Becoming a court reporter is one of the most sought-after careers, especially in New York, where there are more than 300 separate appellate, federal, superior and lesser courts employing court reporters who have the highest salaries in the U.S.

You can earn the Associate in Occupational Studies (AOS) degree for an entry-level position in this dynamic field as soon as 24 months (depending on the number of classes and hours you choose and how fast you are able to achieve your exit speed on the steno machine). Court reporting has a fascinating history, and as someone who literally preserves vital information, you make history every day that you work! Here are some questions – and answers – that you can consider as you explore the exciting process of becoming a court reporter.

Q: What is real-time writing?

A: Real-time writing is used by stenographic court reporters to create a written record of spoken words within seconds after they are spoken. Typically, stenographers write on the steno machine at speeds between 200-250 words per minute.

Q: What types of jobs can I get? How do they differ?

A: Depending on your level of education, you can choose from a variety of jobs that fall under the general description for court reporting. For example, with a Stenotype Hearing Court Reporter Certificate, you’ll be qualified to take the Certified Broadcast Captioner or Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) exam.

With one of our largest populations – the Baby Boomers group – retiring (70 percent of the country’s court reporters are currently over the age of 46), the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) reports that as of 2014, “The demand for court reporters will exceed supply within five years.” Jobs for closed captioning professionals include:

  • Television broadcast captioners
  • Internet real-time meeting captioners (webcasting)
  • Sports and large entertainment venue captioning
  • Political gatherings where closed captioning is routed through laptops

With an AOS degree, you are needed to transcribe spoken words into text. When becoming a court reporter, you will have to be able to identify more than one speaker and record the emotions or gestures they make. Stenotype court reporters can work full-time, part-time, or freelance at:

  • Attorney’s offices
  • Board of directors meetings
  • Corporate meetings
  • Courtroom proceedings
  • Non-courtroom legal procedures (depositions)
  • Political conventions
  • Schools

Q: How is the future of the industry? What is the job outlook? Will this ever be replaced by technology/voice recognition?

The NCRA predicts a nationwide shortage of court reporters by 2018, with the greatest demand in California, Illinois, New York and Texas. Far from being a threat to court reporting, technology is enhancing an already-demanding career with electronic transcription. Voice recognition will always be a back-up, but not a primary source of real-time stenotype translation because many proceedings are simply too important to risk losing because of a technological glitch.

Q: How much can I make after graduating? What is the average salary (NY area) and how much can I make after several years in the industry?

A: Court reporting salaries, like real estate, depend on location, location, location! An entry-level court reporter may earn approximately $55,000/year, based on the U.S. mean annual wage.

For a New York stenographer becoming a court reporter, the mean annual wage is $88,420. Court reporters in the NYC/White Plains area earn approximately $91,810.

With that being said, it’s not a stretch to assume you can earn a 6-figure salary as an experienced court reporter in New York.

Q: How much does a stenograph machine cost? After purchasing a student machine, will I need to purchase a professional machine?

A: Court reporting students must purchase a stenograph machine. Before you rush into buying any equipment, you should follow your school’s recommendations about what type of machine is best for students vs. professionals.

You can spend anywhere between $100-$2,000. For example, a used manual reporter model with a 30-day warranty can be purchased for $85. A student may opt to rent a machine for about $25/month. A used computerized model may give you several years of service for as little as $400 total. A new student stenograph machine with tripod can be estimated at $1,775; it can serve you as a student and later, as a professional or you can opt to purchase a professional machine upon graduation.

Q: How much will I have to practice a day? If I practice more, can I finish quicker?

A: Even though your first classes involve the theory of court reporting, as soon as you learn the basics of stenography and how to use your machine, you should practice every day. If you practice more, you should be able to complete your educational requirements quicker and you will also build up your typing speed, which is a strong factor in your success in this industry.

Q: Can I work anywhere in the country?

A: You can not only work anywhere in the country, if you want to, you can work anywhere in the world! DTI Court Reporting says that on any given day, they might receive requests for court reporters needed in Russia, Africa, Singapore, Japan.

Q: Do I need to be certified? What types of certifications would I need?

A: In the State of New York, court reporters must have attended a recognized court reporting school and participate in continuing education. Court reporter licensing is not required in New York, but it is definitely something that will vault you to the top of your field and something that court reporters should strive for.  

The Certified Shorthand Reporter exam is given by the New York State Education Department. Becoming a court reporter can lead to taking the exam to become a Certified Broadcast Captioner. This certification acknowledges you are among the best captioners in the country.

A certificate of proficiency from the NCRA is sometimes a prerequisite for employment.

Q: Do I need continuing education/certification after graduating?

A: Yes. To maintain your credentials, you need continuous membership in the NCRA, 3.0 units of continuing education credits and/or 1.0 Professional Development Credit (PDC) per continuing education cycle, which is every three years.

Q: How do I get a job in the courts?

A: Official court (judicial) stenographic reporters are appointed by the state or federal government. The NCRA regularly posts openings for court reporters. Official court reporters, also called judicial reporters and official staff reporters, are stenographers appointed by the court for an indefinite term. Official court reporters are state or federal employees, and they are often licensed in the state in which they work.

Q: Is it better to be a freelancer or to work for the courts? How long do I have to freelance before I can apply for a job in the courts?

A: Freelancing is perfect for court reporters who must balance their careers with an active family life and other responsibilities. You can choose how often you work and where you work. Many court jobs have regular daily/weekly hours and require 1 year experience, but they may also offer on-the-job training.

Q: What can you tell me about other job options, such as closed captioning? Do I need special equipment for that?

A: Closed captioning involves recording the spoken words on your stenography machine, which is connected to your laptop and then transmitted to a website, overhead projector or broadcast venue. Special software is required. “Be aware, however, that some companies require you to purchase a particular brand and model of computer and dedicate its use to captioning,” says the NCRA.

Q: Can I work from home?

A: According to NCRA’s Kevin Daniel,“The advantages of working at home are basically too numerous to mention.” Because so much of your job involves transcription services, you can opt to work from your home office, where closed captioning services can also be provided.

Q: Do the courts give tuition reimbursement?

A: Some private companies offer tuition reimbursement, but in other cases, financial assistance or grants are available to many individuals even before they study to become a court reporter, especially from the U.S. military. Be sure to check with your financial services and career counselor for additional information.

Q: Are the standards in some states higher?

A: Your college or university should be recognized as an accredited school by the NCRA, which is the standard by which professionalism and competency as a court reporter is measured.     

If you’ve ever considered becoming a court reporter, consider this: Would you enjoy earning a terrific salary as a respected professional doing something that is not only exciting, but also contributes to future history? Becoming a court reporter is all that and more.                

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