Court Reporters Job Openings
The nation’s growing demand for court reporters will soon lead to a shortage and California will have the most job openings, according to a report released last week.
The 2013-14 Court Reporting Industry Outlook Report says that by 2018 there will be 5, 500 new court reporter jobs available in the U.S. with the greatest demand occurring in California, Texas, Illinois and New York.
California leads the list with a projected 2, 320 new job openings.
The shortage will be driven primarily by decreased enrollment and graduation rates for court reporters and an aging workforce, as 70 percent of court reporters are 46 years or older, researchers said.
“If there is a gap between supply and demand the marketplace will do what it must to find a way to capture and divert the spoken word, ” said Jim Cudahy, executive director of the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA). “Currently there is no substitute for real-time court reporters. When you look at a deposition setting where true market forces are at play, if attorneys have a choice between a video or audio recording and a court reporter they will select a reporter every time.”
The report notes that competing technologies, such as digital recording and voice recognition systems are making further inroads into the profession. But it also says there have been numerous examples of legal proceedings being negatively affected by incomplete or missing recordings.
The title “court reporter” is somewhat misleading, as only 28 percent of stenographic court reporters actually work inside a courtroom. Most operate on a freelance basis doing legal depositions or providing ADA-compliant captioning for medical transcriptions. Others work in educational settings or at business meetings.
Captioners transcribe spoken content in real time for news and sporting events or do post-production transcriptions for taped shows that will run at a later date. The industry also employs CART (Communication Access Real Time Translation) providers, who do real-time transcriptions that aren’t accompanied by video or other content.
Quick Caption, a Riverside business that provides real-time captioning, video captioning, transcription and remote real-time captioning services, is already facing a shortage.
“There aren’t enough of them now, ” company owner and founder Antha Ward said. “We don’t need to wait a few years for a shortage — we’re there now. What we’ve seen is a steady increase in requests for service for captioners or CART providers.”
Ward said Quick Caption currently contracts with 87 captioners and CART providers. But they need more.
“We could use an 18 to 20 percent increase in staffing, ” she said. “This report does not surprise me, and I know other companies are experiencing the same thing because we use the same pool of captioners. We’re all coming up short.”
Cudahy said the industry offers great employment opportunities.
“Projected shortages in the stenographic court reporting profession come at a time when many graduates with traditional four-year degrees are struggling to find employment, ” he said. “Court reporting is a career path with above average job security and earning potential as compared to its more traditional counterparts. With opportunities for court reporters on the rise, students who graduate will hold more than a piece of paper — they’ll hold a job.”
The average starting salary for a court reporter is $43, 000, but that’s expected to increase by 14 percent through 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“It’s been an overlooked profession, and one reason is because people think it’s too good to be true, ” Cudahy said. “But court reporting jobs very regularly put people into a six-figure category with regard to salary and total compensation. And you don’t have to have a four-year college degree.”
The Los Angeles County court system currently has 422 court reporters on staff and they budget $133, 209 in salaries and benefits for each reporter, according to court spokeswoman Mary Hearn.
Hearn said the courts are aware that a shortfall may be coming.
“At the Los Angeles Superior Court, we recognize that the demographics of court reporting professionals suggest that there may be fewer reporters available in the future, ” she said. “That concerns us because court-employed court reporters will continue to be an important service we offer to the public.”