Court Transcriptionist: Job Duties, Career Outlook and Educational Requirements

Court transcriptionists or court reporters, as they are often called, are responsible for preparing word-for-word copies of testimonies, meetings, speeches, and other legal proceedings. Depending on the type of reporting chosen, it can take from two to five years for an individual to graduate from a court reporting program. Schools offering Legal Transcriptionist degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

While court reporters are traditionally just that - employed in courtrooms - there are other options for specialization. There are also different methods used by court reporters other than traditional stenography.

Licensing Requirements vary by state
Career Outlook (2016-2026) Growth of 3%
Median Salary (2017) $55,120

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Duties and Responsibilities

Most court reporters work in legal settings to document proceedings, testimony, or other events, word-for-word. They use equipment such as stenotype machines, steno masks, video cameras, and audio recorders to generate an official written record of the event, which includes speakers' words, emotions, gestures, and actions.

To ensure the official record of a proceeding, court reporters:

  • Ask speakers to clarify or repeat themselves
  • Read aloud or play back portions of the transcript at the judge's request
  • Index and catalog exhibits
  • Review and correct transcripts for accuracy and completeness
  • Provide copies of the transcript to the court and involved parties
  • Create, maintain, and update the online dictionary that their computer software uses to transcribe stenotype machine and steno mask recordings

Some court reporters work outside the legal environment as broadcast captioners or Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) providers. Broadcast captioners are court reporters who transcribe television program dialogue in real time or in post-production for the deaf and viewers with hearing impairments, or for viewers in public places. CART providers are court reporters who attend meetings, classes, doctor's appointments, or other events with clients who need real-time translation. CART providers may attend events in person with their clients, but most work remotely and are able to attend via phone or internet.

Career Outlook

Projected job growth from 2016 to 2026 is 3% for court transcriptionists. Those working in the legal setting will see limited growth due to governmental budget limitations and digital audio recording technology replacing stenographic court transcriptionists. As the population ages, however, those in broadcast captioning and Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) for the hearing impaired should have the greatest opportunity for employment.

Educational Requirements

Certificate and associate's degree programs in court reporting qualify applicants for most entry-level court transcriptionist positions. Courses include English, legal studies areas, and may include instruction on using related equipment and technology. Licensing requirements vary by state, with many requiring those working in the legal arena to be licensed or certified by a professional association. Successful completion of a written test and skills test are required for certification by professional associations, and continuing education credits are required to maintain certification.

The National Court Reporters Association offers certification for professional reporters, and its certification exam is accepted by approximately half of states in lieu of a state-issued exam for certification. The American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers provides designations as Certified Electronic Reporter (CER) and Certified Electronic Transcriber (CET). Certified Court Reporter (CCR), Certified Verbatim Reporter (CVR), Certificate of Merit (CM), and Real-Time Verbatim Reporter (RVR) are a few of the certification designations offered by the National Verbatim Reporters Association.

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