Court Reporter: How Do I Become a Court Reporter?

Learn how to become a court reporter. Research the job description, education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career in court reporting.

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Should I Become a Court Reporter?

Court reporters create word-for-word transcripts of legal proceedings, such as court hearings. Additionally, court reporters may utilize their skills in a television broadcasting capacity to provide closed captioning. Aspiring court reporters may be electronic reporters, voice writers, or stenographers. Electronic reporters use audio tools to capture discussions, while voice writers repeat what is being said into a microphone, noting actions and hand gestures. Stenographers use a stenotype machine that allows them to transcribe real-time conversations. Those who are self-employed may need to spend a significant amount of time seeking new customers or assignments.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Court Reporting
  • Legal Administrative Assistant or Secretary
  • Legal Assistant or Paralegal

Career Requirements

Degree Level Associate's degree or postsecondary certificate
Degree Field Court reporting, stenography
Training Short-term on-the-job training required
Licensure and Certification Licensure or certification required in most states; voluntary certifications available
Key Skills Listening, comprehension, concentration, detail-oriented, typing, writing, and speaking skills, ability to use stenotype machines and audio recording devices
Salary $49,860 per year (2014 median salary for all court reporters)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET OnLine

Step 1: Complete Necessary Postsecondary Program

Programs that train students in a specific method of transcription, such as voice captioning or the use of a steno-mask, are generally certificate programs that can be completed in approximately 6 months. Court reporting or stenography programs can lead to a certificate or associate's degree, and usually can be completed in 2 years. Programs typically include coursework in legal procedures and terminology, court reporting procedures, technical dictation and voice writing technology. Students also receive practical training to be able to perform two-voice transcribing at 225 wpm, which is the ideal typing speed for this profession. Depending on the school, a court or freelance externship may be offered.

Success Tip:

  • Take online classes. Online classes are available for court reporting programs. Even if a student is enrolled in an on-campus program, online classes can be used to become proficient in specializations, like medical short hand, as well as to build up typing speed and accuracy.

Step 2: Obtain Licensure

Depending on the state, some court reporters are required to be licensed. In order to obtain licensure, court reporters may be required to become notary publics and/or Certified Court Reporters as well as pass a state board-administered exam. There may also be qualifying exams and other requirements depending on the state and the candidate's related transcription method.

Step 3: Earn Certification

Court reporters may find more job opportunities by earning voluntary certifications from national organizations, like the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) or the National Verbatim Reporters Association (NVRA). Both the NCRA and NVRA certification exams can qualify reporters for licensure in most states. The NCRA offers the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) certification, which requires passing a 3-part skills exam that tests a reporter's typing speed. The NVRA offers several certification exams, such as the Certified Verbatim Reporter (CVR). To earn this designation, candidates must pass a written and skills test, demonstrating 95% accuracy.

Step 4: Find Employment

Court reporters typically work for government courts or court reporting agencies. Some reporters may also be freelancers who take on part-time or contracted work. For example, freelance court reporters may work for live broadcast production companies providing captioning services.

Step 5: Take Continuing Education Courses

Both state boards and certification organizations require licensed or certified court reporters to fulfill continuing education requirements. Continuing education credits are generally approved by each organization and may include punctuation workshops, transcription seminars, and other approved events.

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