A court reporter, stenotype reporter or stenographer is a person whose occupation is to transcribe spoken or recorded speech into written form, typically using a stenotype or stenomask to produce official transcripts of court hearings, depositions and other official proceedings. These shorthand systems allow the reporter to keep up with the flow of speech so that no words are missed. In the United States, the court reporter is often also a notary public who is authorized to administer oaths to witnesses, and who certifies that her or his transcript of the proceedings is a verbatim account of what was said.
It typically takes anywhere from three to six to years to learn the basic skills to become a court reporter. However, a voice writer (stenomask) can be trained in six months time or less. The minimum speed needed to become certified is 225 words per minute, which is the requisite speed for approval by the American National Court Reporters Association. Candidates usually attend specialized certificate courses at private business schools, or sometimes associate's or bachelor's degree programs at accredited colleges or universities. Distance learning and online training courses are also available. After additional on-the-job training and experience, many court reporters then move on to real-time reporting.
Upon completion of formal training, court reporters engage in continuous practice in order to improve their skills. Most employers require various certifications for their court reporters. Some states require court reporters to be notaries public in addition to being a Certified Court Reporter (CCR). The National Court Reporters Association offers the title Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) to those who pass a four-part examination and participate in continuing education programs. A reporter may obtain additional certifications that demonstrate higher levels of competency such as Certified Real-time Reporter (CRR).
Required skills of a court reporter are excellent command of the language being spoken, attention to detail, and the ability to focus for long periods at a time. The most highly skilled court reporters can provide transcription in real time and have significant earning potential.
Court reporters may be employed by court agencies to provide transcription in court, or they may work as freelancers. In the freelance capacity, they may either work for themselves or work for court reporting agencies as an independent contractor.
In a courtroom environment, they may make suggestions regarding proper procedure, do research for items in the official record, and assist in other ways. Importantly, realtime reporting has proven beneficial for the judiciary, and many judges insist that their reporter be realtime capable.
Many court reporters work outside the courtroom in depositions and other situations that require an official legal transcript, such as arbitration hearings or other formal proceedings. Court reporters also often provide realtime transcription for public events, religious services, webcasts, and educational services.
Former court reporters and graduates of court reporting schools are employed by television producers and stations in order to provide realtime closed captioning of live programs for the hearing-impaired.
There are differing accounts of the earnings for court reporters. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics had earnings of between $30,680 and $60,760 for the middle 50% of court reporters. Due to large backlogs and resultant high overtime pay, salaries can however be much higher.