Court reporters, also called stenographers, are the individuals tasked with ensuring every spoken word and gesture during a court proceeding is recorded in an accurate transcript. They are the guardians of the courtroom record. Required to be at once observant, reliable, and impartial, the court reporter is an essential player in any courtroom trial. Court reporting is also a promising and stable career. With good salaries and anticipated growth of 10% between 2012 and 2022, it’s not surprising many are looking into becoming a court reporter.
To become a court reporter requires completing education and training requirements and, in many states, earning a qualifying licensed or certificate. This is what it takes to become a court reporter:
Step One: Choose a career path
Did you know 70% of the over 50,000 court reporters in the U.S. work outside of the court? Within the field of court reporting are several different career paths applicants can consider. While the basic structure of any court reporting education is the same, some schools may segment their training into different programs that are geared towards specific areas of court reporting. Programs may vary from the most recognized judicial reporting, which entails creating a transcript of court proceedings, to Communications Access Realtime Reporting (CART), which provides services for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Accredited court reporter schools may vary by state in the programs they offer. In Ohio, for instance, court reporting schools will offer programs such as:
- Realtime/Judicial Reporting Program
- Broadcast Caption/CART Program
- Court Reporting with Stenography
- Court Reporting with Voice Writing
Step Two: Prepare for your court reporter program
Once you’ve chosen the area of specialty you’d like to pursue, it’s time to prepare for your court reporter program. Students are often required to purchase their own manual steonotype machines and to rent or purchase a computerized writer for any CAT classes along with any requisite software.
Likewise, you should expect to take entrance exams before you are accepted to a school. These exams typically seek to evaluate your English typing ability and grasp of the English language.
Step Three: Complete your court reporting program
Court reporting programs may be offered from a variety of institutions. For instance, your local community college may offer classes to help you become a court reporter. Or you may be able to find a dedicated court reporting school to study at. Depending on the program you take and where you pursue your education, you may earn a certificate, professional diploma, or associate’s degree.
From beginning to end, the education program and certification process to become a certified court reporter takes an average of 33.3 months. Many offer both in-class and online courses, as well and day and evening classes.
All court reporting schools are designed to prepare those interested in court reporting to pass their state’s licensing and/or certification requirements. As such, their curriculum will aim to help you achieve certain minimum skill requirements. The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA), which represents 20,000 court reporters in the United States, sets a minimum words per minute typing speed to become a court reporter certified by the NCRA at 225 words per minute for Testimony and QandA reporting.
Shorthand is another skill many programs teach as a 97% accuracy is generally required to become a court reporter. And of course they’ll teach you how to use a stenography machine and often CART technology as well. Some programs also include an apprenticeship to provide real-life training and help you prepare to become a court reporter.
Step Four: Meet your state’s licensing requirements
Of course the final step to becoming a court reporter is to be licensed in your state. Not all states require licenses and some states, like Ohio, only require a court reporter certificate for certain court reporting jobs. In general, though, employers tend to prefer hiring nationally certified court reporters. By receiving a certification through an organization such as the NCRA, you can demonstrate that you have met the stringent standards set forth by the organization. In addition to the NCRA, national court reporting agencies include the National Verbatim Reporters Association (NVRA) and the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT).
Step Five: Explore jobs
Now that you’re licensed all that’s left to do to become a court reporter is finding a job.