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What Court Reporters and Simultaneous Captioners Do About this section

Court reporters
Court reporters provide an accurate description of court proceedings.

Court reporters create word-for-word transcriptions at trials, depositions, administrative hearings, and other legal proceedings. Simultaneous captioners provide similar transcriptions for television or for presentations in other settings, such as press conferences and business meetings, for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Duties

Court reporters and simultaneous captioners typically do the following:

  • Attend depositions, hearings, proceedings, and other events that require verbatim transcripts
  • Capture spoken dialogue with special equipment, such as stenography machines and digital recording devices
  • Report speakers' identification, gestures, and actions
  • Read or play back portions of events or legal proceedings upon request
  • Ask speakers to clarify inaudible statements or testimony
  • Review notes they have taken, including the spelling of names and technical terminology
  • Provide copies of transcripts and recordings to the parties involved
  • Transcribe television or movie dialogue for the benefit of viewers
  • Provide real-time transcription of presentations in public forums for people who are deaf or hard of hearing

Court reporters have a critical role in legal proceedings, which require an exact record of what occurred. These workers are responsible for producing a complete, accurate, and secure transcript of depositions, trials, and other legal proceedings. The official record allows judges and lawyers to efficiently search for important information contained in the transcript. Court reporters also index and catalog exhibits used during legal proceedings.

Simultaneous captioners primarily serve people who are deaf or hard of hearing by transcribing speech to text as the speech occurs. They typically work in settings other than courtrooms or law offices.

The following are examples of types of simultaneous captioners:

Broadcast captioners provide transcriptions for television programs (called closed captions). They capture dialogue for displaying to television viewers, primarily those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Some broadcast captioners may transcribe dialogue in real time during broadcasts; others caption during the program’s postproduction.

Communication access real-time translation (CART) providers work primarily with people who are deaf or hard of hearing during meetings, doctors’ appointments, and other situations requiring real-time transcription. For example, CART providers may caption the dialogue of college classes and present an immediate transcript to students who are learning English as a second language.

Although some simultaneous captioners accompany their clients to events, many broadcast captioners and CART providers do not. Establishing remote access allows these workers to hear and type dialogue without having to be physically present in the room.

Court reporters and simultaneous captioners turn dialogue into text for a variety of audiences. For information about workers who convey dialogue through sign language, cued speech, or other means to people who are deaf or hard of hearing, see the profile on interpreters and translators.

Court reporters and simultaneous captioners use different methods for recording speech, such as stenotype machines, steno masks, and digital recording devices.

Stenotype machines work like keyboards but create words through key combinations rather than single characters, allowing court reporters to keep up with fast-moving dialogue.

With steno masks, court reporters and simultaneous captioners speak directly into a covered microphone to record dialogue and to describe gestures and actions. Because the microphone is covered, others cannot hear what the reporter or captioner is saying.

Digital recording devices create an audio or video file rather than a written transcript. In addition to recording dialogue, court reporters and simultaneous captioners who use this equipment also take notes to identify the speakers and provide context for the recording. In some cases, they use the audio recording to create a written transcript.

Work Environment About this section

Court reporters
Court reporters may work in courtrooms or office buildings.

Court reporters held about 15,700 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of court reporters were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals 33%
Business support services 30
State government, excluding education and hospitals 27
Self-employed workers 5

Most court reporters work in courts or legislatures. Many are self-employed (freelance) reporters who are hired by law firms or corporations for pretrial depositions and other events on an as-needed basis.

Some court reporters and simultaneous captioners travel to other locations, such as meeting sites or public events. Simultaneous captioners may work remotely from either their home or a central office.

Because of the speed and accuracy required to capture a verbatim record and the time-sensitive nature of legal proceedings, court reporting positions may be stressful.

Work Schedules

Court reporters and simultaneous captioners who work in a legal setting or office typically work full time recording events and preparing transcripts. Freelance reporters often have more flexibility in their work schedules.

How to Become a Court Reporter or Simultaneous Captioner About this section

Court reporters
Court reporters must give their full attention to the speaker and capture every word that is said.

Many community colleges and technical institutes offer postsecondary certificate programs for court reporters and simultaneous captioners. These workers typically on-the-job training; the length of training varies by type of reporting or captioning. Many states require court reporters and simultaneous captioners to have a state license or a certification from a professional association.

Education

Many court reporters and simultaneous captioners attend programs at community colleges or technical institutes that lead to either a certificate or an associate’s degree. Either credential qualifies applicants for many entry-level positions. Certification programs prepare students to pass the licensing exams and typing-speed tests required by most states and employers.

Most court reporting programs include courses in English grammar and phonetics, legal procedures, and legal terminology. Students also practice preparing transcripts to improve the speed and accuracy of their work.

Some schools also offer training in the use of different transcription equipment, such as stenotype machines or steno masks.

Completing a court reporting program typically takes 2 or 3 years.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Many states require court reporters and simultaneous captioners to be licensed or certified by a professional association. Licensing requirements vary by state and by method of reporting or captioning.

The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) offers certification for court reporters and simultaneous captioners. Currently, about half of states accept or use the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) certification in place of a state certification or licensing exam.

Digital and voice reporters may obtain certification through the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT), which offers the Certified Electronic Reporter (CER) and Certified Electronic Transcriber (CET) designations.

Voice reporters also may obtain certification through the National Verbatim Reporters Association (NVRA). As with the RPR designation, some states with certification or licensing requirements accept the NVRA designation in place of a state license.

Certification through the NCRA, AAERT, and NVRA all require the successful completion of a written test, as well as a skills test in which applicants must type, record, or transcribe a minimum number of words per minute with a high level of accuracy.

In addition, all associations require court reporters and simultaneous captioners to obtain a certain amount of continuing education credits in order to renew their certification.

For more information on certification, exams, and continuing education requirements, visit the specific association’s website. State licensing and continuing education requirements are available on the state association’s or state judicial agency's website.

Training

After completing their formal program, court reporters and simultaneous captioners must undergo on-the-job training. The length of training varies by type of reporting or captioning but typically includes training on the specific equipment and technical terminology that may be used during complex medical or legal proceedings.

Important Qualities

Concentration. Court reporters and simultaneous captioners must be able to focus for long periods so that they remain attentive to the dialogue they are recording.

Detail oriented. Court reporters and simultaneous captioners must produce error-free work because they create transcripts that serve as legal records.

Listening skills. Court reporters and simultaneous captioners must give their full attention to speakers and capture every word that is said.

Writing skills. Court reporters and simultaneous captioners need a good command of grammar, vocabulary, and punctuation.

Pay About this section

Court Reporters and Simultaneous Captioners

Median annual wages, May 2019

Court reporters

$60,130

Legal support workers

$51,920

Total, all occupations

$39,810

 

The median annual wage for court reporters and simultaneous captioners was $60,130 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,570, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $106,210.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for court reporters in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals $68,020
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 63,700
Business support services 48,690

Freelance court reporters and simultaneous captioners typically charge an hourly rate; court reporters may also sell additional copies of the transcript, usually charging a set price per page.

Court reporters and simultaneous captioners who work in a legal setting or office typically work full time recording events and preparing transcripts. Freelance reporters often have more flexibility in their work schedules.

Job Outlook About this section

Court Reporters and Simultaneous Captioners

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Court reporters

9%

Legal support workers

7%

Total, all occupations

4%

 

Employment of court reporters and simultaneous captioners is projected to grow 9 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 1,400 new jobs over the decade. Demand for court reporters and simultaneous captioners will be influenced by federal regulations requiring an expanded use of captioning for television, the Internet, and other technologies. Employment growth may be affected, however, by budgetary constraints and the use of technology.

Reporters will increasingly be needed for captioning outside of legal proceedings. All new television programming will continue to need closed captioning. In addition, federal regulations have expanded captioning requirements and set quality and accuracy standards for both live and prerecorded programs. Networks will likely increase their use of broadcast captioners in order to comply with these federal regulations.

Growth of the elderly population also will increase demand for simultaneous captioners who are communication access real-time translation (CART) providers or who can accompany their clients to doctor’s appointments, town hall meetings, and religious services. In addition, movie theaters and sports stadiums will provide closed captioning for attendees who are deaf or hard of hearing.

However, employment growth may be somewhat limited because of budgetary constraints in state and local governments. In addition, the increased use of digital audio recording technology may hinder employment growth. Some states already have replaced stenographic court reporters with this technology; other states are currently assessing the reliability, accuracy, and costs associated with installing and maintaining digital audio and video equipment and software.

Even with the increased use of digital recorders, however, electronic reporters should still be needed to monitor the courtroom equipment and to transcribe, verify, and supervise the production of transcripts after proceedings have been recorded.

Job Prospects

About 1,400 openings for court reporters and simultaneous captioners are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Job prospects should be best for graduates of court reporting programs and for candidates with experience and training in CART and real-time captioning.

Employment projections data for court reporters and simultaneous captioners, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Court reporters and simultaneous captioners

27-3092 15,700 17,000 9 1,400 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information on becoming a court reporter or simultaneous captioner, including information on training programs and certification as a Registered Professional Reporter, visit

National Court Reporters Association

For more information on certification and legal resources, as well as becoming an electronic or digital reporter, visit

American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers

For more information on voice writing and certification, visit

National Verbatim Reporters Association

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