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How to Become a Court Reporter: Schools and Training

Individuals who are interested in pursuing a career in the legal field without becoming a lawyer may choose to become a court reporter instead. Court reporting schools train students to take detailed and methodical notes in the court environment, and reporters are often involved with other administrative functions and responsibilities as well. Court reporter schools ensure students learn how to prepare and protect legal records, create transcripts, and organize and search information for judges and attorneys. A court reporter plays an important role in judicial proceedings and must have a keen eye for detail and accuracy. They serve as the official witness to a legal proceeding and are responsible for documenting this information as efficiently as possible.

Job Description of Court Reporter School Graduates

Graduates can be involved with multiple projects during a proceeding or hearing. Not only will they learn how to multitask, but court reporter schools also train students on using stenotype machines and electronic reporting equipment. General job responsibilities include:

  • Using audio equipment to record court proceedings
  • Applying the voice-writing method to record information from a testimony
  • Documenting statements made in official proceedings
  • Ensuring complete and accurate information is provided for legal records
  • Assisting and preparing legal records
  • Organizing and searching information for the official record
  • Using closed-captioning methods and real-time translating services
  • Other court administration duties

Some court reporters may also work outside of the courtroom where they can work with attorneys and legal offices to process documents. They may also be in charge of documenting conventions, meetings, and other government proceedings.

Skills Needed to Become a Court Reporter

The most important skills include:

  • Speed and accuracy

  • Strong listening skills

  • English grammar and spelling skills

  • Strong grasp of punctuation

  • Listening and speaking simultaneously

  • Knowledge of current events

  • Basic court proceedings knowledge

  • Understanding of various computer hardware and software applications

Career Options After Court Reporter Training

In addition to standard legal procedures, a court reporting school may train students for specialization as a stenocaptioner. In these cases, the reporter works in a broadcast studio to capture news, events, and other programming. Common fields and opportunities after training include:

  • Stenocaptioner
  • Television reporter
  • Court transcriptionist
  • Court secretary
  • Court information clerk
  • Paralegal
  • Legal assistant
  • Notary public

Continuing education and experience allow court reporters to move ahead into administrative, consulting, teaching, or management positions.

Court Reporting Courses and Training Programs

Schoola offer students a chance to gain hands-on experience with today's court reporting programs and technology, in addition to practice in a variety of settings. A court reporting class can give students a chance to work in a simulation environment so that they can monitor their time, accuracy, and speed. A court reporter serves as an appointed witness to the event they are documenting and strong typing and writing skills are essential for this process. A court reporting course provides the skills needed to provide unbiased, compelling, and neutral documentation of all proceedings.

Students must complete a course program and practice with specialized equipment. Part of a court reporter class involves learning how to use a steno machine and this can bought or rented for practice. Many court reporters choose to use a notebook computer equipped with CAT software as a contemporary alternative, and this is also a part of the training.

The amount of training required depends on the type of reporting chosen. A court reporter school can train students to become:

  • Voice writers
  • Transcribers
  • Electronic reporters

Training to become a stenotypist is also an option through a vocational college or technical school, and takes approximately 33 months to complete.

Court Reporter Certification

Although not every state requires it, certification can provide a prospective court reporter with the leverage they need to apply for a variety of positions including legal firms, court administration, and other judicial offices. The National Court Reporters Association offers certification, and a reporter must pass a series of tests to achieve the certificate. Programs approved by the NCRA require a speed of at least 225 words per minute.

Certification is not necessary in all states, but there are many that do require Certified Court Reporter (CCR) designation. Some court reporters choose to pursue distinction in the field by obtaining Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) stats. This requires passing a four-part examination and continuing education programs.

Schools can prepare students for certification as a:

  • Registered Merit Reporter (RMR)
  • Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR)
  • Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR)
  • Certified CART Provider (CCP)
  • Certified Broadcast Captioner (CBC)

Students may also pursue national certification during their course of study. Voice writers in some States are required to a pass a specific test so that they can earn State licensure. The National Verbatim Reporters Association offers three types of certification for voice writers. Certification available for voice writers includes:

  • Certified Verbatim Reporter (CVR)
  • Real-Time Verbatim Reporter (RVR)
  • Certificate of Merit (CM) 

The CVR must be achieved before the RVR or CM certification can be completed. A court reporter class can prepare students in the skills and knowledge they need to pass the exam. Common areas of study include:

  • Legal and medical terminology
  • Punctuation
  • Spelling
  • Dictation testing
  • Transcription technique
  • Speed typing and accuracy
  • Real-time transcription

Schools also offer students a chance to become an electronic court reporter. Certification is voluntary for this type of role and involves a written and practical examination. In order to take the exam, a court reporter must have at least 2 years of experience and be eligible for notary public commissions in their state. The American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT) is responsible for certification in this area.

Online School

Online court reporting school is another option for students to complete their education from a distance. Court reporting schools on location provide students with the equipment and direct instruction from professors. However, a variety of options are available in an online format instead. An online school usually offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Court Reporting.

School Approval and Accreditation

Court reporting school approval is made possible by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA). Accreditation is available through the Association of Colleges and Schools in each region or state.

Earning Potential and Employment Prospects

Graduates can expect a favorable job market and competitive industry through 2014. Job options are expected to grow faster than average with a high demand for certified and experienced court reporters. Voice writers are especially valuable to many court systems and legal firms with the increase in technology and computer applications. Many courts prefer to use traditional stenotypists instead of computer services that simply record a proceeding.

With Federal legislation requirements for captioning television programs, the demand for reporters who can provide real-time captioning is also expected to rise. This requires basic training available from court reporter school, and can be an alternative career path for many transcriptionists. While courts will still use electronic reporters and transcribers for some proceedings and trials, the need for real court reporters will continue to rise. Median annual earnings were $42,920 in 2004. Compensation varies depending on skill level, experience, and certification of the reporter. In addition, many stenocaptioners choose to work as independent contractors in an at-home setting.


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