Becoming a Court Typist: Job Description & Salary Information

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What are the pros and cons of a court typist career? Get training information, career prospects, salary info and real job descriptions to see if becoming a court typist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Court Typist Career

Court typists, better known as court reporters, create verbatim transcripts of legal proceedings. Read the pros and cons of becoming a court typist to see if this career is right for you.

Pros of a Court Reporting Career
Slightly above-average pay (median annual salary of about $50,000 as of 2014)*
Relatively short education requirements (most court reporters have a certificate or associate degree)*
Multiple employment options within and beyond the court system (medical, school, broadcasting and government settings)*
Opportunity to freelance and have a flexible schedule*

Cons of a Court Reporting Career
Health risks associated with repetitive typing (hand or wrist problems, including carpel tunnel syndrome) **
Requires long periods of concentration*
Often required to buy your own equipment***
Continuing education is commonly needed to maintain certification*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Journal for the Reporting and Captioning Professions, ***Connecticut Office of Legislative Research

Career Info You Should Know

Job Description

Court reporting can be accomplished through a few different methods, but if you want to become a court typist, you're probably interested in stenography. Stenotype machines feature fewer keys than a traditional keyboard, and the stenographer presses multiple keys at once in order to quickly produce words in real time. These machines, in combination with computer-assisted transcription programs, allow court reporters to transcribe over 200 words per minute.

In addition to stenotype machines, court reporters may use steno masks or digital recording equipment to record the proceedings of a trial. Using a steno mask, a court reporter speaks directly into a covered microphone to describe dialogue and gestures; that verbal account is then transcribed electronically using voice recognition software. Court reporters who use digital recording devices are responsible for maintaining that equipment throughout a trial and may also use the recording to produce a written account. Regardless of the equipment and technology used, court reporters must thoroughly review all documents for grammar, spelling and accuracy.

Other Employment Options

Despite their job title, court reporters have additional employment options outside the court system. They may work in broadcasting or corporate settings or for government agencies, medical facilities or schools. Court reporters are needed to transcribe professional conferences, meetings and events. They use Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) to transcribe speech for those with hearing impairment. Captioning television programs for the hard of hearing is also an area reporters can get into.

Salary and Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for court reporters was about $50,000 as of 2014. The BLS stated that reporters in local, state and federal government positions tended to earn the highest wages in the field, with mean annual salaries between about $57,000 and $58,000 as of 2014. The BLS projected job growth for this occupation of 10% from 2012-2022, which was average compared to other fields.

Employment growth for positions outside of the judicial system was expected to increase. Federal regulations require television and online programs to have close captioning for the hearing impaired. Additionally, the large elderly population, who are more prone to hearing loss, will drive the demand for services in medical and public facilities. In the courtroom, digital recording may negatively impact the need for stenographers. However, many court systems continue to prefer a trained professional over using technology alone.

What Are the Requirements?

Education and Training

Court reporters typically earn an associate degree or certificate in the field. Some programs focus primarily on stenography, while others include training in steno masks or digital recording. Schools may offer certificate programs that focus specifically on skills needed in judicial or broadcasting positions. An internship may be included in these programs. In addition to formal training, court reporters must typically have skills such as:

  • Excellent writing and grammar skills
  • Ability to stay focused even with distractions
  • Strong listening skills to catch all speakers' statements
  • Physical ability to stay seated and type for long stretches of time

Licensure and Certification

In many states, court reporters must obtain licensure or certification to work in the judicial system. As of 2012, 22 states accepted certification through the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) for credentialing purposes. Those who pass the certification exam become Registered Professional Reporters (RPRs). RPR candidates must be stenographic reporters who can type at least 225 words per minute. In order to maintain this certification, continuing education is required.

What Real Employers Look For

The completion of formal training, as well as any necessary licensure or certification, is typically preferred among employers of court reporters. Take a look at the following May 2012 job postings to get an idea of what real employers were looking for.

  • A Washington, D.C., business contracting with the federal government needed a temporary, part-time court reporter. The job entailed working in various D.C. courts to create verbatim records of legal proceedings. The reporter also would ensure that transcripts were printed and bound. The employer sought candidates with 2-5 years of experience, proficiency in using equipment and strong English skills. Being detail-oriented and organized was also important. A certified court reporter was preferred to fill the position.
  • A Kansas district court was searching for an official court reporter. Candidates needed to have completed a formal training program. The candidate also needed to be a Kansas Certified Court Reporter (CCR) or be eligible to apply for the credential.
  • The Delaware Superior Court sought a court reporter to record conferences and legal proceedings within the courthouse. Previous experience in stenographic reporting was required, and the reporter had to be capable of performing real-time reporting within a year of being hired. Candidates needed to own a CAT system capable of real-time reporting. Being credentialed as an RPR or the equivalent was also required.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

Certification through the NCRA can help you demonstrate your competency in the field. As you gain work experience, you can pursue advanced NCRA credentials, such as the registered merit reporter and registered diplomate reporter. The organization also offers specialty certifications, such as CART provider, legal video specialist and reporting instructor.

Completing formal training in some of the technologies used within and outside the judicial system can also be of benefit. According to the BLS, reporters with the best prospects are those with real-time captioning and CART skills.

Other Careers to Consider

Paralegal

If you're looking for an option in the legal field that offers a wider variety of duties, you could consider becoming a paralegal. Paralegals draft documents, write reports, conduct legal research and collect formal statements for evidence in order to assist lawyers. Training for this career typically involves earning an associate degree, although a shorter certificate program may be suitable if you already have a college degree. Keep in mind that the work can involve overtime or irregular hours, especially if there are tight deadlines to meet.

According to the BLS, job growth for paralegals was expected to be about 18% from 2010-2020, which was about average for all occupations. The BLS also stated that paralegals earned a median annual wage of about $47,000 as of 2011.

Translator or Interpreter

If you're bilingual, or if you're interested in studying to become bilingual, you might consider becoming a translator or interpreter. Translators convert written text from one language to another, while interpreters work with spoken language or sign language. Many employment options exist for this high-demand career, including working in the judicial system or in healthcare. Earning a bachelor's degree is a typical requirement for such a position, and schools have programs that can teach you the interpreting or translating skills needed to be effective in this field.

Obtaining industry certification and having fluency in a common language in the U.S., such as Spanish, can help you find employment. Interpreters are most likely to find work in large urban areas due to the high level of diversity. According to the BLS, 2010-2020 employment growth for these jobs could be 42%, which was much faster than average compared to other occupations. Diversity in U.S. population and globalization in business were expected to be driving forces in the demand. Interpreters and translators earned a median wage of around $44,000 as of 2011.

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Kaplan University

  • Master: Legal Studies
  • BS in Legal Support and Services
  • AAS in Legal Support and Services
  • Postbaccalaureate Certificate - Pathway to Paralegal

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Regent University

  • Master of Arts in Law - Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies
  • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Criminal Justice

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American National University

  • Paralegal
  • Paralegal Studies - Certificate

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South College

  • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice

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Penn Foster

  • Career Diploma - Legal Secretary

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Grand Canyon University

  • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies

What is your highest level of education?

Central Christian College of Kansas

  • AA in Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education completed?

Post University

  • A.S. in Legal Studies
  • A.S. in Criminal Justice

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