Demand is growing in the captioning and court reporting profession

There is major demand for captioners and court reporters. According to a recent National Court Reporters Association survey that looked at the trends affecting job opportunities in the profession, it’s expected there will be 5,500 job openings available in the field across the country in the next five years.

“We have a 100 percent employment rate for graduates,” says Kelly Moranz, CRI, program manager and adjunct faculty in the Captioning and Court Reporting program at Cuyahoga Community College. “I’m always getting calls about job openings. Court reporters and captionists are being hired locally and all over the country.”

Smart Business spoke with Moranz about the captioning and court reporting career field, its outlook and requirements.

Why is demand for captioners and court reporters increasing?
Part of the reason for the strong demand is an increase in the retirement rate of court reporters. Jobs are opening up and there aren’t enough people to fill them.

It’s not a well-known profession, which means people don’t often think of it as a career choice despite court reporting programs working locally and nationally to get the word out about the opportunities that exist.

Also, the FCC has instituted tighter regulations for broadcast captioning that may curtail the use of transcription software because it isn’t as accurate or as consistent as the new regulations demand, so human providers are needed.

What tends to draw people to this career?
A big draw is the great deal of flexibility there is in the field. Captioners and court reporters often can work from home. And, though many people don’t know this, there is significant earning potential. It’s not uncommon for experienced and capable reporters to earn $100,000 or more annually.

What are some common misconceptions about the work and the career field?
Many people don’t realize how much technology is used in the steno machine writing and voice writing fields.
It seems that the popular impression is someday all captionists and court reporters will be replaced by transcription software and voice recorders.

Voice recorders don’t announce that they’re not working or that they were unable to clearly pick up what was said, so the human element is essential in this profession.

Others imagine that it would be boring just sitting there, typing what people say. That’s because they don’t realize the different job opportunities that exist for someone with this set of skills.

What is the typical career path?
New reporters typically start out doing freelance work — deposition hearings, arbitrations. They may do some CART captioning, providing for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, or other real-time writing such as broadcast captioning.

In court reporting, reporters do editing and transcripts, so their work only needs to be 95 percent accurate. CART captioning requires 97-98 percent accuracy because there are no transcripts. It’s all real-time.

Program graduates should think outside the box. There are post-production captioning opportunities for companies such as Nextflix and Hulu, and organizations that need audio files transcribed.

What training is required?
The better programs train people to be real-time writers, which means writing with the view that someone is looking at their screen. That way, regardless of which direction the reporter goes, he or she is prepared for either.

Programs typically put students on the path to earn their National Court Reporters Association or National Verbatim Reporters Association certification. That’s convenient for those who aren’t seeking a degree or who have already earned another degree. There is also the associate degree option, which typically takes two years to complete.

This is a skill-based profession, so the emphasis is on performance. Students must practice regularly to have success in their careers. It can be challenging, but the benefits and rewards are great.

Captioning and court reporting is an in-demand field offering excellent pay and great flexibility. It’s a viable career choice for those willing to put in the work.

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