Should I Become a Stenographer?
Stenographers use stenotype machines to record exact transcripts of various proceedings, usually within the legal arena, where they are known as court reporters. Most of these professionals are employed by the local and state government, administrative support services, and information services. Stenographers and court reporters often keep full-time schedules with the possibility to set their own hours.
While an associate's degrees in court reporting or stenography is typical, other formal training programs may be available. Many states require licensure or certification and many states accept National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) certification. Stenographers should have good concentration, listening and writing skills, as well as strong attention to detail. They should have expertise in the use of stenotype machines and be proficient in Microsoft Word and Excel, Chase Software Solutions Court Reporting software, Courtpages, ReporterWorks, and OMTI ReporterBase. According to 2016 earnings data from Payscale.com, stenographers earned a median salary of $47,014.
Steps to Become a Stenographer
Step 1: Take a Court Reporting Education Program
Community colleges and technical institutions offer specific programs for those seeking careers as stenographers or other types of court reporter. Both certificate and associate's degree programs are offered in various types of court reporting. However, not all court reporting programs teach the use of the stenotype machine. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many stenography programs confer associate's degrees.
Students take classes in legal and medical terminology, machine technology, and dictation of a jury charge (a judge's instructions to a jury about their responsibilities). Upon completion of these courses, individuals are able to accurately operate a stenotype machine. Some associate's degree programs include an internship component. Internships allow students to gain valuable experience in court.
Step 2: Secure Licensure or Certification
Licensure or certification requirements vary according to each state's regulations. In some cases, aspiring stenographers need to pass state-administered written and skills exams.
Aspiring stenographers should obtain the NCRA's Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) credential. Many states certify or license candidates who hold this certification, which is one of several offered by NCRA. RPR candidates must pass written tests that assess knowledge of reporting and transcript production and skills tests that evaluate dictation and transcription speed and accuracy. Requirements are quite stringent because professional stenographers must produce extremely accurate accounts of the proceedings they document.
Step 3: Fulfill Continuing Education Requirements
Court reporters typically need to complete continuing education courses in order to maintain state licensure or NCRA certification and keep their training up-to-date. The NCRA requires court reporters who hold the RPR designation to earn at least three continuing education units every three years. Contact your state's governing body for information on specific continuing education requirements.
Stenographers often have an associate's degree in court reporting or stenography and they may be required to be licensed or certified depending on the state.