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Wanted: Court Reporters

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 2.00.07 PMBy Peg Sokalski-Dorchack

Most of us know them from court TV dramas or when we’re summoned to jury duty, watching them in their pivotal but whisper-quiet role meticulously transcribing every word said in court.

Yet there are not enough licensed court reporters to replace those who are expected to retire over the next five years. The National Court Reporters Association predicts more than 5,500 job openings across the country during that time because not enough students are enrolling in schools, such as ours, that teach it.

Court reporting needs are no longer restricted to courtrooms and attorneys’ offices, broadening career opportunities considerably. Much of the credit goes to real-time captioning technology that transforms notes taken on stenotype machines into verbatim transcriptions which can be displayed on individual devices or large display screens as the words are spoken.

Thanks to that technology, court reporters can now be employed to provide closed captioning services for live TV broadcasts ranging from news to sports. Closed captioning is required by law for the deaf and hearing-impaired, so broadcasters need these services.

Court reporters’ real-time captioning skills are also used by schools, at business conventions and meetings, during webcasts, and in some entertainment venues to assist attendees who have challenges such as hearing impairments, processing or learning difficulties, physical limitations, or for whom English is a second language. This again opens up a variety of career paths.
Court reporting careers can also offer lifestyle benefits, including flexible schedules as well as the option to work either on-site or remotely in some cases. Reporters are typically independent contractors who may have the option to work as much or as little as they choose. The median annual court reporter salary is $54,665, according to government statistics, with a range of $39,442 to $71,549.

Peg Sokalski-Dorchack is the director of court reporting at MacCormac College in Chicago.