The versatility of being a court reporter never ends. It’s one career that will work around your schedule! As your life changes, having a career in court reporting gives you the flexibility to accommodate those personal life changes. There is also another level of versatility to a stenographic court reporter career: Your “job” can change too. You can work as a judicial court reporter, or a CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) professional or provide closed captioning services to television and movie productions from your home office.

Court reporters, CART reporters and closed captioners may use the same equipment and software. Broadcast and movie closed captioners may have other components to their transcription services, but essentially a court reporter must type 225 wpm and a CART reporter must test at 180 wpm with a 96% accuracy – in uncorrected, instant translation (real time).

As you examine stenographic court reporter career paths, how do you decide which one is right for you?

Judicial Court Reporter

No doubt about it, this is where it begins. Court reporters are highly respected professionals whose ability to preserve spoken word is, and always will be, valuable to historians. They are able to work in courtroom settings (dressed appropriately and confident in their abilities). In addition, many court reporters travel small distances for freelance court reporting or to record depositions, which sometimes take place in municipal buildings or attorneys’ offices. Their transcripts and document legal proceedings are also sold to interested parties, another type of freelance work.

The opportunities to work as a court reporter in New York seem endless! To get an entry-level position, you will:

  • Complete your court reporter degree program at a recognized, accredited National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) and Department of Education school.
  • Pass the New York Voluntary Certified Shorthand Reporter exam (not necessary but always helpful)
  • Complete required continuing education every 3 years.

Court reporters are organized and able to protect confidential information from snoopy newspaper reporters. A good motto for a court reporter might be: “What happens in court, stays in court – and the court report!”

Cart Reporter

To become a Certified Broadcast Captioner or a CART Reporter, you must already be enrolled in or have completed the requirements to be a stenotype professional. You should be able to document spoken material at 180-200 wpm with 96% accuracy.

There’s nothing wrong with working part-time while you’re in school, building your wpm (words per minute) speed. StenoKnight says, “There are so-called CART firms out there that use this, ‘You only need 180’ line as a recruiting tool. They troll court reporting schools, looking for mid-speed students, and offer them $15 to $30 an hour to provide what they claim to be CART. The ‘CART firm’ gets as much business as they can handle from disability offices strapped for cash and looking to cut corners; and the deaf or hard of hearing get substandard services.”

If anyone tells you CART reporting is easier than court reporting, be afraid. Be very afraid. “Real time writing has to be 98% to 99% perfect right out of the gate,” continues StenoKnight. “I have no idea where the ‘CART is easier than deposition work’ myth came from, but it’s a piece of wishful thinking that continues to stick around against all evidence to the contrary.”

CART reporters are valued professionals who work in entertainment venues, at political rallies or transcribe live internet feeds or meetings (webinars). As a CART reporter, you may be on the scene at some exciting sporting or historical events!

Professional CART reporting is not what you do if you can’t get your steno speed high enough. It’s what you do when your speed gets high enough. “Get some experience under your belt. Then start thinking about providing CART. That’s the right way to do it,” says StenoKnight.

Closed Captioner

Many closed captioners work “offline.” That means they provide transcription services to broadcasters and other clients, often from their home offices. In some cases, the words they document are pre-recorded, so there’s no need to capture real time spoken words, like CART reporting. As with any stenographic court reporting job, speed and accuracy are critical.

With a lessened demand for speed, closed captioning accuracy for pre-recorded material should be proportionally higher. “You will also need an understanding of time codes, those codes that are stamped into video that shows frame number, time of recording and/or exposure. You will need this information to be able to code it into the finished product,” according to

When working with live broadcasts such as news and sporting events, the need for speed and accuracy is at a premium. In these cases, there is no proofing of material; what the captioner is writing on the steno machine is appearing on the screen as the words are being spoken. A stenographer has to be at the top of his or her game to caption live broadcasts but the opportunities are tremendous in this high demand field.

As a closed captioner, you can live in New York and work for a Hollywood client. You can wear sweats to work, every day, because when you wake up and “go to work,” your home office is in the next room.

The Choice is Yours

Here’s another way to look at it: A stenographic court reporter can be a CART reporter or a closed captioner, but not all closed captioners can be stenographic court reporters. No matter which area you find most rewarding, you have to begin the process with education. An Associate of Occupational Science (AOS) degree can be yours in as little as two years! You can begin entry-level court reporter work in New York or move directly into an educational program for your Stenotype Hearing Professional certificate. Choices are good, but great choices are better!

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