Approximately 15,700 court reporters are employed in the United States. Twenty-eight percent are employed by state courts and 31 percent by local courts. Some court reporters are employed by federal courts. Others work for themselves as freelancers or as employees of freelance reporting agencies. These freelance reporters are hired by attorneys to record the pretrial statements, or depositions, of experts and other witnesses. When people want transcripts of other important discussions, freelance reporters may be called on to record what is said at business meetings, large conventions, or similar events.
Most court reporters work in middle- to large-size cities, although they are needed anywhere a court of law is in session. In smaller cities, a court reporter may only work part time.
A recent application of court-reporting skills and technology is in the field of television captioning. Using specialized computer-aided transcription systems, reporters (also known as broadcast captioners) can produce captions for live television events, including sporting events and national and local news, for the benefit of hearing-impaired viewers.
After completing the required training, court reporters usually work for a freelance reporting company that provides court reporters for business meetings and courtroom proceedings on a temporary basis. Qualified reporters can also contact these freelance reporting companies on their own. Occasionally a court reporter will be hired directly out of school as a courtroom official, but ordinarily only those with several years of experience are hired for full-time judiciary work. A would-be court reporter may start out working as a medical transcriptionist or other specific transcriptionist to get the necessary experience.
Job placement counselors at community colleges can be helpful in finding that first job. The Internet is also rich with job boards and employment information for all careers, including court reporting.
Skilled court reporters may be promoted to a larger court system or to an otherwise more demanding position, with an accompanying increase in pay and prestige. Those working for a freelance company may be hired permanently by a city, county, state, or federal court. Those with experience working in a government position may choose to become a freelance court reporter and thereby have greater job flexibility and perhaps earn more money. Those with the necessary training, experience, and business skills may decide to open their own freelance reporting company.
According to a study funded by the National Court Reporters Foundation, court reporters advance by assuming more responsibility and greater skill levels; that gives the court reporter credibility in the eyes of the professionals in the legal system. Those advanced responsibilities include real-time reporting, coding and cross-referencing the official record, assisting others in finding specific information quickly, and helping the judge and legal counsel with procedural matters.
Court reporters can also follow alternative career paths as captioning experts, legal and medical transcriptionists, and cyber-conference moderators.
Tips for Entry
Visit the following web sites for job listings:
Consider working in environments outside the courtroom, such as businesses and broadcasting.
Visit a courtroom and watch the court reporter at work in a real trial.
Be prepared to work on a freelance basis until you find full-time work.
Participate in the the National Court Reporters Association's Virtual Mentor Program, https://www.ncra.org/home/students-teachers/find-a-mentor.