How Do I Become a Court Reporter?

If you’re interested in the legal field, you may be wondering, “How do I become a Court Reporter?” Court reporters record the spoken word, usually in written format, using stenography, voice writing reporting or digital reporting methods. As the job title suggests, court reporters may be employed by the government in courtroom settings, where they record word-for-word statements in court proceedings. Some court reporters work on an independent contractor basis, where they transcribe legal records for other proceedings, including depositions and arbitrations. Still others use their skills outside the courtroom, where work ranges from transcribing public speaking engagements to providing closed captioning, which television stations use to assist the hearing-impaired.

Proficiency in the method used for transcription is one skill court reporters must develop. Court reporters using digital recording methods must master the technical knowledge to operate the multi-channel digital recording equipment used to create audio recordings of speech. Other methods used in court reporting require speed and accuracy more so than technology skills. The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) mandates that aspiring stenographers to complete typing tests, one of which requires a speed of 225 words per minute. Similarly, the National Verbatim Reporters Association requires that court reporters using voice writing reporting, a method in which the reporter repeats speech verbatim into a covered microphone called a steno mask, achieve dictation speeds of 250 words per minute.

Successful court reporters are highly focused individuals. They should have an ear for detail, because they need to report all spoken words as accurately as possible. They should possess an exceptional command of the language in which they are reporting. Highly skilled court reporters can earn special qualifications, such as Certified Real-time Reporter or Real-time Verbatim Reporter. Real-time reporting skills are highly prized in court reporters.

Court reporters develop these skills through postsecondary education programs that grant certificates or an associate or bachelor’s degree upon completion. Such programs can be completed at certified business schools and two- and four-year colleges. NCRA-certified programs include studies in real-time translation theory, English, legal and medical terminology, judicial reporting procedures and technology, as well as an internship requirement.

Certified online programs also are available. NCRA-certified online programs that offer associates or bachelor degrees in court reporting include schools such as Prince Institute in Montgomery, Ala.; the Colorado Technical University in Sioux Falls, S.D.; the College of Court Reporting, Inc., in Hobart, Ind.; and Alfred State College in Alfred, N.Y. Whether aspiring court reporters choose to acquire their skills and education through traditional or online courses, they should make sure that their program of choice is certified by the NCRA.

Following the completion of an education program, aspiring court reporters should apply for licensing as required by the state in which they intend to work. While licensing requirements vary by state, many states also accept the NCRA’s Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) certification. To obtain this certification, candidates must complete both written and skills tests. The NCRA also requires certification holders to complete continuing education activities regularly. Continuing education options range from one-time live webinars and skills tests to college courses and first aid training.

Now that you have this information, you’re well on your way to being able to answer the question, “How do I become a Court Reporter?”

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