The ability to capture the spoken word accurately is one thing, but when it’s coming from multiple sources at once, with a mix of phraseology running the gamut from everyday vernacular and slang to complex legal terminology — and it’s your job to transcribe it all with absolute precision while in an emotionally-charged environment with all the pressures that come with being the sole keeper of the official record as proceedings unfold in real time… well, that’s something else entirely.
But for anybody that’s got the skills and emotional mettle, court reporting is a profession that comes with its share of perks; namely, impressive salaries and professional opportunities to match.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), court reporters earned an average annual salary of $64,990 ($28.91 per hour) as of May 2019. The top earners in the field (top 10%) pulled down an average of $106,210 ($51.06 per hour).
Court Reporter Salaries by State
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
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Industry and Its Impact on Court Reporter Salaries
As long as there are courts, there will be opportunities for talented court reporters, but the fact is, that’s a bit of a short-sell for a profession that opens up doors to being able to work anywhere that verbatim records and real-time captioning is needed. We’re talking pre-trial depositions behind closed doors in law firms, captioning for general assembly meetings for the UN and other inter-governmental panels, sitting in on share-holder meetings and boardroom conferences, real-time captioning for the hearing impaired during live sporting events and state and local government press conferences.
There’s a lot more to being a court reporter than just court reporting, and different specialties come with truly unique skillsets that, when mastered, can bring in salaries that flirt with the six-figure range.
But even with basic court reporting skills, you can expect a really comfortable income, but there’s plenty of room to grow too. Earning potential is only limited by your experience and specialties, so building out your portfolio of skills and related certifications in areas like CART (real-time captioning) will put you in the big leagues and give you access to high-paying work outside the courts, doing everything from pre-trial depositions to broadcast captioning for live events.
Court reporters do often work as payroll employees for local, state, and federal courts and government agencies, of course. But just as often, they provide services to the courts, individual law firms, and businesses on a contract basis, hired on as needed for depositions and legal proceedings, and for anything else that requires an official record. You can definitely go independent as a contractor, but it’s more common to join a contracting service firm as a member of their team, especially early in your career while you’re still perfecting your skills and developing new ones, learning the trade, and making contacts.
In fact, a full 34% of all court reporters fall under the business support services category, working for firms that provide CART captioning, traditional reporting and even video recording services to law firms and other businesses. Local governments employ another 31% in regular salaried positions with the courts, while 28% work for state court systems in a similar capacity or for state offices that require captioning for public communications and press conferences. Just 5% of those that responded to the BLS survey identified themselves as self-employed.
The top-paying industries for court reporters in 2019, according to the average salary, were:
- State government: $71,670
- Local government: $65,870
- Federal government: $59,920
- Business support services: $52,000
Court reporters working for state government earned the highest salaries during this time – about $5,000 more than those in local government and nearly $12,000 more than those in the federal government.
Earn a reputation for precision and professionalism and you’ll be among the profession’s highest earners.
Top-Paying States and Metro Areas for Court Reporters
Driven largely by cost of living differences, salaries for court reporters vary a bit from state to state. According to the BLS, the top-paying states were:
- New York: $90,040
- California: $87,750
- Massachusetts: $79,720
- Colorado: $73,660
- Maine: $71,400
With salaries being fairly consistent from state-to-state, the bigger variations in pay have more to do with the city you work in since that tends to have more bearing on the job market and related differences in demand for court reporting services.
In some cases, you’ll see the highest earning potential in the big, expensive metros exactly like you would expect, but that isn’t a hard and fast rule. New York City, Chicago and other major metros are noticeably missing from the list of top paying cities, while some areas that aren’t particularly well-known for top salaries made an appearance. California dominated the list with several cities making the top ten:
- San Francisco: $117,480
- Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario: $111,500
- Stockton-Lodi: $97,240
- Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue: $90,760
- Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington: $87,520
- Sacramento-Roseville-Arden: $86,320
- Bakersfield: $86,100
- Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls: $85,660
- El Paso: $85,450
- Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim: $84,710
Hourly Wages and Annual Salaries for Court Reporters and Real-Time Captioners by State
The BLS publishes the results of salary surveys every couple years, generating a lot of data, but providing very little context. The median level is a baseline anybody in the field could expect to achieve with entry-level certification like the NCRA’s RPR (Registered Professional Reporter) after a few years of steady work with any of the public or private sector employers we’ve discussed.
At the top of the pyramid, there’s a little more interpretation required to figure out which skills and what employers are associated with the highest salaries. The BLS identifies state government as the top paying employment sector, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that those working in the state court systems are the ones making the highest wages. In fact, the top earners in the BLS category for court reporters aren’t likely in the courts at all, where budgets are limited and pay rates follow a prescribed schedule.
Top earners with state government are a lot more likely to work in more elite, highly specialized roles as real-time transcriptionists proficient in CART (Communication Access Realtime Transcription) or CAT (Computer-Aided Transcription). That would most often mean capturing the official record of public meetings and live press conferences – broadcast through both television and web cast – like the daily addresses from New York City mayor Andrew Cuomo and Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, made famous during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Hourly Wage Ranges For Court Reporters and Captioners
As reported in 2019, the average hourly wage ranges (median – top 10%) for court reporters and captioners looked like this:
- Alabama: $21.47 – $27.04 (approximately 340 court reporters)
- Arizona: $29.88 – $37.66 (approximately 150 court reporters)
- Arkansas: $23.52 – $31.31 (approximately 150 court reporters)
- California: $43.61 – $60.38 (approximately 2,150 court reporters)
- Colorado: $32.45 – $45.85 (approximately 270 court reporters)
- Connecticut: $26.89 – $33.16 (approximately 170 court reporters)
- Delaware: $32.45 – $38.09 (approximately 70 court reporters)
- Florida: $18.58 – $45.64 (approximately 1,310 court reporters)
- Georgia: $18.64 – $44.79 (approximately 470 court reporters)
- Idaho: $27.41 – $27.42 (approximately 50 court reporters)
- Illinois: $30.60 – $48.64 (approximately 680 court reporters)
- Indiana: $18.57 – $24.23 (approximately 680 court reporters)
- Iowa: $37.46 – $37.47 (approximately 210 court reporters)
- Kansas: $25.61 – $28.02 (approximately 230 court reporters)
- Louisiana: $24.07 – $30.86 (approximately 290 court reporters)
- Maine: $35.08 – $38.84
- Maryland: $25.22 – $39.43 (approximately 120 court reporters)
- Massachusetts: $40.72 – $48.02 (approximately 250 court reporters)
- Michigan: $26.88 – $45.79 (approximately 480 court reporters)
- Minnesota: $36.77 – $36.78 (approximately 280 court reporters)
- Missouri: $26.79 – $29.85 (approximately 190 court reporters)
- Montana: $23.13 – $28.08 (approximately 80 court reporters)
- Nevada: (approximately 180 court reporters)
- New Jersey: $29.09 – $47.20 (approximately 120 court reporters)
- New Mexico: $28.25 – $41.86 (approximately 70 court reporters)
- New York: $49.51 – $60.23 (approximately 1,320 court reporters)
- North Carolina: $28.56 – $37.16 (approximately 140 court reporters)
- North Dakota: $25.22 – $37.43 (approximately 70 court reporters)
- Ohio: $24.73 – $37.24 (approximately 360 court reporters)
- Oregon: $22.36 – $24.78
- Pennsylvania: $25.77 – $37.01 (approximately 970 court reporters)
- South Carolina: (approximately 130 court reporters)
- South Dakota: $26.31 – $29.84 (approximately 50 court reporters)
- Texas: $31.43 – $55.85 (approximately 1,450 court reporters)
- Virginia: $23.10 – $30.41 (approximately 210 court reporters)
- Washington: $38.56 – $50.66 (approximately 100 court reporters)
- Wisconsin: $27.40 – $47.76 (approximately 70 court reporters)
Yearly Salary Ranges For Court Reporters and Captioners
Taken yearly, those same ranges (median – top 10%) translate into some very respectable salaries:
- Alabama: $44,660 – $56,240
- Arizona: $62,160 – $78,340
- Arkansas: $48,910 – $65,120
- California: $90,710 – $125,580
- Colorado: $67,490 – $95,360
- Connecticut: $55,930 – $68,970
- Delaware: $ 67,500- $79,230
- Florida: $38,650 – $94,930
- Georgia: $38,760 – $93,160
- Idaho: $57,020 – $57,030
- Illinois: $63,650 – $101,160
- Indiana: $38,620 – $50,390
- Iowa: $77,920 – $77,930
- Kansas: $53,270 – $58,280
- Louisiana: $50,070 – $64,180
- Maine: $72,970 – $80,780
- Maryland: $52,460 – $82,020
- Massachusetts: $84,700 – $99,880
- Michigan: $55,920 – $95,240
- Minnesota: $76,480 – $76,500
- Missouri: $55,730 – $62,090
- Montana: $48,120 – $59,910
- New Jersey: $60,510 – $98,180
- New Mexico: $58,760 – $87,060
- New York: $102,980 – $125,270
- North Carolina: $59,410 – $77,300
- North Dakota: $52,460 – $77,860
- Ohio: $51,440 – $77,460
- Oregon: $46,510 – $51,540
- Pennsylvania: $53,600 – $76,980
- South Dakota: $54,710 – $62,080
- Texas: $65,380 – $116,160
- Virginia: $48,040 – $63,260
- Washington: $80,210 – $105,370
- Wisconsin: $56,990 – $91,030
Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2019. Figures represent accumulated data for all employment sectors in which court reporters work. BLS salary data represents average and median earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries.
Examples of court reporter jobs were taken from a survey of job listings in June 2020 and are shown for illustrative purposes only. These examples do not represent job offers or positions that are currently available.
All salary and employment data accessed June 2020.