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Court Stenographer: Job Duties, Occupational Outlook and Education Prerequisites

A court stenographer, also known as a court reporter, transcribes legal proceedings word-for-word, creating a written documentation of the event. Education will vary from on-the-job training in some instances to certificate programs from vocational or technical schools in other areas of reporting.

What You Need to Know

Stenographers create and file written records of legal events, such as trials, depositions, meetings, or other judicial proceedings. Because of the importance placed on accuracy in legal documentation, these records are transcribed verbatim. Court stenographers will require at least an associate's degree or certificate, as well as state-specific licensing.

Degree Options Associate's degree in court reporting or certificate in court reporting
Licensing Options Licensing required in most states; as of 2018, 22 states accept Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) certification through the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA)
Mean Annual Salary (2017) $60,060 (court reporters)
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 3% (court reporters)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; National Court Reporters Association (NCRA)

What Are the Job Duties?

In addition to creating the written records, stenographers may also be responsible for researching and organizing information to be put in the official record. In some cases, stenographers assist with courtroom administrative procedures. Some stenographers use their skills outside the courtroom to work in closed captioning for television and films. Some specific duties of a court stenographer include:

  • Attending hearings, proceedings and depositions
  • Capturing all spoken words, gestures and audible sounds verbatim
  • Reviewing notes and researching technical terminology
  • Reading and editing transcripts for accuracy
  • Providing transcripts and recordings to all parties involved in a proceeding

What Training Do I Need?

Training varies based on the type of stenography one wishes to perform. In the case of basic electronic stenographers and transcribers, skills may be learned on the job. To become a court stenographer requires less than one year of training at a vocational or technical school, such as through a certificate program. If one wishes to become a real-time stenographer, it may take up to two years or longer to train for this role via an associate's degree program.

There are approximately 70 educational programs available that have been certified by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA). As of 2018, the NCRA website states that the certification exam is used by 22 states as the licensing exam required in order to practice professional stenography.

What is the Occupational Outlook?

Demand for court stenographers is expected to grow at a rate of 3% between 2016 and 2026 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). This represents a slower than average growth rate. The BLS projects the most growth specifically in the areas of media captioning, as well as communication access real-time translation (CART) services for the elderly. There were 15,220 court stenographers employed in 2017, according to the BLS. The mean annual salary for court stenographers as of May of 2017 was $60,060, as stated by the BLS.