Court Reporting Careers
The stenographic careers of court reporting and captioning offer you job security, high pay, professional recognition, a level playing field for men and women, and the opportunity to own your own business. Wow!
Stenographic training does not require a four-year college degree, so high school guidance counselors have routinely ignored our field, preferring to recommend the conventional path: Get a college degree, go look for a job offer somewhere. And secondly, people just mindlessly assume advances in technology will eliminate our field of work altogether. Wrong! Technology has certainly devastated many traditional job choices – but not this one! In fact, what we have accomplished should be the envy of everyone else: We have embraced technology and used it to make stenographic court reporters and captioners the unchallenged first choice of the marketplace.
Today, the stars are aligned for a resurgence of interest in our field. The fact that a college degree is not required for court reporting/captioning has, frankly, been a big negative in the past in our recruiting efforts. Not now! With today’s sky-high and ever-rising college costs, the value proposition of a stenographic career never looked better. You can train to be a court reporter and graduate into a wide-open job market, with high income potential – and have no student debt! Imagine that. What professional field of work can offer you job security, a six-figure-plus income, and little or no student debt? You can specialize in realtime stenography (instant voice-to-text) and provide the captions you see on live television and sports programming. Imagine being at the front of breaking news and exciting matchups!
And here’s the best part: There are jobs! Lots of jobs! Why? Because our inability to attract students to the field, plus the aging of our court reporter/captioner population, has created a shortage across the country. That means for anyone smart enough to recognize the opportunity, you have job security within your grasp. Well-paid, professional job security, anywhere you want to work.
This is the career you’ve been looking for. Check it out.
Pick the Career that Suits You
First, why are we called “court reporters”? We are not newspaper reporters or journalists. Two hundred years ago in England, when shorthand writers would take down speeches in Parliament by pen, they were called “reporters.” Interesting fact: Charles Dickens was a reporter, i.e., he freelanced, taking down in shorthand the speeches of politicians and public speakers. In our own country, there have been reporters in the courtroom since the 1800s; and until the mid 1950s, the only full-time employment available to a stenographic reporter was in the court system, hence the name “court reporter.” Since then, the largest market for stenographic reporters is outside the courtroom, working for lawyers in their offices taking down sworn testimony (depositions). Thus, stenographic reporters employed in the private sector are called “freelance reporters,” sometimes “deposition reporters.” And as we embraced technology, the new field of captioner has simply exploded! To learn about all of your choices, read on.
FREELANCE REPORTER. The freelance marketplace (deposition reporting) is by far the largest employer of stenographic reporters. There are perhaps 30,000 reporters nationwide; approximately 75% of them are freelancers who do not work in the court system. Freelance reporters are self-employed or work for agencies, taking down sworn testimony in law offices in the civil litigation process called “pretrial discovery.” In any civil lawsuit (as opposed to criminal cases), the parties to the suit can take each other’s testimony months, even years before the case ever goes to trial. Thousands of depositions take place every day in law offices across the country. Each one has a reporter in attendance, quietly taking down the Q&A and then transcribing it for the lawyers. Depositions are taken in every kind of lawsuit you can imagine! Read about the top five funniest celebrity depositions.
Freelance reporters also report administrative hearings for the many state agencies in every city and town that hold hearings. Likewise, federal agencies hire freelance agencies to report their many, many hearings. Indeed, there are stenographic reporters working in Washington, D.C. in the Senate and the House of Representatives, as all proceedings of those legislative bodies are “on the record.”
OFFICIAL COURT REPORTER. Imagine a ringside seat to history. Court reporters work in state and federal courtrooms, transcribing a verbatim record of all trials, motions, hearings, etc. This important work can be intense. In addition to trials in civil litigation, official court reporters are present for all criminal trials, preliminary hearings, motions, etc. Reality TV can’t hold a candle to the drama in a courtroom: murder cases, domestic abuse, kidnapping, bribery and extortion, child pornography, drug cases, white collar crime, robbery, Internet fraud — and a thousand other varieties of human skulduggery! Unfortunately, many jobs in the courtroom have been lost in recent years due to budgetary constraints, but stenographic reporters are nevertheless recognized as the gold standard by our court systems. Read article.
BROADCAST CAPTIONER. Have you ever watched captions roll across your television screen and wondered how they got there? That’s a stenographic reporter who’s capturing the audio and displaying it as text – in real time. People talk fast, often speaking 225 words per minute or faster, and it’s the captioner’s job to take those words down accurately and display them as captions. This is a fast-growing field, with excellent job prospects. Many captioners work from home. Captioners can be hired to travel to events and provide on-site captioning for professional sports events, international conferences, business meetings, etc. This is among the highest profile work in the business. Challenging but exciting work.
CART CAPTIONER. CART captioners (sometimes called CART providers) provide a service akin to broadcast captioners, except their target audiences are deaf and hard-of-hearing people. CART service is a recognized “accommodation” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and CART captioners often work alongside sign language interpreters to provide communication access. Interestingly, millions of Americans who aren’t deaf nevertheless suffer significant hearing loss, such that CART service is a great help to them. So CART captioners are hired for classroom CART (i.e., you sit in a college classroom with a hard-of-hearing student and provide a one-on-one service for that individual); for business meetings, church services, public service announcements at sporting events – anyplace written captions enhance the experience for hard-of-hearing people. This is a fast-growing field, with new uses and applications for realtime CART captioning being found every day. Read more about CART.
SPORTS REPORTER. Sports reporters are hired to report athlete interviews and provide immediate written transcripts to journalists and media outlets. It’s essentially a captioner’s job but focused on sports. Typically a sports reporter is present on-site at a sporting event, so you might be hired by big-time sports organizations such as the PGA, NFL, MLB, NBA, World Tennis Association, college basketball and football. Check out some recent sports interviews transcribed by court reporters.
FIRM OWNER. If you’ve ever wanted to own your own business, here’s your chance. There are of course large, national freelance agencies who operate for the most part in the larger cities of our country. But in every city and town, large or small, there are local agencies. These locally owned firms range in size from one- or two-person operations to firms employing 15 or 20 or 30 freelance reporters. You can be a true freelancer, i.e., working for a number of different firms within your geographic area. Or you can hang out your shingle and solicit your own clients. This is a great field for people with an entrepreneurial bent! The barriers to entry are low. If you establish a good reputation for yourself in your local marketplace, opening your own business is always an option.
Shows like “Law & Order” cast spotlight on the great profession of court reporting, but there’s much more to court reporting than working in courtrooms.
The largest percentages of court reporters work in pre-trial depositions, not courtrooms. This is profitable, engaging work that changes almost every day.
When you watch CNN, ESPN, or other LIVE television programming and see closed captioning? There’s a stenographically trained captioner at work (in all likelihood from home by the way).
Court reporters in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives work alongside lawmakers every day to create a verbatim transcript of history.
The iconic image of a court reporter is in courts, an Official Court Reporter. Despite competition from alternative technologies, the stenographic reporter remains the overwhelming preference of court systems.