More often than not, if you’re imagining a court case, the first people that come to mind are the lawyers, the judge, maybe a jury, and the two people everyone is there because of. You don’t necessarily think of the court reporter right away, even though their role is crucial in every court case.
Court reporters are the people responsible for making sure everything goes on the record. They type up every single word that is said during a trial or other proceedings. It’s their job to take verbatim notes, sometime at over 200 words per minute. They also create thousands of pages of manuscripts each year to provide for TV captioning or attorney use.
As more veteran workers begin to leave the field, the demand for court reporters is rising. In the next three years, the profession is looking at a nationwide shortage, and there will likely be almost 5,500 new jobs. 70% of current court reporters are over the age of 45, so the profession will continue to be understaffed in the coming years. The greatest demand is expected to be in California.
For people who had resigned themselves to a traditional four year college education, this may be the opportunity they need to get through school in less than half the time and jumpstart their career. Because court reporting education and certification only requires about 33.3 months of schooling, students can finish school with about a quarter of the debt of a traditional college student.
Salaries for court reporters start around $45,000 but can be much higher in the Bay Area. In Sonoma, students who land a job after finishing school should thank their lucky stars. The starting salary there is around $92,000 per year, with the opportunity to make thousands more through private transcription. Court reporters are essentially their own product, meaning they’re free to sell their work and freelance at other places when possible. Some have been known to make up to half of their salary just in freelancing.
The rising demand does not really have an end in sight, even with developments in technology, due to the fact that in this case, nothing trumps the human element. Many places nationwide have tried switching to electronic recordings, most of which have failed so horribly cases have had to be retried.