Certified Shorthand Reporter
Certified shorthand reporters (CSRs) are also known as court reporters or stenographers. These workers often sit in courtrooms and document the proceedings. Court reporters use specialized keyboards that allow them to type shorthand, which is a coded language designed for faster typing. Computer programs can translate the shorthand code into regular words, but shorthand reporters must edit each transcript to make sure there are no errors. Freelance workers have the most flexibility in their hours, and some shorthand reporters are able to work from home.
To work as a CSR, an individual will need a post-secondary certificate or associate degree in shorthand, court reporting or stenography. It is also necessary to acquire a state license or certification for court reporters or shorthand reporters; industry-certification may be required as part of state licensing procedures.
In addition to having the right education, a CSR may also benefit from some of the following key skills:
- Excellent listening skills
- A strong memory
- Attention to detail
- Ability to answer questions clearly as needed
- Knowledge of legal terminology
- Good writing skills and focus
Familiarity with computer-aided translation software programs, knowledge of document creation programs and ability to use other court reporting computer programs will also be needed for a career in this field.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in May of 2015, that the annual median salary for court reporters was $49,500.
Step 1: Get a Certificate or Degree
Individuals can enroll in stenography certificate or degree programs, although many court reporting certificate and degree programs also provide shorthand training. Coursework often includes medical terminology, machine shorthand theory, legal documentation, court reporter duties, business law, transcription technology and courtroom proceedings. Certificate programs typically last six months, while degree programs can last anywhere from 2-4 years.
Aspiring shorthand reporters can help themselves on the road to success by:
- Completing an internship. Some programs provide court reporting internship opportunities. During internships, students gain experience working with different reporting technologies, such as Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART). Students may also have the opportunity to intern at different locations, including courtrooms and closed captioning studios.
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Step 2: Certification and Licensure
Many court reporting certificate and degree programs prepare students for industry-standard certification exams. The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) offers several certification programs for new graduates, such as the registered professional reporter (RPR) designation. RPR certification exams are multiple-choice, with 105-110 questions that cover topics related to transcription production, professional practices and reporting standards. Besides knowledge-based questions, individuals must also show their shorthand skills by transcribing dictation at appropriate speeds.
Some states have specific procedures for individuals to become CSRs, but many states consider shorthand reporters and court reporters as the same. Certification through the state is usually a form of licensing. In some states, licensing requirements include passing nationally recognized exams, such as those offered by NCRA. Other licensing requirements often include submitting fees and paperwork, completing appropriate educational programs and having related experience. Some states may require license applicants to take additional written exams.
It is a good idea to:
- Check license reciprocity laws. Licenses or certifications for shorthand reporters are often only valid within one state. Some states have reciprocity laws that allow professionals with out-of-state licenses to work within the state. Other states do not have these laws and may require licensed shorthand reporters to complete the licensing process again.
Step 3: Jobs and Keeping Licenses
After obtaining state licenses or certifications, individuals can find open positions for shorthand reporters. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that shorthand reporters who do not know how to use other reporting technologies may have difficulties finding employment.
Once working as a CSR, it is important to maintain the licensure and certification. The renewal process for state licenses or certifications may include passing background checks, submitting fingerprints, completing continued education classes and paying fees. Industry-certification renewal requirements vary by organization. For instance, RPR certification renewal involves maintaining membership with the NCRA and completing continued education coursework every few years.
Therefore, individuals interested in pursuing a career as a certified shorthand reporter will need to earn a degree or certificate in order to work in a courtroom or other setting using shorthand typing skills. Once one has acquired the appropriate education and skills, gained experience, and passed certification exams in court reporting and learned to use court reporting tools, he or she should make sure they are knowledgeable in the state requirements for maintaining the license.