Our legal system mandates that an accurate record of court proceedings be maintained. Court reporters fill this requirement, and typically put their talents to work after receiving a postsecondary stenographic training.
Stenographers often work as court reporters for legal proceedings or for businesses and schools that require transcription of events, conferences and meetings. An associate's degree or postsecondary certificate and typing proficiency is typically required. Many states also require that stenographers obtain state licensure or certification.
|Required Education||Postsecondary certificate or associate's degree usually required|
|Other Requirements||Certification or licensure and typing test usually required by states|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||2% for court reporters|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$49,500 annually for court reporters|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that while training requirements depend on the individual's chosen specialty, all employers require stenographers to have a high school diploma or GED certificate. Training programs typically award a stenography or court reporting certificate. The National Court Reporter Association (NCRA) maintains a list of approved court reporting programs. Although most of the schools offer certificates, some offer associate's degrees in court reporting and transcription.
Court Reporting Certificate Programs
A court reporting certificate program trains aspiring court reporters and other stenographers to transcribe speech using various real-time methods. Most programs also provide coursework on secretarial and office skills. Certificate programs vary in length from 1-4 semesters and typically include courses in real-time reporting, captioning, legal terminology and computer use.
Some certificate programs allow students to choose between courses in voice writing or real-time recording theory. Other required courses could include editing legal documents or medical terminology.
Associate's Degree Programs in Court Reporting
Associate's degree programs in court reporting can take 72-168 credit hours to complete. Required courses typically include study of machine shorthand, dictation, legal terminology and court reporting procedures. These degree programs include general education classes in English, psychology and history. Students might be allowed to take skill-building courses intended to increase their typing skills and accuracy.
Licensing and Certification
In most states, court reporters who transcribe legal proceedings must be licensed, which requires passing a state-administered court reporting exam. Some states also require stenographers to be certified court reporters (CCRs). To obtain CCR credentials, stenographers must have formal training, experience and a passing score on state-approved court reporting exam.
Additional licensure might be required if stenographers also provide other transcription services, such as voice writing. The National Verbatim Reporters Association provides certification that meets licensure requirements for voice writers.
The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) certifies stenographers and court reporters. Certifications from the NCRA attest to competency and might increase career prospects, the organization notes.
Registered Professional Reporter (RPR)
This certification requires candidates to take two exams, a multiple-choice knowledge test and a three-part skills-based exam. The skills exam includes recording jury instruction at 200 words per minute (WPM), literary recording at 180 wpm and recording of testimony at 225 words per minute. Stenographers must earn three continuing education units (CEUs) every three years to maintain RPR certification.
Registered Merit Reporter (RMR)
Certified RPRs can sit for the RMR exam. Candidates must have been certified RPRs for the past three years with current membership in the NRCA. The RMR exam is a skills exam in three parts, similar to the RPR skills exam, except that candidates for the RMR must have 95% accuracy to pass.
Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR)
Registered Merit Reporters are eligible to take the RDR exam after five years of membership in the NCRA. This certification requires passage of a 115-question multiple choice test. The RDR is renewed in the same manner as the RPR and RMR, by earning a total of three CEUs every three years.
Certified Real-Time Reporter (CRR)
Individuals who are Registered Professional Reporters may take the CRR certification examination. This exam includes three parts - operation of dictation and recording equipment, 96% accuracy in five minutes of real-time writing at 200 wpm and conversion of the text file to ASCII.
To summarize, among the most common occupations for stenographers is that of court reporter, which requires a certificate or associate degree that is approved by the NCRA. Most states require you to pass a licensing examination if you're going to transcribe legal proceedings. The NCRA also gives you the opportunity to become certified in specific areas of court reporting.