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Court Transcriptionist: Job Description and Career Info

Mar 13, 2019

The job of a court transcriptionist (sometimes known as a court reporter) is to turn verbal testimony into an extremely accurate, written transcription for purposes of documenting an event, or to create closed-captioning for television and movies. Explore this career to see if it's the right one for you.

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Career Definition for a Court Transcriptionist

A court transcriptionist listens to verbal testimony and creates an accurate, written record of that testimony. Typically, court transcriptionists are stenographers, using special machines (similar to a typewriter but able to record multiple letters at a time) to create a transcript of the events; however, other technologies are gaining acceptance, such as the voice recorder, where the court transcriptionist wears a special mask which allows him or her to narrate the proceedings into a computer that uses speech recognition to create a verbatim transcription. Most court transcriptionists are employed by state or local governments to record trials or the proceedings of various legislative bodies of government.

Education Postsecondary certificate may be required
Job Skills Detail oriented, listening ability, typing skill, written communication
Median Salary (2017)* $55,120 (for all court reporters)
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 3% (for all court reporters)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Training as a court transcriptionist can be on-the-job, but there are training programs available to assist court transcriptionists to gain the skills and knowledge needed. Generally, court transcriptionists who use voice recorders can be working as 'novices' in about a year, whereas stenographers may take up to three years of training and practice to be able to work consistently. However, voice recording technology is less accepted than stenography, with many courts still unwilling to employ non-stenographic court transcriptionists. Licensing and certification requirements vary from state-to-state, but all demand a high level of skill, accuracy, and knowledge. The National Court Reporters Association is a good place to learn about training options.

Skills Required

To be in demand, a court transcriptionist must be fast (to work for the federal government, court transcriptionists must work at speeds of at least 225 words per minute) and be 100% accurate. Court transcriptionists must have extremely good hearing to be able to listen and discern different voices and transcribe accurately even when people are talking over one another. Good spelling and grammatical skills, along with knowledge of legal terminology are a must. This is where a good training program may be helpful. Court transcriptionists who use voice recording technology must be able to listen carefully and narrate accurately at the same time.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), employment growth for court reporters is projected to be about 3% from 2016 to 2026. As of May 2017, the median annual salary of a court transcriptionist is around $55,120, per the BLS.

Alternate Career Options

Those interested in court transcription may consider a variety of similar occupations, including interpretation and medical transcription.

Interpreter and Translator

By earning a bachelor's degree and becoming fluent in at least one language in addition to English, these professionals convert information between languages in spoken, written or signed language. A much faster than average employment growth of 18% was predicted by the BLS for these positions, from 2016-2026. In 2017, the BLS reported an annual median salary of $47,190 for interpreters and translators.

Medical Transcriptionist

These workers complete postsecondary training in medical transcription in preparation to secure employment listening to recordings of doctors' and other health providers' voices and converting them into a written format. The BLS projected a decrease in jobs by 3%, from 2016-2026, and reported a median salary of $35,250 per year, in 2017.

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