by CAROL DOROTHY for Metropolitan Court Reporters
As a student transitions to a court reporter, there are many questions that are unanswered. One of those questions is, “How much income will I make my first year as a court reporter?” The answer is different because of a number of factors. We can’t tell you exactly what you will make, but we can give you some information about the variables that are involved.
A variable in court reporting salary is the number of pages you can produce. When you are new, it will take you longer to produce 100 pages of transcript than it will once you have experience under your belt. Your agency will understand that you cannot produce as much and will schedule you for fewer depositions or shorter depositions so that you do not get buried with deadlines and become overwhelmed. Because a large portion of court reporter compensation is a per-page rate, this means you will be making less because you are producing less. This is only temporary. As you continue to gain experience and build your CAT dictionary, you will see the number of pages you produce increase along with your income.
Fluctuation in Available Work
A factor that affects every court reporter, whether new or experienced, is fluctuations in available work. There are busy seasons and slow seasons in the legal industry. During a busy season, the number of hours you will work will increase. During a slow season, the number of hours will decrease.
For example, summertime is sometimes a slow season of the year. The reason is because witnesses or attorneys are away on vacation. As a result, court reporting agencies have less work to schedule. You will be working less and, therefore, earning less during a slow season.
However, the positive side of this slow season is you have more free time. Many reporters decide to schedule their own vacations during these slow seasons to take advantage of the free time.
During a busy season, you will be working more and earning more. The busy seasons are often right before major holidays when people are trying to finish all of their work before they take time off. The length of these slow periods and busy seasons will fluctuate and be different each year. As a result, if your first year has a longer slow season, you will earn less that year than you will in other years.
Cost of Doing Business
In your first year, you likely will have more expenses than in other years. You may be purchasing expensive items such as computer-aided transcription software, a new computer, or a new stenographic machine. Some reporters even find they need a new car if they’ve been getting by with something older and less reliable during school. A court reporter must have reliable transportation in order to get to the jobs where the money is being earned. These necessary investments mean you will have to be prepared to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to get started. Remember, as a court reporter, you are essentially a small business. Like any business, there are start-up costs that are required in order to open your business. But don’t be disheartened. There are usually financing options for all of these large ticket items you may need to purchase.
This first year as a court reporter is unlike any other. Reporting can be a very rewarding career if you persevere and remain optimistic. You simply need to be prepared and know that you will receive more new challenges this first year than any other year. Once you gain more experience in the profession, you can build yourself up to receive better opportunities and make a better income. Do not be discouraged by your first-year’s earnings if they aren’t what you expected. You are at the first step of building a long and successful career. The good news is that there is a lot of potential in what you can earn in the many years to come.