How To Become a Court Stenographer

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: July 18, 2021  •  8 min read  •  Criminal Justice
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If you’ve ever thought of becoming a court stenographer, a deeper look at this career is necessary. It’s a great option for those looking to be in the courtroom. With the right guidance about becoming a court stenographer, you can enjoy a rewarding and unique career.

Also known as a court reporter, a court stenographer will use a stenograph machine to record many things. For example, you will likely create transcripts for testimonies, committee meetings, legislative sessions, depositions, and more. Let’s look at the steps it takes to become a court stenographer.

How To Become a Court Stenographer

4 Steps to Becoming a Court Stenographer

Step #1 – Complete High School

You will need to earn a high school diploma or GED to become a court stenographer. While there aren’t many courses, you can take in high school to prepare you, taking business and typing classes can help. You want to start building your typing skills as soon as you can, too.

Step #2 – Complete Your Associate Degree

There are two main paths to becoming a court stenographer, and they both include an associate degree. First, you can get a regular associate degree from a community college. Another option is an extended associate degree program from a technical college.

With the right program, you will be trained in computer-aided transcription and stenography machines. You will also learn legal terminology, courtroom procedures, medical terminology, and the legal system. Your program will also help you reach transcription speeds of more than 200 words per minute.

In some cases, you might be able to become a court stenographer with a court reporting certification program. However, most of the top programs will be associate degree programs.

Step #3 – Gain Your License

While every state is a bit different, you will likely need to get a license to become a court stenographer. Some states will use the Certified Court Reporter credential, while others require you to be a notary public, too. In addition, you might be able to get the NVRA (National Verbatim Reporters Association) certificate. This is usually used in states allowing voice recorder transcription.

The NVRA certifications will include Certificate Verbatim Reporter, Certificate of Merit, and Real-Time Verbatim, Reporter. The certification you will need will require both a skill and a written exam. Make sure you understand your state’s requirements so you can properly prepare yourself.

Step #4 – Find an Entry-Level Job

After you’ve completed your training and gained the necessary certifications, you need a job. It can be helpful to start as an intern to gain some experience. You can also become a freelance court stenographer and even work from home.

Necessary Skills to Become a Court Stenographer

If you want to become a stenographer, you will need specific skills. Some of the most common skills include:

With these skills and the right education, you can enter this rewarding career.

Technology You Will Work with as a Court Stenographer

You will likely work with a few potential types of technology in this career. It will depend on your certifications and the state you work in. Some states allow for voice recorder transcription, while others don’t.

Stenotype Machine

The most common technology you will work with is the stenotype machine. This machine is used to transcribe proceedings. It’s not a computer keyboard but uses multiple keys you can press at one time to record a combination of letters to represent sounds, phrases, and words. This is known as computer-aided transcription.

As you create symbols with the stenotype machine, it will transcribe these symbols into text.

Voice Writing

Another type of technology you may use is known as voice writing. This type of technology includes speaking into a hand-held mask with a microphone. While those in the courtroom cannot hear what you are saying, the voice writer will record everything. It will record what you say, what the judge says, what witnesses say, and what everybody else says.

This type of technology also includes emotional reactions and transcribing gestures. You will end up creating the transcript after the court proceedings have ended.

Electronic Reporting

It’s also common for stenographers to work with electronic reporting technology. This type of technology uses audio equipment to record court proceedings. You will monitor the process, take notes, identify speakers, and monitor the audio quality.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Court Stenographer

What is the salary for a court stenographer?

The average salary for a court stenographer each year is about $61K. Typically, you will be paid hourly with an average hourly wage of about $29 or higher. Your actual pay will depend on where you live and your experience level.

How long will it take me to become a court stenographer?

Usually, it takes about 33 months after high school to enter this career field. After that, you will need to complete an associate degree program, along with other training. Some technical schools offer extended associate degree programs in court stenography. However, this is a three-year program, so that it could take a bit longer. Depending on the path you choose, it can take between two and four years to become a court stenographer.

What are the requirements to become a court stenographer?

You will need at least a high school-level education and the correct certifications to become a court stenographer. Most stenographers have an associate degree. If you live in a state requiring a license, you must also pass the exam and become licensed.

What is the job outlook for court stenographers?

The prediction for court stenographers is faster growth compared to the average of all occupations. It’s expected that about 9% growth will be seen in this career over the next ten years.

What is the work environment like for a court stenographer?

Most court stenographers will work in a courtroom. However, some work from home and others work in an office environment. You may need to travel to locations for meetings, public events, and depositions.

Which associations should I consider joining as a court stenographer?

The top associations to consider joining are:

How many words per minute do I need to type?

If you want to become a court stenographer, you must type at least 180 words per minute. The best stenographers will all type 250 to 300 words per minute.

What type of classes will I take to become a court stenographer?

It’s common to take courses in voice theory, punctuation/grammar, computer usage, proofreading, law, and Microsoft Word. Many other classes may be taken, including classes to train you on the different equipment you will be using. You will likely study machine shorthand, keyboarding, legal dictation, and transcription, too. These courses are rather common and necessary for this career path.

Which states pay court stenographers the highest salary?

If you want to earn the largest salary as a court stenographer, five states pay $73K or higher, on average. New York is the highest-paying state, followed by California and Washington. Massachusetts and Texas are next on the list.

What do I need to do to pass the state license exam?

The requirements to pass the state license exam depend on the state. Most states will require you to transcribe at least 200 words per minute with at least 95% accuracy. Some states require at least 97.5% accuracy.

Typically, you will also need to pass a written test. The entire test can take several hours to complete, depending on your state.

Who hires court stenographers?

While it might seem like you will only work in a courtroom, court stenographers work in many places. For example, local, state, and federal governments hire court stenographers for courtroom work and other types of work. In addition, firms will hire court stenographers to work in the private sector.

Often, stenographers are used by law firms and even by larger corporations. Stenographers may be required or preferred for company meetings, depositions, and other proceedings.

Will I need to complete continuing education courses?

If your state requires you to have a license to be a court stenographer, you will likely need to complete continuing education courses. You may also be required to, even if you’re not licensed. If your employer requires continuing education, you will need to complete the requirements.

Does this career include any advancement opportunities?

While you likely won’t advance to a management position, you can advance your career as a court stenographer. With new certifications and experience, you can advance to a higher-paying position as a stenographer.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.