A court reporter, sometimes referred to as a stenographer or stenotype reporter, is an individual whose job it is to accurately and completely transcribe verbatim, and as a legal record, spoken or recorded speeches, court hearings, sworn proceedings, depositions, conversations, meetings, and other events into written form. Their function plays a critical role in judicial proceedings and meetings where spoken words must be saved in the form of a written transcript. It is common for many Reporters to also provide assistance to judges and trial attorneys in different ways.
Court Reporter Schools
Required training for a Court Reporter depends on the type of reporting an individual chooses to practice. Training can vary from less than one year for voice writing, plus a minimum of two years to become completely proficient in real-time voice writing, and to up to three years for real-time stenotyping. Students can obtain training from approximately 160 post secondary vocational and technical schools and colleges within the United States. The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) mandates that students record at least 225 words/minute (also required by the Federal Government). The NCRA has approved approximately 82 training programs.
Electronic Reporters generally hone their skills on-the-job through the use of audio-capture technology. Court Electronic Transcribers typically receive their initial technical training from the service installation vendor, and then further their skills and experience through on-the-job training. In private organizations, the individual receives training from a seasoned practitioner or established firm.
Through progressive experience and continuing education, a Reporter will have many opportunities before them, such as moving into a management, administrative, or consulting position, or becoming a teacher in their field.
Court Reporter Licensing
Licensing requirements vary from state-to-state. For example, some require Reporters to become notary publics, while others require an individual to achieve designation as a Certified Court Reporter (CCR) where they must pass a state test administered by the board of examiners.
For Voice Writers, the National Verbatim Reporters Association (NVRA) offers three national certifications as a substitute for state licensing:
- Certified Verbatim Reporter (CVR) - Candidates must pass written tests in: vocabulary, spelling, punctuation, and legal and medical terminology, as well as three five-minute dictation and transcription exams, each of which test for accuracy, speed, and silence.
- Certificate of Merit (CM) - This certification requires and tests for greater levels of speed, accuracy, and knowledge.
- Real-Time Verbatim Reporter (RVR) - Candidates for this certification are tested and measured on their skill level in: judicial reporting, real-time transcription, and CART provision and captioning (including webcasting).
In order to maintain any of these certifications, a Voice Writer is required to obtain continuing education credits through legal and Voice Writer education and college courses. Achieving these certifications provides licensing in states where court reporting via the voice method is used.
Court Reporter Certifications
While not a requirement, achieving certification designation gives Court Reporters an edge when seeking employment over those without certification and also aids in career advancement.
The NCRA bestows the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR), an entry-level designation, upon individuals who pass a four-part exam and complete required continuing education programs. This designation, while voluntary, is recognized in its industry as a mark of distinction. Court Reporters may achieve other certifications that endorse and distinguish their high level of experience and expertise:
- Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR)
- Registered Merit Reporter (RMR)
- Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR)
- Certified Broadcast Captioner (CBC)
- Certified CART Provider (CCP); obtained by Reporters who caption media programming or provide services to the hearing impaired.
Another voluntary certification offered by the United States Court Reporters Association (USCRA) is the Federal Certified Realtime Reporter (FCRR). This certification is geared toward Federal Court Reporters (i.e., those who work in Federal courtrooms). The required exam tests the fundamental real-time skills of the Reporter and is recognized by the Administrative Office for the United States District Courts (for the purpose of real-time certification).
The American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT) offers voluntary certification for Electronic Court Reporters through written and practical exams. Eligibility for the exams requires candidates to possess a minimum of two years' of transcribing or court reporting experience, eligibility for notary public commissions in their state(s), and completion of a high school education. There are three certifications offered by the AAERT:
- Certified Electronic Court Reporter (CER)
- Certified Electronic Court Transcriber (CET)
- Certified Electronic Court Reporter and Transcriber (CERT)
Once eligible, an employer may require an Electronic Court Reporter or Transcriber to obtain certification.