How to Become a Court Reporter (Stenographer):
The Definitive Guide


A Court Reporter, also known as a stenographer, uses a special stenography machine to record everything that is said in a courtroom.

From depositions to testimonies and beyond, a Court Reporter must listen intently to everything that happens within the courtroom, so that their report can be accurate and used to help in law proceedings.

If you have an interest in the world of law, but don’t want to become a lawyer, then maybe a job as a Court Reporter is just what you are looking for.


What is a Court Reporter?

A stenographer or a Court Reporter must sit in a courtroom and translate verbatim every word that is said, on record, within the courtroom.

This means that as a Court Reporter, you must have good listening skills and the ability to understand many accents and dialects.

Court Reporters used a special skill, stenography, to write down everything that is said in a courtroom in shorthand.

Then, the Court Reporter will complete a report written in longhand so that everyone is able to read it.

Duties

A Court Reporter will spend a lot of time in the courtroom, but they also have many other duties including:

  • Ensuring that reports can be easily read
  • Editing text after transcribing
  • Reading back transcripts to lawyers
  • Using machines with shorthand phrases
  • Attending court sessions
  • Listening carefully
  • Transcribing speech into written words

Salary

In the United States, the average salary for a Court Reporter is around $64,000 a year.

For Court Reporters with more experience, or who work in larger populations, the salary can be much more, up to around $90,000 a year.

New York has the highest-paid Court Reporters at $90,500 a year.

Some other states with highly paid Court Reporters are California, Massachusetts, and Washington.

Those that have little experience or are just starting out in the career can expect to make around $40,000 a year to begin.

After many years of working as a Court Reporter, it is possible to earn almost six figures, just keep going and you can work your way up to the top as well!

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

Annually National Average Salary: $64,990

$31K
$44K
$64K
$85K
$106K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$41,110
Arizona$61,650
Arkansas$48,780
California$89,370
Colorado$69,120
Connecticut$56,720
Delaware$60,800
Florida$51,030
Georgia$48,000
Idaho$54,840
Illinois$69,370
Indiana$39,500
Iowa$66,890
Kansas$50,770
Louisiana$48,170
Maine$72,780
Maryland$55,120
Massachusetts$79,800
Michigan$61,920
Minnesota$68,130
Missouri$53,770
Montana$48,830
Nevada- NA -
New Jersey$63,770
New Mexico$62,830
New York$90,500
North Carolina$56,550
North Dakota$54,330
Ohio$51,630
Oregon$50,690
Pennsylvania$53,700
South Carolina- NA -
South Dakota$52,560
Texas$73,070
Virginia$46,380
Washington$80,890
Wisconsin$58,850

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is New York, where the average salary is $90,500.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

New York - $90,500
California - $89,370
Washington - $80,890
Massachusetts - $79,800
Texas - $73,070
*Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey.
Conducted by: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

How to Become a Court Reporter

Step 1Complete an Associates Degree

The first thing that you are going to want to do when you get the desire to become a Court Reporter is to finish high school.

Then, you will need to earn an Associate’s degree in order to learn and understand everything that a Court Reporter does.

Many community colleges and universities offer court stenography programs.

Some of the things that you will learn in your typical stenography program include:

  • Legal Terminology
  • Shorthand
  • Medical Terminology
  • Transcription
  • Editing and Proofreading
  • Captioning
  • Judicial Procedures
  • American Sign Language

In order to get the most out of this program, you will want to be sure that you are knowledgeable about the English language and have great typing skills.

A typical Associates degree takes around two years to complete, however, there are some accelerated programs in stenography that can take as little as 18 months.

Step 2Obtain Licensing

After you earn your degree, you must get a license in order to practice as a Court Reporter.

There is not a uniform law for licensing as a Court Reporter.
Some states require that you become licensed by taking an exam and becoming a Certified Court Reporter, but some other states only require you to be a notary public.

Some states even allow you to have a National Verbatim Reporters Association certification instead of a license.

It’s important to know what your states require before obtaining licensing as a stenographer or Court Reporter.

As far as licensing goes, the fee can be anywhere between $200 and $500.

Most tests consist of a written portion as well as a skills portion.

To pass the exam, you must show that:

  • You can type more than 180 wpm
  • You can type Jury Charges at 200 wpm
  • You can type Testimony at 225 wpm

Step 3Start Working

After you become licensed, it’s time to look for employment.

With an Associates degree in stenography, you can find employment in areas like:

  • Public Notary
  • Litigation Legal Assistant
  • Paralegal
  • Legal Secretary
  • Public Involvement Specialist

Since Court Reporting is a vital role in the legal process, you can find many opportunities to work in courtrooms, law offices, and other areas as well.

In order to become the best Court Reporter you can be, you must have the experience to back up your career.

Not only will you be sitting in the courtroom, transcribing dialogue, you will also learn to edit and proofread what you wrote, as well as listening to lawyers, witnesses, and defendants as well.

Clerical work is also involved in this career, which includes typing, maintaining logbooks, and playing back recordings.

Step 4Become Certified

After you have the experience needed, it’s important to become a Certified Court Reporter.

Although you can still gain employment without this certification, it shows employers that you have the knowledge of the field that you work in.

There are some certifications that you can receive from the NCRA, which stands for the National Court Reporters Association, they are:

  • Registered Professional Reporter
  • Registered Merit Reporter
  • Certified Realtime Reporter
  • Registered Diplomat Reporter

Each one of these certifications requires that you take a Written Knowledge Test, that is provided by the NCRA.


Education

In order to work as a Court Reporter, you need to have an Associate’s degree in stenography or court reporting.

There are also some other prerequisites:

  • Must be able to speak and write English fluently
  • Ability to dedicate yourself to becoming an expert in spelling
  • Ability to have extended concentration on one thing
  • Ability to type at or above 41 wpm

Some of the coursework that you can expect in a stenography program may include:

  • Machine Shorthand
  • Punctuation and Usage
  • Legal Terminology
  • Reporting Communications
  • Medical Terminology
  • Keyboarding and Legal Dictation
  • Transcription

The NCRA has approved Court Reporting programs, which can be found on their website.

Some programs can even be done entirely online.

Most Court Reporting programs require that you have a real stenography machine to train on.

Some other resources you may receive through a Court Reporting program are:

  • Mock trials and depositions
  • Computer-aided transcription
  • Speed building

An Associate’s degree in stenography can take around two years to complete.

It’s also possible to work internships through your Court Reporting program, this way you can earn hands-on experience while still being in school.

Some of the places that may have available internships re local law offices and courthouses.

With an Associates degree in stenography or Court Reporting, you can expect to have some new career opportunities:

  • Official court reporter
  • Freelance court reporter
  • Convention court reporter
  • CART provider
  • Broadcast captioner
  • Webcast captioner

The possibilities are endless, and with certifications, it’s possible for many other doors to open as well.

Some online programs offer accelerated courses so that you can start working as a Court Reporter in as little as 18 months.

However, these may not give you the quality education that you need, so please pay attention to the courses you take and the work that you do in these programs.

Associates degrees help Court Reporters gain higher employment and promotions.

Video About The Career


Certification

Not all states require that a Court Reporter becomes licensed, however, most states do require some type of certification.

The NCRA provides many certifications that can lead you to a wonderful career.

First, there is the Registered Professional Reporter certification.

Anyone with an Associate’s degree in stenography is eligible for this certification, but you must have the knowledge, skills, and the ability to produce verbatim recordings.

The test for this certification is called the Written Knowledge Test and consists of 105 questions that cover topics like:

  • Reporting
  • Transcript production
  • Operating practice
  • Professional issues and continued education

To earn this certification, you must be proficient in three areas:

  • Literary at 180 wpm
  • Jury Change at 200 wpm
  • Testimony/Q&A at 225 wpm

After you record all of the available dictations, you will have 75 minutes to transcribe your notes.

With the Registered Merit Reporter certification, you must have at least three years of experience as a Court Reporter.

The Written Knowledge Test will also be taken for this certification, where you will be required to be proficient in the same areas, except much more:

  • Literary at 200 wpm
  • Jury Change at 240 wpm
  • Testimony/Q&A at 260 wpm

The Certified Realtime Reporter certification can be taken by anyone with good standing in the NCRA.

This exam consists of:

  • Setting up and operating equipment
  • Writing in real-time for 5 minutes with 96% accuracy
  • Converting files

The Certified Diplomat Reporter certification tests you on some of the same areas, but also includes:

  • Transcript Production
  • Management
  • Education
  • Marketing
  • Professional issues

In order to be eligible for this certification, a Court Reporter must have at least 6 years of experience.

Court Reporters interested in this certification will also take the Written Knowledge Test.

Each of these certifications requires recertification after several years, some are 3 years and some are 5.

Certification Example:

court reporter certificate

Average Training Program Duration: 1-2 Years

The time it takes to become a Certified Court Reporter depends on you.

If you want to earn an Associate’s degree, that will take you around two years.

Then you will need to have some work experience, which can take anywhere from 2-5 years, depending on the type of certification you are after.

Most certifications require 2 years of experience as a Court Reporter.

Popular Degree Programs


Job Outlook

There will likely always be a need for Court Reporters, as everything that is said in a courtroom is considered important information.

This being said, employment for Court Reporters looks to rise around 7 percent within the next decade.

That is a lot faster than many other careers in the same field.

Federal regulations require the use of captioning for television, the internet, and various other sources of media.

One thing that could possibly cause a negative effect on the career of Court Reporting is the use of technology and audio recording.

However, audio recording can be used in conjunction with Court Reporting.

Employment Growth Projection: 7%

15,700
2018
16,800
2028

That's a higher than average projected growth of 1,100 jobs.

Court Reporter: Interest Over Time


Should You Become a Court Reporter?

Overall Satisfaction: High

Overall Satisfaction

Most Court Reporters say that they are satisfied with their careers, with around 75% stating that they believe their job makes the world a better place.

Typically, a Court Reporter will work 40 hours a week, and they have a regular 9-5 shift.

Work/personal life balance seems to be in check with this career, this allows for a less stressful job.

People with great organization skills, and who are good at leading can have the best careers as a Court Reporter.

Average Salary: Medium

Average Salary

The average salary for a Court Reporter in the United States is around $64,000 a year.

Those that work in smaller courtrooms or in smaller law firms will likely make less money than those who work at big firms or in larger populations.

This is due to the number of clients available.

Court Reporters who work in small populations can expect to make around $40,000 a year.

In places like New York, where there are large populations, a Court Reporter can make up to $90,000 a year.

Job Growth Outlook: High

Job Growth Outlook

There will be no shortage of Court Reporter jobs in the near future.

Within the next ten years, this career looks to grow around 7 percent.

This is quite a bit more than other careers in the same field.

Technology and the aging population can cause some fluctuation in this career growth outlook, however, it will even out in the end.

For example, auditory technology is on the rise, but the aging population still needs someone to help with clearing up dialogue.

Education Duration: 1-2 Years

Education Duration

It seems that it doesn’t take a long time to become a Court Reporter, only two years.

In order to work as a Court Reporter, you must have an Associate’s degree in stenography or court reporting.

Programs for court reporting can be found at community colleges and universities around the country.

Adding on the time it takes to become certified, it can be around 4 years to work as a Certified Court Reporter.

This includes the time it takes to gain experience as well as earning certifications.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

It’s a given that in order to work as a Court Reporter, you need to be fluent in the language you will be reporting for, but there are also some other skills that are necessary for this field:

  • Punctuality
  • Confidentiality
  • Business Etiquette
  • Amazing grammar, punctuation, and proofreading skills
  • Organization skills
  • Assertiveness
  • Time Management skills
  • Customer Service skills
  • Shorthand writing abilities

Court Reporters are necessary for court proceedings, so a Court Reporter must be on time and ready to work, no matter what else is going on in their lives.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What does a Court Reporter do?

A Court Reporter is a person who sits near the front of the courtroom typing on a special machine.

This machine transcribes all of the testimony and conversation that is happening in the courtroom.

This means that a Court Reporter must be a great listener and have fast typing skills.

You can also find a Court Reporter reading back testimony or providing audio recordings as well.

Q. How long does it take to become a Court Reporter?

It doesn’t take too much time to become a Court Reporter.

A typical Associates degree takes around two years to complete, and many of them can be done online.

It’s possible to start working while going to school through an internship, but typically those that go to school for two years can find a job easily as a Court Reporter.

If you want to become a Certified Court Reporter, you will need to have at least 2-3 years of experience before taking the exams.

Q. What is the average salary of a Court Reporter?

In the United States, a Court Reporter can make around $64,000 a year on average.

However, for Court Reporters working in large populations like New York and California, the pay is much higher at around $90,000 a year.

Just starting out, it’s typical that a Court Reporter in a lower populated area can make around $40,000 a year.

With certifications and experience, you can make quite a bit of money as a Court Reporter.

Q. Is there a demand for Court Reporters?

Since there will always be a need for courthouses, there will always be a need for Court Reporters.

These people have a vital role in the courtroom, Court Reporters make sure that all information is collected so that the innocent can remain innocent and the guilty can be charged.

People who work as Court Reporters can expect to have a growing career in the next decade, and those who are looking to start a career can expect some great accolades.

Q. How much does it cost to become a Court Reporter?

This depends on where you go to get your education.

Some stenography programs at community colleges can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 for the entire program.

However, in other places like universities, this same program can cost more than $10,000.

Online stenography programs may cost less, but you might have to purchase your own equipment.

Financial aid is available in many cases.


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