Building Your Career in Court Reporting: What are the Options?
Most people entering the workforce today are preparing for an uphill battle. Between growing student debt and wages that have fallen 43% from the previous generation, many young people are giving up hope
But demand for court reporters remains high, with a starting salary to match.
Some cynics predict advancing technology will topple the industry. But like rumors of Mark Twain’s death in 1897, rumors of tech usurping court reporters are greatly exaggerated.
Producing a complete, accurate transcript is too important to risk by using temperamental tech, where a loud cough, a glitch, or forgetting to hit record could render it useless.
Unfortunately, not enough people know what a career in court reporting can offer, so employers are facing difficulty trying to find qualified candidates to fill empty positions. Though fortunately for new court reporters entering the field, this means there are few barriers between you and a fulfilling career.
Keep reading to explore the options available, complete with pros and cons.
Freelance Court Reporter
Freelancers are independent contractors who tend to work outside the courtroom, helping to cover depositions, arbitrations, meetings, business sessions, and more. This is where new court reporters usually start their career.
You have the option to work completely independently or as part of an agency. The agency is hired by law firms, lawyers, or a corporation and it assigns court reporters as needed.
Freelancers who work for an agency are typically on-call and can be given as little as one day of notice for a job. But it’s up to the freelancer whether or not they take it.
Because of the variety of assignments, freelance court reporters often get the opportunity to travel to different locations. Depending on the job, this could be local, national, and occasionally international travel.
Most freelance work is done from home after the initial record is taken, making it an ideal option for court reporters with kids or other home-based obligations.
Pros: maximum flexibility, job diversity, can complete most work from home.
Cons: short notice for work, usually no benefits.
Official Court Reporter
‘Official court reporter’ is a salaried position, working for United States district and magistrate judges. These are the court reporters who work directly in the courtroom recording trials.
According to the National Center for State Courts, these positions usually require four years of freelance work and can pay up to a six-figure salary with benefits.
These positions may also require various certifications, including Certified Shorthand Reporter (CSR), Registered Professional Reporter (RPR), and Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR).
As an official court reporter, there are several opportunities for advancement. You can become senior reporters or look for jobs in higher courts.
The first step is attaining a position at the Superior Court. Positions in the District Court is the next step, and becoming a Senate Reporter in D.C. is considered the top of the field. But note, moving up in the industry requires finding ways to stand out.
Pros: stability, high pay
Cons: high pressure, few breaks
Captioning is used to accommodate the hearing impaired by providing a text-based version of speech. It can be offered as an additional skill for a freelance court reporters or can be the focus of your career.
Getting hired for captioning positions usually requires certifications like Certified Realtime Reporter (CRC) and Certified Broadcast Captioner (CBC).
There are two primary types of captioning work: open captioning (real-time) and closed captioning (done in advance).
Both types may require expensive equipment that goes beyond what is required in a courtroom, deposition, etc., but court reporters who are drawn to this type of work enjoy that most gigs allow you to work completely from home.
Pros: remote options available, flexible.
Cons: tends to be lower pay, often requires expensive equipment.
Whether you see yourself working at the senate one day or prefer the flexibility of freelance court reporting, the options available are numerous. Court reporting is an expanding profession with room for you to design exactly how you want to work. So pick up your steno with confidence, and start working your way to your ideal career.
Now, we want to hear from you! How long have you been a court reporter? How do you prefer to work?
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