How to Become an Official Court Reporter

Aug 15, 2018

Learn how to become an official court reporter. Research the education and career requirements, certification information, and experience needed for starting a career in court reporting. View article »

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Video Transcript

Should I Become an Official Court Reporter?

Education Required Certificate or degree
Degree Field Court reporting
Licensure/Certification State-issued license and certification
Experience Short-term on-the-job training must be completed after a formal program is finished; 4 years work experience
Key Skills Strong concentration, listening and writing skills; attention to detail; proficiency with stenography and digital voice recording equipment; ability to type 225 words per minute
Salary $49,500 (2015 median salary for all court reporters)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job postings from August 2012

Official court reporters use stenography, voice writing, and shorthand techniques to generate word-for-word transcripts of court proceedings. In addition, court reporters research names and facts. Those employed on a freelance basis have a flexible work schedule.

These professionals must have a certificate or degree in court reporting, which can be obtained at a vocational school. Most employers require court reporters to be able to type a minimum number of words per minute, usually at least 225. Additionally, a license or certification is required in most states. The skills necessary for a successful career in this field include strong concentration, listening, and writing skills and attention to detail. Court reporters also need proficiency with stenography and digital voice recording equipment.

Before making a career decision, consider the job outlook and salary information for court reporters. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in court reporting was expected to increase 2% from 2014 to 2024. As for salary, the median salary for court reporters was $49,500 as of May 2015.

Now let's take a look at the steps needed to become an official court reporter.

Step 1: Complete a Training Program

Vocational and technical colleges offer associate's degree and certificate programs to prepare graduates for careers as official court reporters. These schools teach students to break down language phonetically and to use steno machines. Coursework covers legal and medical terminology, English composition, grammar, and courtroom procedures.

Students often learn how to use the voice writing method. The voice writing method involves a court reporter repeating all the words and gestures of the judges, witnesses, and attorneys into a microphone, which is covered by a mask so that the speaking doesn't disturb the proceedings. Although technology is available to transmit vocal shorthand into a real-time transcript, voice writers must still take steps to complete official transcripts based on these recordings.

Here's a little tip for practicing transcription. Aspiring court reporters can practice by watching television or listening to audiobooks and then transcribing what is heard. This can be an easy and accessible way for an aspiring official court reporter to increase typing ability and speed.

Step 2: Earn Licensing and Certification

Some states require court reporters to obtain a state-issued license, though the requirements vary by state and method of reporting. Some states also require court reporters to have certification. Many court reporters have certification from the two largest certifying bodies. The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) offers the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) exam, which 22 states deem an adequate substitute for licensing. The RPR tests dictation abilities, transcript production, business practices, and professionalism. The National Verbatim Reporters Association (NVRA) offers two advanced certifications, which lead to the Registered Merit Reporter (RMR) and Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR) designations.

Becoming certified and obtaining membership in a professional organization for court reporters provides access to continuing education options, as well as other resources to assist a court reporter with career advancement. These include networking opportunities, marketing tools, and insurance plans.

Step 3: Continue Education for Career Advancement

Official court reporters must earn continuing education credits and participate in online courses in order to maintain NCRA certification. Continuing education may also be required to maintain licensure. Additionally, continuing education can help an official court reporter stay current on technology and other trends related to the job.

To become an official court reporter, you'll need to earn a certificate or degree in court reporting, obtain state-specific licensing or certification, and earn continuing education credits to maintain licensure and certification.

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