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Court Reporting: Summary of How to Become a Court Reporter

Learn how to become a court reporter. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in the court reporting field.

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Should I Become a Court Reporter?

A court reporter is responsible for making a verbatim written transcript of court proceedings or depositions. In the case of a stenographic court reporter, a stenotype machine is used to record shorthand of the spoken word at speeds of up to 225 words per minute. Court reporters are then required to transcribe the content they've captured into a written document, checking the text for accuracy or grammatical errors. They might also be asked to read back records of testimony during a court proceeding when requested. Those who work on a freelance basis might have more schedule flexibility, but may have to spend considerable time seeking new work assignments.

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Career Requirements

Degree Level Court reporters typically complete certificate or associate degree programs such as court reporting or stenography
Licensure and Certification Court reporters must be licensed in many states; most accept applicants who've passed the National Court Reporters Association's (NCRA) Registered Professional Reporter exam; other states issue their own tests
Experience Varies by employer; experience is often unnecessary, though requirements can range from 1-4 years
Key Skills Ability to hear well and listen carefully; finger dexterity; good communication, writing and proofreading skills; strong attention to detail, ability to operate stenotype machines, experience with court reporting software, Microsoft Excel and word processing applications; the ability to capture 225 testimony words per minute, 200 jury charge words per minute and 180 literary words per minute with 95% accuracy
Salary (May 2014) $23.97/hour or $49,860/year (Median salary for Court Reporters)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job postings by employers (June 2012), Onetonline.org, National Court Reporters Association

Step 1: Attend a Training Program

To acquire the typing and transcription skills necessary for a career in this field, many aspiring court reporters complete formal training programs. Community colleges as well as vocational and trade schools offer certificate and associate degree programs that take anywhere from 1-2 years to complete. Some schools even offer coursework online. Students can expect to take such classes as real-time reporting, dictation and speed development, with the goal of accurately transcribing 225 spoken words per minute.

Success Tip:

  • Practice. Typing speed and accuracy are crucial for a career as a court reporter. Students should be prepared to spend as many as 15 hours each week transcribing the spoken word in order to develop these skills. Take advantage of resources like school laboratories and sound recordings to get experience outside of class time.

Step 2: Meet State Licensing Requirements

Each state has different licensing requirements for court reporters. Some require applicants to earn certification from a state-approved professional organization, such as the National Court Reporters Association. Its Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) designation is available to stenographic court reporters who pass both written knowledge and skills exams. During this latter portion, applicants will need to record and transcribe a dictation with 95% accuracy.

Some states also mandate that court reporters be notaries public. Notary requirements vary by state, but can include completing a brief training period, passing a written exam and undergoing a criminal background check.

Step 3: Maintain Certification

To maintain certification, stenographic court reporters might have to undergo additional training. The RPR credential requires certified court reporters to complete three units of continuing education every three years. They must also maintain their membership status with the NCRA.

Step 4: Become Certified in Electronic Court Reporting and Transcribing

Digital recordings have been a successful method of court reporting for many decades. The American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT) offers two different types of digitally-focused certifications: Certified Electronic Court Reporter (CER) and Certified Electronic Transcriber (CET). An individual certified with AAERT will be able to review accuracy of transcription, record overlapping voices individually, and playback testimony during trial. Digital reporting offers a more up to date way to report and transcribe, as well as transmitting and archiving.

Success Tip:

  • Prepare. Exam preparation information, including practice questions, is offered on AAERT's website. Recertification is required every 3 years.
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