The record of words shared between attorneys, witnesses, jurors and judges in legal proceedings make up the transcript that forms the foundation of decisions potentially affecting millions of people. The legal record captured by court reporters is an irreplaceable set of documents used in settling disputes, creating laws, establishing reports used in future court decisions and disputes. As a court reporter, you can record and protect official records for the courts, corporations and clients that live by the law.
What Does a Court Reporter Do?
Court reporters today perform a wide range of duties, using specialized equipment that takes down spoken words as text (stenographic reporting) or as voice recordings that must be converted to written text (electronic reporting). Court reporters also use voice recording devices to record their own summaries of proceedings in real time.
Following the events, court reporters use dedicated software programs or word-to-text computer programs to convert the transcripts into official documents. Scopists are professional editors who review court reporter's transcripts.
As a qualified, trained court reporter, you typically do more than work in the nation's courtrooms. Court reporters also work for attorneys, helping take down depositions or review records and transcripts to prepare for cases. You may also find jobs transcribing board meetings at corporate law departments or independent court reporting firms or at government proceedings to take down speeches or presentations by professionals, religious leaders or entertainers.
Finally, you may become a Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) reporter that assists deaf or hard-of-hearing students and people who are learning English as a second language, performing real time captioning of live events.
Steps to Becoming a Court Reporter
The first step in learning how to become a court reporter is to evaluate licensing requirements in the location where you hope to practice. The second step is to enroll in college or technical training programs that will prepare you for working in the field.
Each state in the country has its own court reporter licensing requirements and may establish the level of schooling required. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), it takes between a year and three years to become a court reporter, depending on the kind of reporting you plan on doing. Voice-reporter training can be completed in less than a year, but it will take several years for you to develop speed and proficiency.
Some 100 vocational schools and colleges offer stenographic reporting programs that take an average of 33 months to complete. The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) and recruiters for the Federal government require students to capture a minimum of 225 words per minute for certification and employment.
Here are the steps to follow:
- Enroll in a qualified court reporting training program
- Learn the hardware and software used in one or more court reporting specialties
- Advance your listening, typing, vocabulary, spelling and punctuation skills
- Study the terminology and procedures used in governmental, business, court or medical sectors where you plan on employing your court reporting skills
- Seek professional certifications or licensing upon graduation
- Enroll in continuing education to stay abreast of advancing transcript technology and techniques
The NCRA awards the Registered Professional Reporter designation to those who pass a four-part examination along with continuing training. The American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT) also awards certifications to electronic court reporters that pass its practical and written exams.
How to Become a GREAT Court Reporter
Once you're in the field, you can advance by obtaining certifications for specialized court reporting areas of expertise. These include:
- Registered Merit Reporter (RMR)
- Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR)
- Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR)
- Certified Broadcast Captioner (CBC)
- Certified CART Provider (CCP)
- Federal Certified Realtime Reporter (FCRR), offered by The United States Court Reporters Association
Employers may require you to combine practical experience with additional technical training to obtain these valuable certifications before qualifying for advanced positions.
Court Reporter Career Outlook
The BLS reports that over half of the employed court reporters work for State and local governments. Employment is predicted to grow by 18 percent between 2008 and 2018 for trained court reporters. Roles in captioning outside the legal arena are also expected to grow. Candidates with CART, broadcast captioning or webcasting services are expected to have the greatest number of opportunities.
The 2009 median annual wage for court reporters was $47,810, with top-tier salaries averaging $89,240. Your level of training, certifications, experience and specialty--along with regional location of the job--all influence earnings. Your initial and ongoing training can make all the difference.
Resources for Court Reporters