With the advent of new automated recording technologies, revelations of government budget cuts, and news of states eliminating court reporters from the courtroom it is easy to jump to the conclusion that this is an industry at risk. Falling into this narrowly focused vein we wondered Why Do We Still Need Court Reporters?
In shifting attention away from the doomsday of court reporting for just a moment and searching for solutions on how current court reporters can stay relevant and weather the storm it doesn’t take long before you’re smacked right in the face with an obvious realization, that storm may never come. It’s looking good for court reporting after all.
Are doomsayers professing the rise of the machine? Yes! Are court reporters being pulled from courtrooms? Sure. Is there a looming threat of advanced technologies taking over depositions and hearings? Of course. Does government spending have a strong pull over the lasting stay of the court reporting industry? Absolutely. But does this mean that stenographers everywhere are on a path to mass exodus? No!
How can I say this? Accepting that all stenographers are obsolete because of government spending is only taking part of the shorthand reporting industry into consideration. Being a stenographer does not require you to be a court reporter. In fact, a higher average salary can be achieved well outside of the world of court reporting far away from the stuffy courtroom.
This Shorthanded Industry Drives Salaries North Of $100,000
The demand for closed captioning is quickly outstripping the available workforce trained in stenography reports the Hamilton County Herald.
As court reporting potentially hits a roadblock the demand for closed captioning live events such as sports, news, talk shows, and infomercials hit an all-time high.
There is a shift in perspective when moving from court reporting to captioning. In court reporting, the stenographer’s responsibility is to produce a verbatim record and produce a transcript. In captioning, the stenographer is producing a verbatim transcript that facilitates communication with individuals who are hard of hearing or deaf.
Captioning has become a lucrative career that includes the added bonus of helping others. Just stepping out of the courtroom a stenographer will find their services are needed in entertainment, education, and even more intimate events such as weddings and funerals whilst providing a flexibility to work on the road and from the comfort of one’s home office.
The Real Threat Isn’t Artificial Intelligence Or Big Government
There is, however, still a threat to the stenography profession as a whole, but it’s not what you might think. The threat to this profession doesn’t rest in potential job availability or artificial intelligence, the threat lies in its dwindling workforce.
With the average national age of stenographers at 53 years old, the lack of millennial interest is a driving force for the national shortage. This has an obvious but profound double-edged effect. While the smaller workforce enjoys higher and higher salaries as work piles on and more and more stenographers retire further depleting the pool, there aren’t enough new stenographers entering the workforce to offset the losses.
A lack of education and marketing on the subject along with a lifelong push toward college over a certification program might be culprits of the dwindling workforce. However, the older of a jaded generation saddled with astronomical college debt might enjoy the pragmatism in learning new trades skewed toward higher incomes. With captioning salaries averaging $62,000 per year and skyrocketing toward $120,000 coupled with the potential to work from a home office, how long can this career path really stay off the millennial radar?
With the huge demand for court reporters’ services coming from outside of the courtroom and pushing salaries higher, the stenographer’s career trajectory looks clear and safe. With too much work and not enough workers to fill the deficit, such a high-quality problem can lead to complications for the profession down the road. However, for now, it looks as though this “complication” is working to the great benefit of skilled stenographers still active across the country. The future of court reporting still has it’s potential hiccups, but not for the reasons we’d initially assume at face value.