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How Much Do Court Reporters Make and Who’s Hiring?

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By Johnny Bevers

This article will provide a detailed look at the question:  How much do court reporters make?  It will also provide an overview of the industry as a whole and provide information on training, certification, the duties of a court reporter, the advantages and disadvantages of being a court reporter, employers of court reporters and much more.

What Does A Court Reporter Do Exactly?

court reporter in actionA court reporter provides an accurate, real-time written or oral transcription of court proceedings, but also of government meetings and indeed any other situation where a verbatim record is needed.

The most common way they do this is by using a stenograph machine, not a typewriter.  A stenograph machine looks a bit like a typewriter but has fewer keys.  A court reporter can press these keys in concert with each other to record sounds, words and phrases at a much higher speed than would be possible with a conventional typewriter.  This is necessary because they need to record words simultaneously to them being spoken in order to provide an accurate record.  A truly good court reporter can reach rates of up to 300 words per minute. Compare this to typewriters where the world record for number of words per minute is only a little over 200 and you can see why stenographs are preferred for court reporters.

A stenograph machine is not the only way a court reporter may provide a transcription though.  Some use a special mask with attached microphone to speak into and provide a transcription this way.  Still, others record the proceedings and transcribe them later on.  This way of reporting is obviously a lot easier and the qualifications necessary to practice court reporting in this way also easier and quicker to obtain.  Hence, the salary would also be less.

Salary Expectations

court reporter with judge and lawyerThe Bureau of Labor reports the median and mean wages for court reporters to be almost exactly the same.  In the U.S, Court reporters earn, on average, about 23 dollars an hour or about 50,000 dollars a year.  This is of course an average and some court reporters earn significantly more.

The five states where the average wage is the highest are, in order of highest to lowest:  Oregon, New York, California, Washington and Rhode Island.  The average salary in Oregon, at the top of this list is about 87,000 dollars annually; not an inconsiderable yearly salary.  The average salary in Rhode Island is approximately 66,000 dollars, still considerably over the national average.

The top-paying metropolitan areas for court reporters are Portland, Vancouver and Beaverton with an average annual wage of almost 100,000 dollars.  So, due to the higher salaries of the areas and states mentioned above relocation might be a good option to maximize your income.

Who’s Hiring Court Reporters?

court reporter typingAccording to the Bureau of Labor, there are five main employers of court reporters.  The biggest employers are local government, who also seem to pay the most on average.  Local governments offer an average annual salary of over 55,000 dollars to court reporters (and remember these are averages; a skilled, experienced court reporter might earn significantly more.)  State governments are the second biggest employers and they also have an average annual salary of just over 55,000 dollars.  Business Support Services employ almost as many people as the first two industries but with a significant drop in annual salary to just over 45,000 dollars annually.  The motion picture and video industries also employ some people but at this same lower rate of average pay; that is around 45,000 dollars annually.  And finally, although they don’t employ as many people as the other 4 industries, the Federal Executive Branch has an annual average salary of around 55, 00 dollars, just like local and state governments.

How To Become A Court Reporter

court reporter on stenographBecoming a court reporter that uses a stenographer is a reasonably long process.  In fact it can take up to about four years.  This is mainly due to the difficulty of learning how to use the stenograph machine.  To become a voice reporter who uses the mask and microphone to record in real-time is significantly quicker; about a year.  And to become certified in transcribing recordings of processes is quicker still.  To become a qualified, certified court reporter, a CCR, you must first attend a court reporter course.  These courses are conducted in a variety of settings including schools and colleges nationwide.  There are also on-line courses which offer obvious advantages, not least the ability to study when and where it is possible rather than being fixed to a particular time every day.  To become a CCR it is advisable to attend a course that is accredited by the National Court Reporters Association (the NCRA), the National Verbatim Reporters Association (the NVRA) or the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT.)  These courses have a good reputation and will teach you the necessary skills to become a court reporter in the most efficient way possible.

When you have completed your course it is then necessary to pass an exam administered by one of these governing bodies.  This exam will include both theoretical and practical components in order to ensure you have the necessary skills to become a court reporter.  Once you have passed the exam you are a licensed Certified Court Reporter (CCR) and ready to begin applying for jobs.  You will, however, have to continue training throughout your career in order to maintain your skills and learn new ones.

The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Being A Court Reporter

court reporter on computer

Advantages:

Salary expectations for certified court reporters are generally quite high, especially if you find work in Oregon and any other the other states or metropolitan areas specified above.  In addition working conditions are generally considered pretty good with most court rooms being bright and often either heated or air conditioned.  There is very little stress in the job and working hours are reasonable as are the number of paid holidays full-time employees enjoy

Disadvantages:

The training, as mentioned before, can take a considerable amount of time, especially if you are learning to use the stenograph machine.  Learning to use a stenograph machine is not easy!  Moreover, the job itself requires high levels of concentration and hence can sometimes be mentally draining.  In addition, there are physical aspects to consider; using a stenograph machine for extended periods, as court reporters do, can take its toll on your arms, wrists and fingers.  It may even put you at risk of repetitive stress syndrome.   There is also some worry amongst those in this industry that, although at the moment court reporters are used extensively, in the future due to advances in technology, digital recording may take the place of traditional methods of court reporting.  This would obviously be somewhat disheartening if it occurred just as you were finishing your court reporter course.

Final Thoughts:

Becoming a certified court reporter takes time, effort and of course spending a little money for certification.  The benefits, however, are considerable, namely good working conditions and an above average salary.  If you are patient, meticulous and able to maintain your concentration for long periods at a time, you might find this job particularly suited to you.

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