Court reporter salaries are influenced by a variety of factors. Just like other industries, the current economy, future forecasts, related industries, and trends in the legal field all impact how much experienced and new court reporters are paid.
Current and Future Court Reporter Salaries
New graduates can expect to earn anywhere from $42,000 – $55,000 right out of school depending on where in the country they are working. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016 the average court reporter salary was $51,320 [Source] but California has a higher cost of living so the average is $60,000 – $88,000 [Source] with the higher end of the scale in urban areas like San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Sacramento.
Future salaries are expected to increase as the pool of court reporters decreases.
Court Reporting Industry Trends
The most disturbing trend in our industry is the court reporter shortage. By 2018 it is expected that the national shortage will be more than 5,000 with nearly half of those in California alone. [Source] The cause is two-fold. Court reporters are an average of ten years older than other American workers so they are set to retire. The second problem is a lack of court reporting schools. There just isn’t enough interest in the industry to attract new students.
The lack of supply and increasing demand both inside and outside the legal field means the value of the service is increasing. In other words, court reporter salaries are trending upward and outpacing other industries.
The Other Factor
There’s another factor in play – the large court reporter agencies that are run by people who are not court reporters. They’re able to employ new reporters who have little experience. While it’s good to be putting reporters to work, we’re concerned that the big firms are squeezing out smaller ones like ours just like the big box stores squeezed out mom and pop shops in industries like hardware and home goods.
Firms like ours like that we’re able to serve our clients in a more personal way than a bigger firm but the reality is that we can’t compete with their pay structures.
Lawsuits in California
We’re not surprised at the need for court reporters here in California. We are a litigious state with more than a million frivolous lawsuits filed each year [Source]. Frivolous or not, attorneys filing these suits need court reporters to take depositions. That increases the demand for an already stressed industry.
Nationally speaking, when the economy is improving, as it is currently, there is more money for lawsuits and insurance claims. Those claims increase the need for reporters.
While we’re pleased that there is a growing need for court reporters and that salaries are trending upward, we’re also acutely aware of the industry influences and economic trends working against us. It’s an interesting time for the industry that’s for sure!