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Court Reporting

There are two basic fields of court reporting (stenography and voice recording), but they achieve the same purpose. As a court reporter, your job is to document everything that takes place within the courtroom. Often, attorneys, judges, clients, and the public need to refer to earlier statements, evidence, or testimony. Your official record allows them to do this.

Trials take weeks. Companies feud daily. Crimes happen all the time. What all this means is that demand for court reporting is pretty high. Employment for court reporters is expected to grow 25 percent in the coming years. The other good news is that you will rarely suffer from boredom. And the pay isn't shabby either. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the median salary is $45,000, with freelance work often making significantly more.

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Court Reporters: From Two-Year Degrees to Six-Figure Salaries
Learn more about the training requirements and salary facts for this surprising career.

Imagine a six-figure income and some familiar figures may come to mind. Doctors, lawyers, and top-level executives are no strangers to incomes above $100,000, but you might not realize the pay scale possible for those who make a living transcribing court cases.

Not every court reporter earns six figures--average earnings for the career hover around half that--but the most experienced and skilled can, and in some cases do.

A Day in the Life of a Court Reporter
Court reporters capture live speech from trials and pre-trial depositions, recording it in text form for records purposes. Instead of using a traditional keyboard or computer, court reporters use a stenotype machine. Pressing multiple keys on the machine allows the reporter to record different sounds, words, or phrases. Audio reporting and voice writing are also popular methods, and court reporters often try all three before deciding on the method that works best for them.

Accuracy on a tight budget is an essential skill, and judges and lawyers value court reporters for the documents they create. Your day as a court reporter may start with a morning pre-trial deposition, a few hours off to check your transcript, and one or two trials. If you don't have a trial scheduled, you may attend to your freelance work transcribing press conferences or television programs, sending them in real-time to viewers.

Freelancing as a Court Reporter
How can a court reporter earn six figures? By freelancing in the court system they serve. Freelance work is not required, but a skilled court reporter taking on the extra work can earn money by-the-page for as long as they need it. CNN Money reports that experienced court reporters may earn up to $88,171 in the New York State Supreme Court, with freelancing work perhaps pushing that figure over the $100,000 mark. Freelancing is one way to set your own income, in that sense, though the nature of the work means a reliable salary is not always guaranteed.

Typical Court Reporter Salaries
Check out the mean annual salaries (not including freelance work) for industries with the highest level of employment for court reporters, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

•    Business support services: $44,260
•    Local government: $49,950
•    Employment services: $43,680
•    Federal executive branch: $50,380

Training cannot guarantee a certain salary, and you may earn more depending on your skills and education. Depending on your desire to freelance, it may be more important to learn a range of stenographic techniques and equipment.

Court Reporter Career Training Programs

Education is essential for anyone hoping to work as a court reporter. Students typically aim to capture 225 words per minute--a requirement for Federal employment--using special stenographic equipment. The BLS reports that training may include on-the-job instruction and averages at 33 months. Formal training is popular at the associate's degree level.

Employment for court reporters is expected to grow 25 percent in the coming years, adding an estimated 4,700 new jobs through 2016. Consider a career in court reporting as a growing job that can reward your attention to detail.

"Six-figure jobs that aren't on the list of the usual suspects," by Jeanne Sahadi for CNN Money
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Court Reporters
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Court Reporters, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2007