Court Reporter: One Good Job That Doesn’t Require a Four-Year Degree

CareersPersonal Finance
Posted By Terri Williams on July 25, 2017 at 8:00 am
Court Reporter: One Good Job That Doesn’t Require a Four-Year Degree

To our readers: Most students now set their sights on a four-year college degree, but some experts say the U.S. is too focused on them. Today, GoodCall® examines two jobs that don’t require four-year degrees. First up: Court reporter. Later today, how technical skills can trump a four-year degree.

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A bachelor’s degree is the standard requirement for most jobs – in fact, a recent report reveals that 41% of employers hire college grads for jobs formerly held by high school grads. But while the list of jobs that pay at least a living wage without requiring four years of higher education is getting shorter, there still are jobs that meet this criterion. Court reporter is one job that pays a good salary and does not require a bachelor’s degree.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are actually three broad categories of court reporters – and they don’t all work in a courtroom:

  • Court reporters work in a legal setting and their job is to type everything that is said during a trial, hearing, deposition, or other type of legal proceeding.
  • Broadcast captioners transcribe television programs (either live or recorded shows), capturing audio to provide closed captions (the words at the bottom of the screen). These services are provided for hearing impaired individuals, or when the television is in a loud, public place, such as a bar, where it would be hard to hear a television program.
  • Communication access real-time translation, or CART, providers render translation services in a variety of live events, such as interviews, conferences, and meetings. They may translate speech to text for those who are hearing impaired or have not mastered the English language. According to the Collaborative for Communication Access via Captioning, the text may be viewed on a laptop or smartphone or projected on a screen or LED board. This service can also be provided remotely as long as the speaker has a computer, internet connection and wireless microphone.

Court reporters use a combination of stenography equipment and software, and some use digital recorders.

Job demand high for court reporter position

Peg Sokalski, court reporting program director at Chicago’s MacCormac College, tells GoodCall®, “Court reporting is a good job choice because it’s in demand – according to the NCRA, over 5,000 reporters will be needed in the field by 2018.” And with the opportunities to work as court reporters or in CART and captioning, she says demand for this career won’t be declining anytime soon.

The BLS is not quite as optimistic, predicting that this community of 20,800 will only grow by 2% through 2024 (which is slower than the 7% job growth rate for all occupations). Digital audio recording technology and a slowdown in government spending are contributing factors.

However, the bureau does expect there to be some growth as a result of new laws requiring captioning on both live and recorded programs. In addition, many court reporters are retiring, and Sokalski says schools are not enrolling enough students to take their place.

The states with the highest concentration of court reporters are Maryland, Indiana, Michigan, Louisiana, and North Dakota.

Where the salary fits in

Court reporters earn a median annual wage of $51,320 per year, or $24.58 per hour, according to the BLS. The mean annual wage is $56,940, or $27.37 hourly.

However, the mean annual wage can vary greatly depending on location. These are the states with the highest mean wages:

State Hourly mean wage Annual mean wage
Massachusetts $42.55 $88,500
New York $42.46 $88,320
Colorado $41.38 $86,060
Texas $37.70 $78,410
California $33.55 $69,790

 

Requirements

If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a court reporter, you’ll need nimble fingers. “National, and many states, require a speed of 225 words per minute on the steno machine,” Sokalski says.

Court reporter programs are typically offered at community colleges and technical schools, and can lead to a certificate or an associate degree. Students at MacCormac College recently had the opportunity to attend a Deposition Boot Camp sponsored by the Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel, the nation’s premier, peer-selected defense organization. The camp allowed court reporters – and also lawyers – to participate in various mock depositions.

One of the students in attendance was Shannon Dovgin. “The event was a great opportunity for students to experience what a typical job will feel like as a professional reporter,” Dovgin tells GoodCall®, “The law firm not only provided a unique opportunity for students, but gave me a big confidence boost, as well as the realization that I possess the necessary skills to be successful in this field.”

After graduation, court reporters in some places such as Illinois have to pass a state licensing exam, according to Sokalski, who adds that some states also require a typing test.

Minimizing debt

Mike Sullivan applauds programs like this that can get students trained and into the job market in a relatively short period of time. Sullivan is a personal finance consultant at Take Charge America, a national nonprofit credit counseling, debt management and student loan counseling agency, and he believes more people should consider ways to avoid borrowing excessive amounts of money.

The average student owes more than $30,000 in student loan debt, and recent studies on how this debt affects young workers reveal that 56% of them frequently worry about repaying their student loans. “The best way to decrease college costs is to go to a less expensive college, and public community colleges often have the lowest costs,” Sullivan tells GoodCall®. “Two years at a community college can save thousands of dollars in tuition, and if the student lives at home, it can save thousands in other costs.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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