Court Reporter Career Options

by AbbyFitz

Not all stenographers are in the courtroom. Learn what other career opportunities are available to court reporting graduates.

When I was in high school, I wanted to be a court reporter. The problem was, it wasn't a widely advertised profession. There were few schools that offered a court reporting program.

I didn't know any court reporters, so I couldn't ask questions that aren't answered by a pamphlet. Is court reporting worth the effort? Is it a good job if you have young children? What types of things do you do as a court reporter?

There is a lot of information about court reporting out there, but sometimes it's easier to talk to an actual reporter who's been there. And if you don't know a court reporter personally, it can be difficult to find answers to your questions.

I've written this article to answer your basic questions about court reporting if you're considering it as a career.

Court reporting doesn't just take place in the courtroom. By being a court reporter, you can work from home as a captioner, be an angel to a student in a classroom, or find out the juicy details of a high profile trial.


Court reporting requirements can vary by state

This article is intended to give you a general overview of different court reporting careers.

As a reporter in Florida, I will give you information on court reporting as it pertains to my state. Through talking with other reporters in different states, I have learned there are differences.

Some states require a reporter to be certified as an RPR (registered professional reporter) or hold a state license. However, several states, such as Florida, only require a reporter to have graduated from court reporting school.

If you are seriously considering court reporting as a career, I urge you to contact the court reporters' association for your state. They can direct you as to any requirements you must have before beginning your career as a reporter.


Court Reporters are in High Demand

Stenographers! Washington Needs You!
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Freelance Court Reporter:

For the free spirit who doesn't want to be in the same office day in and day out

I am a freelance court reporter here in Florida. I am an independent contractor and I can work for several court reporting firms at the same time.

As a freelance reporter, I cover mainly civil litigation, though some criminal cases do come my way occasionally. I also report hearings and trials in these civil cases.

If a client needs a public meeting or hearing reported, a freelance reporter is who gets the job. I have covered city council meetings, EPA meetings, county commission hearings, and so much more. Most arbitrations are done by freelance court reporters, too.

I chose freelance reporting for a few different reasons.

  1. It allowed me to have a flexible schedule, which was important since I had a young child. I was able to go on field trips with my son, volunteer at his school, and take vacations whenever it was convenient.
  2. As a single mother, I needed a good paying job to support myself and my son. I have provided a comfortable life for us, without the struggle of living paycheck to paycheck
  3. I absolutely hated being in the same place staring at the same walls everyday. Court reporting has allowed me to be someplace different almost everyday.

Freelance court reporting is a great option for the person who wants to be somewhere different everyday, and wants to have a flexible schedule.

As a freelance reporter, your earnings are only limited by your desire to work. You will have the greatest earning capacity.

Pros and Cons of Being a Freelance Court Reporter

Depending on what your desires are, freelancing may or may not fit your lifestyle


  • You can have a flexible schedule. You can take off pretty much when you need or want.

  • Freelance reporters generally make more money than official reporters. Newbie reporters generally start out at around $30,000. After you know what you're doing and the court reporting firm knows you can handle tougher jobs, your pay can increase to as much as $100,000 depending on where you live.
  • Some days you may have an all day deposition, hearing, or trial, other days your job may last only 5 minutes. You may still charge for the hour, or half day depending on your firm's billing policies.
  • You are paid per hour, and also receive a per page rate for your transcript.
  • You can charge extra per hour if your job goes past 6:00 p.m. or begins before 8:00 a.m.


  • Nearly all freelance reporters receive 1099's. You will be responsible for your own taxes. There are firms who will hire you as an employee or allow you the choice of being either an independent contractor or an employee.
  • You are responsible for all expenses such as paper, ink, stenographic equipment, mileage, et cetera. Some firms will pay mileage over a certain distance.
  • Many firms only pay you when they are paid by the attorney. You will not have a set amount of pay each week. Your paycheck could be $4,000 this week, but $600 the next.
  • There is a possibility you will have to work long hours. If you've been in an all day deposition and the attorneys want the transcript the next day at 9:00 a.m., you will be pulling an all-nighter to get the transcript done.
  • Your day doesn't always end at 5:00. I have been in meetings that have gone as late as 12:00 a.m.

More Information on Freelance Court Reporting:

As a Court Reporter, Sometimes You are at the Mercy of the Powers That Be

"That will be all, Mrs. Bernstein. During the break, we reached a verbal a…" - New Yorker Cartoon

Learn What it Takes to Train for the National Court Reporting RPR Exam:

Signed up for the RPR WKT exam but not sure what to study? This guide to preparing for the written knowledge portion of the RPR will show you what areas you should focus on.
The words "RPR test" strike fear in the hearts of seasoned and newbie court reporters alike. Here are some great tips to help you pass the RPR skills exam on your first attempt.

Official Court Reporter

For the person who craves a stable environment

Official reporters work in either the State or Federal court system. They are usually assigned to a specific judge and will do all cases that Judge has before him. 

Being a court reporter for the state, some travel may be required. If your judge is a circuit judge, you will be traveling with him to other counties he may be assigned to.

You will be responsible for producing transcripts. However, some states do not allow you to charge extra for them. Your pay may only be the salary you receive from the state.


Official court reporting might be for you if:

  • you want a job with benefits, such as retirement and health insurance. 
  • You want a paycheck with a number you can depend on. In stark contrast with freelance reporting, official court reporters receive a set paycheck.
  • You like the idea of being in the same environment everyday, your office, your courtroom, your judge.

Pros and Cons of Being an Official Reporter

Stability or flexibility, what's important to you?


  • You are employed by the state or U.S. Government. You will have a full benefit package, such as retirement, health insurance, et cetera.
  • You will have a normal workday everyday. (Start at same time everyday) You may work overtime if your Judge wants to finish a trial.


  • The page rate is much smaller than that of a freelance. You can expect to make about half the price a page. Some jurisdictions do not pay court reporters for transcripts. They are only paid salary.
  • You have a set schedule everyday. (if you want flexibility, this may not be for you)
  • Your schedule is not your own. You will have set holidays and vacation days.
  • You will have a set salary. For example, the State of Wyoming's salary for a court reporter may be $40,000 plus transcripts or $40,000 including transcripts.

Video: Court Reporters Job Description

Excellent video describing the various jobs available to court reporters

Court Reporters and Computers, Together Helping Disabled Students

Court reporters provide computer aided transcription to deaf students
Court reporters provide computer aided transcription to deaf students

Pros and Cons of Being a CART Reporter

Ready to go back to school, or did you swear you'd never go back?


  • You may be reporting high school or college classes. You will be paid to sit in classes and learn many new things.
  • You will have the satisfaction of helping people with disabilities lead a more normal life.
  • You may be in different locations everyday
  • You will not be required to produce transcripts.


  • Because of the nature of some classes you will be attending, you will be required to write out difficult vocabulary and write them correctly.
  • Your schedule may not be flexible. You will be required to accompany a student to their various classes. If they're in class, you won't be able to miss.

CART Provider

For the individual who likes to help other people

CART stands for computer aided realtime.

As a CART provider, you will be working with deaf and hard of hearing students to report their classes.

The reporter's steno machine is connected to a computer, which translates what is written into English so the student can participate in class.

Being a CART provider can be a rewarding job, and it's a great job for the reporter who is very accurate in their writing. 

CART may be for you if you enjoy helping people and like to learn new things.

Deaf students will appreciate your skill and dedication to helping them towards earning their diploma or degree.

If you don't want to fuss with transcripts, you're in luck. CART providers are not required to produce transcripts of what is taken down.

Helpful Sites for Those Interested in Court Reporting

National Court Reporters Association
This site can give you more information on court reporting, current job listings throughout the country, and administers the National RPR test and certification required by most states.

Court Reporting Schooling and Start Up Costs
Want to become a court reporter? Before you start working, you have to go to school and buy equipment. Learn what you need and how much it can cost.

Closed Captioner

For the homebody who loves television

A closed captioner is who produces the closed captioning on your television.

Most closed captioning companies will allow you to work from home. Partial compensation is sometimes given for your software, internet, and phone bills.


As a closed captioner, you will be assigned a certain time slot on a certain channel that you will be captioning. You are responsible for allowing deaf and hard of hearing individuals and bar and restaurant goers enjoy television programming.

If you're fast, accurate, interested in current events, and love to watch television, closed captioning could be a perfect fit for you.

Pros and Cons of Being a Closed Captioner

Does working in your pajamas appeal to you, or do you want a corporate lifestyle?


  • Many closed captioning companies allow reporters to work from home.
  • You will not be required to produce transcripts.
  • Closed captioners are generally employees and many companies offer benefits.


  • You will be an employee, therefore you will have a set number of holidays and vacation days.
  • TV never stops. You will be required to work on holidays, weekends, early morning, and late at night depending on the schedule you are given.
  • You must be accurate and fast. (Which might not be a con if you are already accurate and fast)

Court Reporting: A Versatile Profression

Court reporting can be a rewarding career. There are many different avenues available to a graduation of court reporting school.

From freelance, to captioning, to working in classrooms with disabled students to reporting the next important meeting, you will learn many new things and earn a great salary doing it. Most importantly, you will be doing a job you enjoy.

Great Books on Alternative Court Reporting Careers

Alternative Realtime Careers: A Guide to Closed Captioning and CART for Court Reporters

Are you a skilled realtime reporter looking for a change? Do you need a new challenge in your life? If so, Alternative Realtime Careers: A Guide to Closed Captioning and CART fo...

View on Amazon

Inside Captioning

"Inside Captioning" is for anyone interested in closed captioning, not just the broadcasters. it contains information about all aspects of captioning, including: The Technology ...

View on Amazon

Updated: 12/21/2015, AbbyFitz
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AbbyFitz on 03/01/2014

Thank you! I hope you get out of school quick!

Crystal on 03/01/2014

Excellent information! As I am studying to become a court reporter

Guest on 12/12/2013

Many thanks! I'd never have gotten that in a year of guesses! Guess you can see why I'm no stenographer...

AbbyFitz on 12/12/2013

It says What Do Court Reporters Do

Guest on 12/12/2013

Now, I'm no stenographer, so please translate the header picture, if it means anything at all? I struggled with Teeline shorthand in college and eventually decided that audio typing was more my bag.

AbbyFitz on 04/02/2013

You're welcome. I'm glad it helped you!

Julie on 04/02/2013

Thanks for this information! It's just what I was looking for!

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