If you want to learn how to become a court reporter, it starts with understanding this type of career. As a court reporter, you will take the verbatim transcript for court hearings. You will be in the courtroom taking a record of everything said during any court proceeding.
Your transcription of what’s said is used to benefit attorneys, jurors, and anybody else needing to know what was said. As a court reporter, you will provide a timeline of events. You will also offer clarity if someone isn’t sure what was said.
Machine transcription services are available today, but most courts believe court reporters are more accurate. Learning how to become a court reporter will require the steps found below, but let’s start with a short description of this type of career path.
Job Description for a Court Reporter
A court reporter will transcribe all speech from a court hearing, preceding, or deposition. Sometimes, you will be in the courtroom, and other times you transcribe from a recording.
You will use shorthand, voice writing equipment, or machine shorthand to create official transcripts as a court reporter. It’s common for court reporters to work with government agencies and private law firms.
Steps to Become a Court Reporter
Pick a Specific Career Path
When you go into court reporting, you have multiple career paths to choose from. You can choose from any of the following options:
- Closed/broadcast captioning – This type of position will include typing a broadcast network’s live speech feed.
- Court reporting/voice writing – You will use a steno mask device to create a transcript with voice recognition and translation software.
- Court reporting/stenography – You will use a computer and a stenotype machine for multiple things, including CART, judicial reporting, and broadcast captioning.
- Judicial reporting – The most common career path, judicial reporting, includes transcribing hearings, depositions, and court proceedings.
- CART (Communication Access Realtime Reporting) – Providing captioning services for the hard-of-hearing and deaf community.
All of these paths are open for you to choose which career you prefer. If you want to be in the courtroom and involved with actual court cases, judicial reporting should be a part of your career path.
Choose the Right Court Reporting Educational Program
You can find plenty of educational programs for becoming a court reporter. They are offered at technical schools and community colleges. Even some dedicated court reporting schools and online programs are offered.
It’s very common for colleges and trade schools offering a court reporter program to offer some online courses. Many of these programs are rather flexible. They often fit well with those working full-time jobs and seeking to go back to school.
Many of the best court reporting programs will offer online academic classes, along with hands-on speed classes. The speed classes can be very helpful. However, they are usually taken in a classroom with an instructor.
In some cases, you will get an associate degree, while other programs offer a certificate or professional diploma. Before you can enter into a court reporting program, you will need to pass the exam. This exam includes English language skills and a typing test.
It will also be necessary to get the right equipment. For example, as a court reporter, you will need a stenotype machine to practice, along with a computerized model writer. It may also be necessary to purchase specific software for the computerized writer.
Make sure you choose an accredited program. The National Court Reporters Association should be the accrediting body. With this type of court reporting program, you will meet the Registered Professional Reporter designation requirement. This designation is recognized in 22 states across the country.
Finish your Court Reporter Educational Program
Your educational program will include courses in machine shorthand, court reporting techniques, and court transcription. You will need around 95% accuracy on all your dictation tests to complete your program and graduate.
The type of courses you will take and need to pass include:
- Legal and medical terminology
- Legal studies
- English grammar, punctuation, and spelling
- Transcription preparation
- Transcript and court reporting procedures
- Communications and word processing
While you may take some courses online and some in a classroom, the education you receive won’t vary much from one program to another. Court reporting programs with accreditation have to provide a specific curriculum. Certain courses are necessary to gain professional certification.
Students will need to achieve specific minimum skills, which include machine shorthand as a specific speed, such as:
- Testimony/Q&A at 225 wpm
- Literary at 180 wpm
- Jury charge at 200 wpm
Most of your court reporting programs will deal with shorthand. Therefore, minimum accuracy is necessary, varying from 95% to 97%, depending on the program. It’s also necessary to receive a specific minimum grade in speed-building classes.
Complete an Apprenticeship or Internship (Optional)
The only optional step in the process of how to become a court reporter, you may want to complete an apprenticeship or internship. Many educational programs will require it to graduate, but some don’t.
Completing an apprenticeship or an internship can help you gain real-life experience. You’ll be able to apply the skills you’ve gained in a professional setting. It also allows you to work under an experienced court reporter and hone your skills.
It’s important to choose an internship or apprenticeship in a setting fitting with your career path. Since you will be gaining some experience, it’s best to find a location and environment best suited to your future career.
Get your State License
In some states, you will need to obtain a state license to work as a court reporter. Make sure you fully understand the state’s requirements. In most cases, you will need to pass a skills test and a written exam.
Many states requiring a license will accept the Certified Verbatim Reporter exam. This exam is found through the National Verbatim Reporters Association. They may also accept the RPR (Registered Professional Reporter) designation with a minimum score of 70% to pass.
The written exam will include 115 multiple-choice questions. The majority of the exam will cover reporting practices, with a portion covering technology and professional practices. With the right educational program and exam prep program, you can ensure you will pass your licensing exams.
The NCRA (National Court Reporter Association) exam will also cover transcription skills. You will need to transcribe the notes provided in less than 75 minutes with 95% or higher accuracy.
You now know how to become a court reporter. But, first, it will take these steps to get started in this type of career. Then, of course, there could be additional steps if you want to climb to the top of this career.
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Court Reporter
How much can I make as a court reporter?
The average salary of a court reporter is just about $40K per year. Top companies pay a salary closer to $60K. You can also make more money if you gain more training and education. In some cases, you can make as much as $84K per year.
How much does it cost to become a court reporter?
The costs to become a court reporter include the following:
- Education Program – $780 to $23K per year
- Books – $500+ per year
- Stenotype Machine – $100 to $250
- Computerized Writer – $400 used or up to $2,000 new
- Exams/License Fees – $150+ depending on your state
- Membership to the NCRA – $110 to $260 per year
The education cost is the biggest variable. For example, if you choose an associate degree program, you might spend $780 to $12,000 per year, depending on the college you chose. Online courses usually range from about $4,000 to $12,000 total, while a state college or university will be the most expensive at $5,000 to $23,000 per year.
How long will it take to complete a court reporter educational program?
Most programs used for court reporters will take 18 to 24 months to complete. It will depend on the program. The 18-month programs are usually referred to as fast-track programs.
Should I join any professional court reporting organizations?
Yes, you should join the National Court Reporters Association. They provide seminars, forums, conventions, workshops, and even contests to further your education and skills. This organization also offers many resources to help you find a job and advance your career.
Is the career path of court reporting growing?
Yes. Court reporting is a career expected to grow by about 7% over the next decade. It’s faster than many other careers in this field. One of the reasons for the growth is the regulations requiring TV captioning. The internet has also played a role in growth.
What type of skills are necessary to become a court reporter?
Most court reporters are very punctual and confident. They understand business etiquette, and they know how to manage their time. It’s necessary to have incredible grammar and proofreading skills if you want to become a court reporter. You will also need to be a bit assertive and have good shorthand writing abilities. Some of these skills can be learned.
Related Learning Opportunities
How To Become a Court Stenographer
As a court stenographer, you will likely create transcripts for testimonies, committee meetings, legislative sessions, depositions, and more.