What will I do as a court reporter?
Court reporters use sophisticated technology to document the words spoken by everyone during official proceedings and prepare verbatim transcripts of their statements.
Court reporters are a crucial part of any legal proceeding, and with ever-changing technology, court reporter education is necessary for landing the best jobs and obtaining the knowledge needed to stay relevant in this dynamic career.
5 steps to becoming a court reporter
Pick the area of court reporting you’re interested in practicing.
Most people don’t realize there are a couple of areas you can specifically study and practice as a court reporter. You can study the stenography method, which utilizes a computer and a stenotype machine, or the voice recording method, which involves training in speaking into voice recognition and translation software on a computer.
Get ready for your education program.
You may need to purchase you own supplies and stenotype machine for your courses, and a new or used computerized writer, as schools sometimes don’t supply this equipment. You may also need to take an entrance exam for your program, and this will cover your typing speed and skills and your command of the English language.
Complete your court reporter education.
You can find approved court reporter programs at community colleges, universities and in schools specifically for court reporting. Your curriculum should be approved by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) and should prepare you to later get your certification or license. Curriculum in an approved program should be standardized no matter if you attend in-person classes, take evening classes or complete your program online.
You’ll also take classes in English grammar and punctuation, medical and legal terms, legal studies, transcript procedure and computer technology.
Pass the certification exam and get licensed, if needed.
Not all states require certification or licensure, but earning professional certification may help you advance in your career, and the basic Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) certification offered by the NCRA is currently accepted in place of a state certification or licensing exam in 22 states.
Find a court reporter job.
Once you’ve completed the requirements, you can use job boards and your networks to search for a court reporter job. You should consider joining the NCRA or use the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) job board, and because these groups sometimes host seminars and forums, you can connect with agencies that may need court reporters in your area.
- Court reporters capture speeches, conversations, legal proceedings, meetings, and other events when written accounts of spoken words are necessary for correspondence, records, or legal proof.
- In addition to reporting court proceedings, reporters transcribe depositions and other parts of pretrial proceedings.
- Court reporters also provide closed-captioning and real-time translation services to those in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.
- Court reporters use computer-aided transcription (computers tied to a stenotype machine) to turn their notes into readable print. The accurate work of court reporters is vital to an effective judicial system.
Where court reporters work
According to the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA), only about 27% of the court reporters in the U.S. actually work in court. The rest are freelance reporters hired by attorneys to report depositions of potential trial witnesses, so might work in law offices or in offices rented by lawyers in a neutral, third-party setting.
Court reporter education is serious business. Court reporters must complete a 2-to-4-year associate’s or bachelor’s degree program. Most court reporting programs cover legal terminology, criminal, and appellate procedure, in addition to computer-aided transcription and real-time reporting. NCRA-approved programs require students to capture a minimum of 225 words per minute.
Licensing and certification
State requirements vary widely, but court reporter certification is highly recommended because most employers require it. Some states require court reporters to be Notaries Public in addition to being a Certified Court Reporter (CCR).
The National Court Reporters Association offers the title Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) to those who pass a four-part examination and participate in continuing education programs. A reporter may obtain additional certifications that demonstrate higher levels of competency, such as Certified Real-time Reporter (CRR).
Court reporter salaries
Many salaried court reporters supplement their income by doing additional freelance work. Freelance court reporters are paid per job and receive a per-page fee for transcripts.
Median Salary: $60,380
Projected job growth: 1.4%
10th Percentile: $34,340
25th Percentile: $46,480
75th Percentile: $79,860
90th Percentile: $103,270
Projected job growth: 1.4%
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Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2021 median salary; projected job growth through 2031. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.