What is a Court Reporter?

What is a Court ReporterIf you are considering working in the legal field, you may be asking “what is a court reporter?”

Court reporters are most often associated with recording and transcribing proceedings in a court of law. However, they also transcribe depositions, business meetings, and provide closed-captioning to those that are hard-of-hearing.

How do They Accomplish This?

They use a stenographic machine that only has twenty-four keys and a number bar. When they type, symbols appear on a narrow strip of paper, and the machine has a computer that coverts all of the symbols into English.

Career Opportunities 

There are several career paths from which court reporters can choose. They are:

Official Court Reporter – Often called judicial reporting, this field involves stenography in a courtroom or other legal setting. These court reporters typically work for one judge or court, and are usually employed by the state, local, or federal agency through which the court operates.

CART Provider – Communication Access Realtime Translation, also known as live event captioning, gives court reporters the ability to provide personalized services for people who are hard-of-hearing or deaf. One example of a service they provide is attending college classes with someone who cannot hear the professor. The reporter is responsible for giving the individual an immediate conversion of speech into text by linking the stenograph machine to a laptop computer.

Freelance Reporter – Hired by attorneys, corporations, unions, and other groups or individuals, these reporters provide complete, accurate, and secure records of arbitrations, board of director meetings, convention business sessions, pretrial hearings, and stockholders meetings.

Closed Captioning – Also called broadcast captioning, this rapidly growing court reporting field provides written text for broadcast programming.

Webcasters – These reporters record financial earnings reports, conferences, product introductions, sales meetings, and technician training seminars in order to transmit the captions real-time to all parties involved through computers and the Internet.

Necessary Skills

Court reporters need to possess the following skills:

  • The ability to achieve an expert shorthand speed of 225 wpm or higher
  • Excellent English grammar, punctuation, and spelling skills
  • Good interpersonal communication


The most common degree court reporters earn is an Associate of Applied Science degree, though some programs offer certificates or Bachelor of Science degrees. Depending on which option you choose, you can expect to spend twelve months to four years in school if you attend on a full-time basis. Programs are found at community colleges, universities, and vocational schools, and while the curriculum varies by school, you can expect to take classes such as:

  • Court Reporting English and Grammar
  • Court Reporting Procedures
  • Introduction to Law
  • Introduction to Voice Writing
  • Legal Terminology
  • Judicial Reporting Technology
  • Medical Terminology
  • Stenotype Machine Shorthand and Lab
  • Realtime Theory


There are several certifications that court reporters can earn, though the most standard is the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) administered by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA). The first section of the exam contains 105 multiple choice questions in four areas: operating practices, reporting, transcription production, and professional issues and continuing education. The second section of the exam is a three-part skills test where individuals must follow dictation and transcribe each part within 75 minutes.

Job Outlook and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job openings for court reporters will grow ten percent during the period between 2012 and 2022, which is about average. Part of this growth is due to new federal laws that mandate all television programs and real-time broadcasts be captioned for hearing impaired viewers. The Bureau also reported in 2014, the median average salary for this profession was $55,000.

To learn more about court reporting and the different career options, please contact us. We can help you decide if this is the right job for you.