Court reporters create word-for-word transcriptions at trials, depositions, administrative hearings, and other legal proceedings. Some court reporters provide captioning for television and real-time translation for deaf or hard-of-hearing people at public events, at business meetings, and in classrooms.


Court reporters typically do the following:

  • Attend depositions, hearings, proceedings, and other events that require written transcripts
  • Capture spoken dialogue with specialized equipment, including stenography machines, video and audio recording devices, and covered microphones
  • Read or play back all or a portion of the proceedings upon request from the judge
  • Ask speakers to clarify inaudible or unclear statements or testimony
  • Review notes for names of speakers and technical terminology  
  • Prepare transcripts for the record
  • Edit transcripts for typographical errors
  • Provide copies of transcripts and recordings to the courts, counsels, and parties involved
  • Transcribe television or movie dialogue onto screens to help deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers
  • Provide real-time translation in classes and other public forums with deaf or hard-of-hearing students and individuals

Court reporters create word-for-word transcripts of speeches, conversations, legal proceedings, meetings, or other events.

Court reporters play a critical role in legal proceedings which require an exact record of what was said. They are responsible for producing a complete, accurate, and secure legal transcript of courtroom proceedings, witness testimonies, and depositions.

Court reporters in the legal setting also help judges and attorneys by capturing, organizing, and producing the official record. This allows users to efficiently search for important information contained in the transcript.

Some court reporters, however, do not work in the legal setting or in courtrooms. These reporters primarily serve people who are deaf or hard of hearing by transcribing speech to text as the speech occurs.

The following are examples of types of court reporters who do not work in the legal setting:

Broadcast captioners are court reporters who provide captions for television programs (called closed captions). These reporters transcribe dialogue onto television monitors to help deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers or others viewing television programs in public places. Some broadcast captioners may translate dialogue in real time during broadcasts; others may caption during postproduction of a program.

Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) providers are court reporters who work primarily with deaf or hard-of-hearing people in a variety of settings. They assist clients during board meetings, doctor’s appointments, or any other events in which real-time translation is needed. For example, CART providers who use a stenograph machine may caption high school and college classes and provide an immediate transcript to students who are hard of hearing or learning English as a second language.

Although some court reporters may accompany their clients to events, many broadcast captioners and CART providers work remotely. An Internet or phone connection allows them to hear and type without having to be in the room.

Court reporters who work with deaf or hard-of-hearing people turn speech into text. For information on workers who help deaf or hard-of-hearing people through sign language, cued speech, or other spoken or gestural means, see the profile on interpreters and translators.

Court reporters may use different methods for recording speech, such as stenotype machine recording, steno mask recording, or digital recording.

Court reporters use stenotype machines to record dialogue as it is spoken. 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. Court reporters who use stenotype machines are known as stenographers.

Key combinations entered on a stenotype machine are recorded in a computer program. The program uses computer-assisted transcription (CAT) to translate the key combinations into the words and phrases they represent, creating real-time, readable text. The court reporter then reviews the text for accuracy and corrects spelling and grammar errors.

Court reporters also may use steno masks to transcribe speech. Court reporters who use steno masks speak directly into a covered microphone, recording dialogue and reporting gestures and actions. Because the microphone is covered, others cannot hear what the reporter is saying. The recording is sometimes converted by computerized voice-recognition software into a transcript that the court reporter reviews for accuracy, spelling, and grammar.

For both stenotype machine recording and steno mask recording, court reporters must create, maintain, and continuously update an online dictionary that the computer software uses to transcribe the key presses or voice recordings into text. For example, court reporters may put in the names of people involved in a court case or the specific words or specialized, technical jargon that are typically used in that type of legal proceeding.

Court reporters may also use digital recorders in their job. Digital recording creates an audio or video record rather than a written transcript. Court reporters who use digital recorders operate and monitor the recording equipment. They also take notes to identify the speakers and provide context. In some cases, court reporters use the audio recording to create a written transcript.

Work Environment

Court reporters held about 21,200 jobs in 2012. The industries that employed the most court reporters in 2012 were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals 31%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 30
Administrative and support services 27
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Most court reporters work for state or local governments in courts or legislatures. Some also work as freelance reporters for pretrial depositions and other events. Some broadcast captioners and Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) providers work remotely from either their home or a central office.

Work Schedules

Court reporters who work in a court setting typically work full time, recording events and preparing transcripts. Freelance reporters have more flexibility in setting their work schedules.

Education and Training

Many community colleges and technical institutes offer postsecondary certificate programs for court reporters. Many states require court reporters who work in legal settings to be licensed.


Many court reporters receive formal training at community colleges or technical institutes. There are different programs that lead to either a certificate or an associate’s degree in court reporting. Either a certificate or an associate’s degree will qualify applicants for many entry-level positions. Certification programs prepare students to pass the licensing exams successfully 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 machines, such as stenotype machines or steno masks.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Many states require court reporters who work in legal settings to be licensed or certified by a professional association. Licensing requirements vary by state and by method of court reporting.

The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) offers certification for court reporters, broadcast captioners, and Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) providers. Certification as a Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) requires successful completion of a written test and a 3-part skills test in which applicants must type a minimum number of words per minute.

Currently, 22 states accept or use the RPR certification in place of a state certification or licensing exam. To maintain their certification with the NCRA, court reporters must complete continuing education classes and online training.

Digital and voice reporters also may obtain certification.

Specific state licensing and continuing education requirements can be found by visiting the state association’s website.


After completing their formal program, court reporters must complete short-term on-the-job training. This typically includes additional skills training as well as training on the more technical terminology that may be used during complex medical or legal proceedings.

Important Qualities

Concentration. Court reporters must be able to concentrate for long periods. They must remain focused on the dialogue they are recording even in the presence of auditory distractions.

Detail oriented. Court reporters must be able to produce error-free work, because they create transcripts that serve as legal records.

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

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


The median annual wage for court reporters was $48,160 in May 2012. 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 $24,790, and the top 10 percent earned more than $90,530.

Freelance court reporters are paid for their time, but can also sell their transcripts per page for an additional profit.

Court reporters who work in a court setting typically work full time, recording events and preparing transcripts. Freelance reporters have more flexibility in setting their work schedules.

Job Outlook

Employment of court reporters is projected to grow 10 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Demand for court reporters will be influenced by new federal regulations requiring expanded use of captioning for television, the Internet, and other technologies.

Reporters will increasingly be needed for captioning outside of legal proceedings. All new television programming will continue to need closed captioning. Broadcasters are adding closed captioning to their online programming in order to comply with new federal regulations.

Growth of the elderly population also will increase demand for court reporters who are Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) providers or who can accompany their clients to doctor’s appointments, townhall meetings, and religious services. In addition, movie theaters and sports stadiums will provide closed captioning for deaf or hard-of-hearing customers.

Employment growth may be negatively affected by the increased use of digital audio recording technology (DAR). Some states have already replaced court reporters with this technology; other states are currently assessing the reliability, accuracy, and costs associated with installing and maintaining the digital audio and video equipment and software.

Despite the cost savings that may be achieved with DAR, some state and federal courts may still prefer the quality provided by highly trained court reporters. In addition, court reporters may still be needed to verify, check, and supervise the production of transcripts after proceedings have been digitally recorded.

Job Prospects

Job prospects for graduates of court reporting programs are expected to be very good. Court reporters with experience and training in CART and real-time captioning will have the best job prospects.

For More Information

For more information on becoming a court reporter, including training programs and certification as a Register Professional Reporters, visit

National Court Reporters Association

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

American Association of Electronic Reporters

For more information on voice writing and certification, visit

National Verbatim Reporters Association