Hearing Reporters - The Good, Bad, And Ugly

Recently the Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Workers' Compensation sent me a letter outlining their need to hire more Hearing Reporters.  I thought I'd pass the information along in case anybody reading this blog is interested in taking the Hearing Reporter Exam and/or learning more about what a Hearing Reporter actually does.

First, Show Me The Money
The monthly salary offered by the WCAB (Workers' Compensation Appeals Board) is $4770 to $5797

Second, Show Me The Way
In order to become a Hearing Reporter and to get on the hiring list to become eligible for employment, send your application to the Department of Industrial Relations, Personnel Office -  Examination Unit, P.O. Box 420603, San Francisco, CA 94142.  The deadline is 4/4/08.  The application is available at the following website: http://www.dir.ca.gov/dirjobs/dirjobs.htm.

Minimum Requirements:

  • 1 year experience transcribing hearings or conferences or meetings -- OR -- possession of  State of California License as CSR -- OR -- possession of Certificate of Proficiency or a Certificate of Merit issued by NCRA.
  • Willingness to travel throughout the State.
  • Professional poise and normal hearing.
  • At least 12th grade education.

Third, Give Me The Bullet Point Synopsis Of The Good And Bad And Ugly
In my opinion there are good things about becoming a hearing reporter.  And some not so good things.

The Good

  • $4770 to $5797/month
  • Excellent benefits
  • Your equipment and software is provided by the State
  • You do not get assigned to one particular judge but rotate from a pool.  This is great if you hate sameness and desire a different daily work experience. (I know I do!)

The Bad

  • $4770 to $5797/month - depending on your lifestyle and where you live, that might not go as far as it used to.
  • You don't have a choice of what equipment and software you can use.  It's Stentura and AristoCAT for you.
  • You do not get assigned to one particular judge but rotate from a pool.  Thus it might be difficult to get into a familiar cozy pattern.  (Some people prefer to have the same judge, same court room each day.  It's a matter of preference, honestly.)

The Really, Really Ugly

  • Only a small percentage of transcripts are actually requested.  (Court reporters -- those reporters working in court -- will tell you that they make a good portion of their income from such extra transcription work.)
  • And even when a transcript is requested and produced by you, the money goes to the State not to the Reporter.  Big, ugly ouch!
  • Apparently during slow times, a Hearing Reporter may be assigned to help out with clerical duties in other areas of the office.  (In addition to Steno, you know how to make coffee; right?)

Hey, What Does A Hearing Reporter Hear And Report Anyways?
A Hearing Reporter is the court reporter for workers' comp hearings at the WCAB.  There are WCAB offices in 24 California cities.  The cities with current openings are Los Angeles, Marina Del Rey, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Ana, Santa Rosa, and Van Nuys.  Reporters work in a pool and are typically not assigned to one specific judge.

The main work produced by the Hearing Reporter is a summary of the hearing, which is dictated to the reporter by the judge.  Only a small percentage of transcripts are requested.  :(  When a transcript is requested and produced, the money goes to the State -- not to the Reporter. 

Hearing Reporters work from 8 to 5, Monday through Friday.  All work produced -- i.e. transcripts -- is accomplished during the course of the normal 40-hour work week.  There is occasional travel to work at satellite locations or to other offices when short-staffing occurs.  No work is taken home; therefore, reporters enjoy their evenings, weekends and holidays as their own personal time.  What a concept.

Full benefits include medical, dental, vision, retirement, sick leave (8 hours per month), vacation leave (2 weeks/year through the first 3 years of employment, which increases with more years of service), and state holidays.  Once you receive full benefits, that equals approximately 30 percent over and above the base salary.

Your equipment is furnished by the State.  Yes, I repeat... The State will provide you with a steno machine (Stentura), desktop computer, printer, work space, et cetera.  They also provide the computer-aided transcription software AristoCAT.  Your custom dictionary will be converted by AristoCAT to work in their system.

The position of Hearing Reporter does not become available very often.  The recent hirings and openings are due to an increase of workload.

So, does anybody want to become a Hearing Reporter?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Todd Olivas

Todd Olivas is a court reporter and entrepreneur.
He founded TO&A in 2003.

  Comment by Reina Cook | Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Thank you so much for this information!! I was considering applying to take the exam but had a multitude of questions; one of which was whether or not I would be making additional money from transcript orders. Unfortunately, the good points do not outweigh the bad points right now. I`m a deposition reporter and things have been rather slow in my area right now. Guess I`ll just have to wait it out!!
  Comment by Mary Welsh, BA, CSR, RPR | Friday, May 30, 2008
After 18 years as a depo reporter, I am now working as a hearing reporter at the Van Nuys WCAB and LOVING IT!!!! I actually have a life again. I have free weekends. I don`t take home work. I have no expedites! I have no emergency calls begging me to cover a depo! I have paid vacation and holidays. I have every other Friday off. I have NO STRESS. Need I say more???
  Comment by Negin | Thursday, December 11, 2008
Hi, I was wondering if someone can help me find out, how to become a Hearing Reporter and what courses I need to take.
  Comment by Todd Olivas | Thursday, December 18, 2008
What state are you in, Negin?
  Comment by Mia | Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Hi, I was wondering if someone can help me find out, how to become a Hearing Reporter and what courses I need to take. I`m in Sacramento, California
  Comment by Stephanie | Thursday, September 3, 2009

I`m a new CSR, and I just sent in my application for the upcoming hearing reporter exam. If any hearing reporters happen to read this, I`d love to hear more about the examination process and your overall satisfaction with the job.

Thanks in advance.

  Comment by Janet Ardon | Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Hi there,

I am a freelance court reporter applying to be a hearing reporter. I am not in test mode and was wondering if the 200wpm test is comparable to the CSR examination?? Any advice to prepare for the test?


  Comment by Steve Anthony Alva | Tuesday, January 12, 2010
The accuracy and timing are identical to the California CSR Exam; yes, 97.5 to pass at 200 WPM for a 10-minute four-voice exam. These are usually workers comp cases and deal with slip and fall-type cases.
  Comment by Steve Anthony Alva | Friday, January 29, 2010
All persons please read all comments pertaining to the Hearing Reporters position. Several years ago, I referred three persons who all passed the test and began work as Hearing Reporters. Long story short, they all threw in the towell six to nine months later, all claiming boredom, stale cases, but the ultimate complaint I heard from them was stale and sour-grape employees from various state agencies or other positions within Workers Comp. Heaven forbid, no stale court reporters that I know of, but please be forwarned.
  Comment by Martha Reuter | Thursday, April 15, 2010
Be aware that hearing reporters are included in the 3-day-a-month furloughs that all state workers are subject to right now. This means a reduction of nearly 15% in pay. That`s off the salary stated in this article.
  Comment by Steve Anthony Alva | Thursday, April 15, 2010
You got that right, Girl! And from the beginning pay tier at that. Any more cuts, and we may all be fighting hammer and tong over the gravy from a stirring stick from a pot of beef stew; similar to The Grapes of Wrath, Hijo La!
  Comment by nancy | Monday, August 16, 2010
hi! I was just wondering if anyone knew where exactly one can apply for a job as a hearing reporter. I`ve been googling and can`t seem to find any on the WCAB or anywhere else... thanks!
  Comment by Steve Anthony Alva | Monday, August 16, 2010
Look under Department of Industrial Relations; that`s where the postings generate from and/or under the auspices of the State Personnel Board. There`s also a link about this position on the California Court Reporters Board.
  Comment by Amy Schreck | Sunday, March 20, 2011
Hello. Would the NCRA test with a score of 97.5 substitute for the CA test?

I wonder if NCRA keeps their scores pass/fail or the percentage.

How does Aristocat compare to Eclipse which I`ve been on for 15years?
Thanks for your blogging.

  Comment by Steve Alva | Monday, March 21, 2011
Califonia examinations, both the Hearing Reporter and the California CSR do not have reciprocity with NCRA testing. You qualify to partake in these exams, by virtue of passing the RPR, but that`s it. Federal Court does, however, accept your NCRA exams for employment.
  Comment by Donna | Tuesday, March 29, 2011
I was a previous CSR reporter for about 15 years and I lost my CSR because of a felony. Is there any way I can get a job without my CSR?
  Comment by Steve Anthony Alva | Wednesday, March 30, 2011
And high time too, we`ve had a comment like yours; it keeps things on the edge, the way I like `em! There is no fingerprinting requirement for a state hearing reporter, but you must disclose that in your application as usual. If the charge you cite doesn`t involve forged documents, and things of that nature, they may, more likely, look the other way. And having worked for the state way back when, Child, I would like to say I`ve seen it all, but then that would make me barrelhouse, wouldn`t it? I say go ahead and apply,take the next test and be forthcoming, if asked, during the interview. Best wishes.
  Comment by Michelle | Monday, May 20, 2013
If still interested in a job with this State as a Hearing Reporter, now keep in mind the requirement is (in lieu of hiring more reporters) to remotely report hearings from other offices of the WCAB, i.e., a reporter sitting in a room with his/her machine and this Plantronic binaural headset equipment, and the parties in the remote office wearing micraphones (judge, attorneys, witness), you are going to be required to report without seeing any of the parties. And this is still presumably with the same degree of accuracy.
AWFUL ! Unbelieveable. And impossible. Just give me a tape of the hearing. I`ll produce my work from that.

  Comment by Marie Gray | Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Hi Todd - Found this blog by accident when googling. I took and passed the Hearing Reporters examination way back in 1991, when I worked for the Dept. of Industrial Relations, WCAB, for about 4 years. Dumb Question: Was I ever assigned a number, and is there any memorialization of my passing the exam? I still have my CA CSR license in good standing, but am working on my resume (how many years later, ouch) and thought would throw in the Hearing Reporter experience as well. I would call the DIR personnel office in San Francisco, but wouldn`t know where to begin or who to ask - any suggestions would be welcome. Thank you in advance!
  Comment by Steve Anthony Alva | Thursday, January 30, 2014
Let me be a Buttinsky for Todd. You were not assigned a number, only a score of your test and your ranking to determine your placement on the hire list. If you did not reach five (5) years of employment with the State, you may have dropped off the radar because you were not fully vested in the retirement system although you may have paid into it;nor will you have reinstatement rights. I`m sure they`ve discarded the test scores after five years; however, if you still have your pass notice you received in the mail, that will still be proof of competency for another exam within that title or past experience.
  Comment by Ana Gonzalez | Monday, January 5, 2015
I am the Chief Hearing Reporter at the California Public Utilities Commission. Our title at the commission is Hearing Reporter-PUC. Unlike work comp hearing reporters, we do earn daily copies. About 85 percent of our hearings are dailies. We cover hearings up and down the state, which is a nice perk if you like to travel. We use CATalyst and Diamantes, all paid for. The usual benefits, vacation, sick, retirement, medical, dental. We DO NOT work on weekends, evenings!
  Comment by mabel hayek | Friday, January 30, 2015
When is next hearing reporter coming up?
  Comment by Sue | Sunday, March 1, 2015
does one have to take a hearing reporter exam to be hired as one. I`m recently awaiting the next CSR, meanwhile, I figured I`d try to work as a hearing reporter.
  Comment by Steve Anthony Alva | Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Sue, don`t bother. It`s a process getting hired by the State (three to six months.) Wait for the CSR to roll around because you may get an unfavorable if you drop them like a hot potato after getting hired. Really, it`s more trouble than it`s worth, and I`m sure you don`t want your employment record blemished.
  Comment by Luke Yancey | Monday, August 1, 2016
I never knew that so many different benefits are offered for hearing reporters. My cousin is looking to go into something that relates to law. I think he would be interested in this particular job if he knew there were nice benefits and equipment provided by the state!

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