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This Role Pays Over $100000 a Year and Doesn't Require a College Degree

There are ample job opportunities for those interested in pursuing a career as a court reporter.
UPDATED JAN 22, 2024
Image Source: Pexels | mali maeder
Image Source: Pexels | mali maeder

If you're looking to have a lucrative career that doesn't require a college degree, brings job security, and pays six figures, court reporting might be the path for you. Court reporters, often referred to as “guardians of the record,” play an important role in the US legal system by producing accurate and impartial transcripts of legal proceedings.

However, there has been a significant decline in interest in the profession over the past decade, resulting in a national shortage of at least 5,000 court reporters, according to the Association for Court Reporters and Captioners. This shortage has created ample job opportunities for those interested in pursuing a career as a court reporter.

A skilled reporter can easily make $200 for a half-day of work to upwards of $100,000 per year, Irene Nakamura, the founder of IDepo Reporters, a California-based court reporting firm, was quoted as saying by CNBC

Court reporters possess the same skill set and qualifications as stenographers and real-time captioners, which opens up various job opportunities beyond the courtroom. Apart from working in trials, court reporters can find work in depositions, transcribing important business meetings, and providing live captions for hearing-impaired students, among other services. This versatility broadens the potential for employment and ensures job security in different settings.

Image Source: Pexels/Pixabay
Image Source: Pexels/Pixabay

Becoming a court reporter typically takes less than two years and doesn't require a college degree. While the specific education requirements vary from state to state, most states mandate a high school diploma or equivalent and completion of a court reporting program accredited by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA). These programs can lead to an associate's degree or a professional certificate. To gain national certification, court reporters must pass a state-approved exam and demonstrate typing proficiency of at least 225 words per minute while two voices speak.

During the 18 to 24 months it takes to earn a court reporting certificate or degree, aspiring court reporters undergo training in legal terminology, criminal studies, transcription preparation, and the language of shorthand. A stenotype machine, a portable word processor with a specialized keyboard based on syllables, is a crucial tool used by court reporters for shorthand typing. The start-up costs for court reporters can vary, including expenses for renting or buying a steno machine, transcription software, and tuition fees, which can range from $20,000 to $60,000.

Image Source: Pexels/RDNE Stock project
Image Source: Pexels/RDNE Stock project

The earning potential for court reporters depends on factors such as location, work frequency, experience level, and employment with government or private firms. Generally, court reporters can expect a six-figure income if they work full-time. However, working for the courts often requires a minimum of 40 hours per week. Additionally, court reporters can take on part-time or one-off assignments, which can contribute to their overall income.

The salary range for court reporters can vary. For example, a part-time court reporter at Kern County Superior Court in California may earn between $40 and $50 per hour, while a full-time court reporter at the federal court in Washington D.C. can receive an annual salary ranging from $95,801 to $110,171. In addition to their base salary, court reporters are compensated on a per-page basis for transcripts produced during court proceedings. This additional income can range from $50,000 to $100,000, according to estimates by industry experts.

With experience, court reporters can significantly increase their earning potential. After approximately five years in the field, court reporters may see a substantial rise in their income. For example, experienced court reporters in major markets such as New York or Chicago can earn up to $200,000 per year, while some may even exceed $500,000 annually, especially in markets facing a shortage of reporters.


The pandemic has accelerated the shift to online legal proceedings, creating new opportunities for remote and hybrid work in court reporting. Remote court reporter positions are increasingly available, offering flexibility and the ability to work from anywhere. Job openings for remote court reporters can be found in various locations, including South Carolina, Oregon, and Minnesota.

Court reporters have the option to work as freelancers, taking on assignments that fit their schedules, or work part-time, completing fewer than 30 hours per week. Freelancing allows court reporters to negotiate their rates and have more control over their working hours. Cynthia Rodriguez, a court reporter, transitioned to freelance work and now has the flexibility to choose assignments with later start times or ones that require her services only three or four days a week. While court reporting can be demanding, the profession offers the freedom to maintain a fulfilling career by working as much or as little as desired.