, and the mask prevents the reporter from being heard during testimony. Voice writers record everything that is said by judges, witnesses, attorneys and any other parties to a proceeding – including gestures and emotional reactions – and then prepares the transcripts after the proceedings.

Some states may require voice writers to pass a test and earn State licensure. Additionally, some states require court reporters also to serve as a notary public. Others still require the Certified Court Reporter (CCR) designation, which requires a State test administered by an examining board. With experience and education, court reporters can also receive certification in administrative and management, consulting, or teaching positions.

Court reporters also can work outside the courtroom to record sales meetings, press conferences, product introductions and technical training seminars. Work also is available to transcribe television programming for the hearing impaired listener, and this job goes by the title of ‘broadcast captioner.’ CART (Communication Access Real-time Translation) reporters often work with hard-of-hearing students and people who are learning English as a second language. The skill of the CART employee is vital to the level of understanding for the viewer.

A person who trains in court reporting can apply for a number of jobs and work as an employee or as a freelance transcriptionist. In today’s economic environment, many medical transcribers work from home with flexible hours. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about eight percent of court reporters were self-employed in 2006. Most court reporters that year worked for State and local governments in courts, legislatures and various governmental agencies.