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Public Reporter: Job Description & Requirements

Public reporters use various forms of transcription to create a written record of meetings, hearings, seminars and other public forums. Postsecondary degrees are often not required, but a mastery of the English language, an ear for the spoken word and the ability to type fast are hallmarks of effective public reporting.

Career Definition for a Public Reporter

A public reporter creates written transcripts of public meetings, traditionally by taking detailed notes or making recordings during the meeting and later transcribing them into legible written records. Several computer-assisted systems have been designed to speed up the transcription process, such as computer-assisted real-time translation (CART) and voice-writing using a sound-dampening stenomask. Public reporting is commonly used in all levels of the judiciary, but is also needed in medical recordkeeping, government meetings and broadcast captioning.

Education Training from a vocational or technical school
Job Skills Transcription speed of 225 words per minute, keen ear, excellent dexterity; good English, spelling, and grammar; knowledge of formatting and computer hardware/software
Median Salary (2015)* $49,500 (for court reporters)
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 2% (for court reporters)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Information

Training to become a public reporter is offered by over 100 vocational and technical schools and colleges. Proficiency in realtime stenotyping can take three years, and voice-writing can be mastered in two years. Many states require public reporters to be certified and licensed, offering their own testing or accepting certification by independent agencies like the National Verbatim Reporters Association, the National Court Reporters Association, the United States Court Reporters Association and the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers.

Skills Required

Achieving a transcription speed of 225 words per minute requires a keen ear and excellent dexterity. A mastery of the written English spelling and grammar is vital, as well as familiarity with the formats of written transcripts required by different clients. Familiarity with computer hardware and software is useful for those public reporters using electronic systems.

Economic Outlook

The median annual salary for court reporters in May 2015 was $49,500, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). The BLS projects slower than average growth of 2% for court reporters from 2014-2024, as government legislation to assist the hearing-impaired continues to increase demand for written transcripts of public meetings.

Alternate Career Options

Careers that are similar to a public reporter include:

Medical Transcriptionist

These professionals listen to doctors' or other healthcare providers' voice recordings and write them up as reports. Completion of a postsecondary program in medical transcription is typically required in order to enter this occupation. The BLS predicts an employment decrease of 3% from 2014-2024 for medical transcriptionists, and the annual median salary was $34,890 in 2015.

Interpreter and Translator

Usually needing at least a bachelor's degree, the most crucial requirement for this career is proficiency in at least two languages. Interpreters and translators change information from one language into another, in spoken, written or signed language. Much faster than average job growth of 29% was projected by the BLS from 2014-2024. In 2015, interpreters and translators earned an annual median wage of $44,190, with those employed by professional, scientific and technical services earning the top salaries.


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