More surprising 6-figure jobs

Court reporters: Ever been a juror in deliberations or been present at a deposition and heard testimony read back?

Well, those words came to you courtesy of a court reporter, whose job is to capture live speech and then transcribe it to the written word.

About a third of court reporters work full-time for a court (receiving a salary and benefits), and two-thirds are freelancers who are hired by lawyers to take pre-trial depositions.

In both cases, the court reporters are paid for the time they spend taking down testimony and then for the transcripts they create, which may be purchased by each party in a case.

Rates for freelancers vary widely, but the pay for official court reporters is a matter of public record. On the high end, experienced court reporters can earn up to $88,171 working for the New York State Supreme Court, according to one survey. On top of that, they can earn more for the transcripts they create, which can bring their earnings above $100,000.

The transcript rate in New York ranges between $2.50 and $4.30 a page for ordinary turnaround and $3.75 and $6.50 per page for daily delivery.

Six hours of testimony works out to about 250 pages, said Laurel Eiler, the immediate past president of the National Court Reporters Association.

In terms of training, you'll need between two and four years of education at a court reporter school. And the more certifications you can earn thereafter (there are 10 listed on NCRA's Web site), the more desirable you'll be for hire, said Eiler, who has worked as a freelance court reporter for 18 years and now runs an agency for court reporters in Nashville, Tenn.

Court reporters have to be very proficient with the computer technologies of their trade, have strong English skills, and a strong vocabulary in the areas they're working in. They must be able to concentrate for long periods of time and meet very tight deadlines.

In addition to the hours spent taking down testimony and creating a written transcript, court reporters must spend prep time programming their software and equipment so that they're prepared to handle the terminology specific to an upcoming case, which in many instances can be highly technical.

Broadcast captioners: Those real-time captions you see on the screen of live television programs, such as a news shows, are provided by broadcast captioners.

Most typically, they might earn $50-to-$100 for every programming hour they caption and they work for companies hired by networks to provide the captioning, said Kathy DiLorenzo, director of reporter and captioner relations at VITAC, a captioning company.

Top captioners at VITAC earn between $60,000 and $120,000 a year with benefits, DiLorenzo said.

But to make that $120,000 a year, an employee might caption 30-to-40 hours of programs a week, which does not include the preparation time they need to make sure their software and equipment are ready to handle the content of a broadcast.

As with court reporters, the ability to concentrate and the need for physical stamina is key to provide real-time captions for that many hours of live television.

Unlike court reporters, though, captioners don't need to be on-site if they have the proper equipment at home, which is necessary if you're an independent contractor. If you do work independently, you'll probably need to invest about $18,000 to get the right computers and software, DiLorenzo said.

Typically, people wishing to become broadcast captioners will need at least three years of full-time education, unless they're already court reporters, in which case they might need a year of retraining, DiLorenzo said.  Top of page

9th Oct 2011

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