Brief reports 101

Short stories are an exciting field! From the courtroom to the plea room to broadcast TV, court reporters, plea reporters and captioners make it happen! Court reporting is the way to launch a career that is crucial to the legal field, challenging and well paid. There are literally global job opportunities waiting for you.

There is no question about it: brief reports provide a needed service in the legal community. But did you know that court reporting services also provide access to communications for the hearing impaired? Think about it… people with hearing loss can now access the world through the unique skills of a court reporter. You can be an independent contractor who receives a 1099 at the end of the tax year, work as a county clerk for a courtroom, or even start your own court reporting firm. With short reports, the chances of getting the job you’ve always wanted have never been greater.

Court reporting professionals are part of exciting court trials and also make history, word for word. They report on high-profile trials and even caption presidential inaugurations!

Data on judicial reporting:

1. Court reporting professionals earn an average of $60,000 or more per year. (Including broadcast captioners and statement reporters).

2. Television programs (performed live) are captioned by highly specialized court reporters called “broadcast captioners.” US federal law requires the captioning of literally 100 hours of (live) television programming each week, creating abundant career opportunities for those with these skills.

3. Many court reporting professionals use a closed captioning method to provide individualized services for people who are deaf or hard of hearing through Communication Access Realtime Translation. CART reporters accompany deaf clients as needed to college classes to instantly translate speech into written words. The demand for this type of skill is so high that court reporting companies that provide this type of service are unable to keep up with the demand.

4. Only a minority (about 27%) of court reporting professionals in the United States work in courtrooms. The vast majority are freelance court reporters (1099 contractors) who are used by attorneys to produce verbatim transcripts called depositions during the discovery phase of cases.

5. Short reporting job opportunities will most likely grow as fast as the average for all occupations through 2012. (Source: US Department of Labor)

How Much Do Court Reporting Professionals Make?

Court reporting professionals had median annual earnings of $42,920 as of May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $30,680 and $60,760. The lowest paid 10 percent earned less than $23,690 and the highest paid 10 percent earned more than $80,300. Median annual earnings in May 2004 were $41,070 for short reporting professionals working in local government.

Both compensation and compensation methods for court reporting professionals vary depending on the type of court reporting work, the experience of the individual court reporting professional, the level of certification achieved, and the region of the country. Official court reporters earn a salary and a per page fee for transcripts. Many salaried court reporting professionals supplement their income by doing freelance work. Freelance court reporting professionals are paid by the job and receive a per page rate for transcripts. CART providers are paid by the hour. Stenographers receive a salary and benefits if they work as employees of a captioning company; Stenographers who work as independent contractors are paid by the hour.

How to become a court reporting professional

Let’s be honest about it: Becoming a professional short story requires a high level of commitment, effort, and money. It’s not easy, but the rewards make it worth it!

Most students start at a short report school. These are usually private commercial universities located in large metropolitan areas. Check this link for a list of NCRA approved schools. The course of training and practice takes most people several years.

Most of the hard work is in developing transcription skill during live dictation. It starts off slowly and then increases to speeds of over 200 words per minute. Precision and stamina are required to get through hours of fast speaking with dense material.

You will also need to rent or buy your equipment. A short reporting keyboard is needed during training. Most students rent or buy a used manual typewriter (as opposed to a computer writer) for their initial education, but when entering the job market, professional-quality equipment is a must. Today, the equipment used by court reporting professionals is an electronic court reporting machine, desktop PC, printer, laptop PC, and software to run on the computers that translates keystrokes into English on the screen.

Also, since most court reporting professionals are 1099 contractors, home office space and equipment is required, plus a fax machine, one or two additional phone lines for faxing and business calls. An internet connection is a must to research those hard to find words.

A new court reporting professional faces several years of diligent study, as well as approximately $5-10,000 worth of equipment.

Many states require a license. In states where court reporting professionals must be certified, you must pass the state certification exam. In other states where certification is not required, examinations to satisfy the National Court Reporting Association may certify that a court reporting professional has achieved an appropriate level of proficiency.

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