What is a Court Reporter?

Court reporters are trained stenographers who make verbatim records of court and other legal proceedings and create transcriptions from them.  Court reporter jobs may also involve transcribing speeches, meetings, and other events.

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Although it may appear that stenographers and court reporters are one in the same, court reporters are actually formally trained, licensed and certified. Court reporter jobs, unlike stenographers, can be found outside of a courtroom, and many court reporters are also trained notary publics. In addition, court reporters often research and organize information for judges and attorneys.

Court Reporter Job Description

Court reporters provide an important service at events and other proceedings where an exact record of everything spoken is required. The transcripts provided by court reporters must be complete and accurate and, upon completion, are considered secure, legal records. Further, court reporters serve both judges and trial attorneys by organizing the official record and finding specific information in it when requested. Within a court setting, court reporters must also record gestures and emotional reactions.

Beyond the courtroom, court reporter jobs may involve transcribing the spoken word to the written word in real time for television closed-captioning services or for the deaf or hard of hearing at meetings and events. It is not uncommon for court reporter jobs to include working remotely using an Internet or phone connection.

Court reporters also use a number of recording devices, such as digital records, covered microphones, and stenotype machines. Once they have made verbatim records, court reporters must edit them for typographical errors. They must also ensure that the names of the speakers and any specific terminology are properly spelled.  Upon completion, court reporters prepare the transcripts for the record and provide a copy of the transcripts to all interested parties.

The job description of a court reporter may include working for the courts, for attorneys, for governmental agencies (legislative sessions, speeches and other governmental proceedings), for private companies, for court reporting companies, or for media outlets.

How to Become a Court Reporter: Education and Licensure for Court Reporters

Court reporters must complete formal training through an accredited court reporting program. According to the National Court Reporter’s Association (NCRA), there are more than 130 programs for court reporters through community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, proprietary schools, and distance learning programs. Students who complete programs certified through the NCRA must capture at least 225 words per minute for graduation (also required for federal government positions). Education type and length often varies on the type of transcription methods taught.

Court reporters who work in legal settings must generally be licensed in the state in which they work. Licensing requirements vary depending on the transcription method used.

National certification through the National Verbatim Reporters Association is generally recognized by states that use the voice-writing court reporting method.

Certification for Court Reporters

The National Court Reporters Association offers a number of professional certifications:

  • Registered Professional Reporter (RPR)
  • Certified Program Evaluator (CPE)
  • Certified Reporting Instructor (CRI)
  • Master Certified Reporting Instructor (MCRI)
  • Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR)
  • Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR)
  • Certified Broadcast Captioner (CBC)
  • Certified CART Provider (CCP)
  • Registered Merit Reporter (RMR)
  • Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS)

There are currently 22 states that have accepted the RPR designation in place of state certification or licensing.

To maintain certification, all professionals must complete at least 3 units of continuing education every three years.

Salary Statistics for Court Reporters

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, court reporters earned a median annual salary of $47,700 in May 2010, with the top 10 percent earning more than $91,280. The number of court reporter jobs is expected to increase by 14 percent between 2010 and 2020.

According to the National Court Reporters Association, the average salary for court reporters is $64,672. Court reporters working as broadcast captioners earn an average salary of $45,000 to $75,000, and CART reporters earn an average salary of between $35,000 and $65,000.

Resources for Court Reporters

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