Choosing A Court Reporting School




A distinguishing characteristic of a good court reporting school is whether it introduces its students to the full range of aspects involved in a court reporting career.  Though learning the skill of stenography is certainly the most vital part of reporting, there are many lesser known yet still very important details involved in the job.  When choosing a court reporter school, be sure the program includes the variety of courses you will need to take to be fully prepared to begin working as a stenographer.

Court Reporter Methods Offered

Court reporting schools offer training in the method of machine shorthand and voice writing.  Though most schools focus on one method, there are some schools offering training in both.  Some schools also offer training in alternative methods of capturing the record, as well as support services, such as transcription and scoping programs.

Machine shorthand is a type of stenography that uses a stenotype machine to create the notes to be used for transcription.  Consisting of a small keyboard made up of 22 blank keys, the stenotype machine was designed to require the least amount of finger movement possible.  Stenographers stroke multiple keys simultaneously to produce stenotype, which is then translated into phrases and words.  Advancements in technology now allow the stenotype machine to be interfaced with a computer.  Court reporting software on the computer instantly converts the stenotype strokes into English that can be immediately viewed on a monitor.  

Voice writing is a type of stenography that utilizes the voice of the court reporter to create the record.  Using a special noise-reducing mask called a “stenomask,” the stenographer verbally repeats everything that happens in a proceeding, including the differentiation of speakers and the emotional reactions displayed, as well as every word spoken by the participants.  Development of voice recognition software now makes instant translation available, allowing the voice writer to provide realtime transcription services.

Budget cuts and lack of skilled court reporters in some areas of the country have led to the use of alternative methods of capturing the record.  Electronic, or digital, reporting is done by a court reporter using audio recording equipment to preserve the proceedings.  The court reporter makes necessary notations and is responsible for monitoring the recording equipment throughout the proceeding to ensure a proper record is being made.  After recording the proceeding, the stenographer will use the audio recordings and notations to produce the transcript.

Though all of these techniques may not be taught at every school, a good court reporting school will introduce its students to the various methods currently being used to create proceeding records.  Visit our Where to Work in Court Reporting article to find a location in your area that will fit you.

Job Placement Options

Many of the best court reporting schools, including some of the great online programs, offer job placement help after graduation.  Types of jobs a newly-trained court reporter may consider can range from being a judicial court reporter, to a broadcast captionist, to a Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) provider.  All of these jobs require the skills of stenography, and court reporting colleges are contacted regularly by recruiters looking for job candidates.

The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) is another good source to check for employment opportunities after completing training.  Having long been recognized as an authority on court reporting standards, potential employers list available positions through the journal and website of the NCRA.  The NCRA also certifies programs offering court reporter training in machine shorthand.  Though the NCRA is not an accrediting agency, “all NCRA-certified programs are accredited by agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.”  This can be a significant distinction for a student applying for federal financial aid.  Because court reporter training requires that a student have access to a stenotype machine, it is important to know that some form of federal financial aid may be available to help offset some of the initial expenses associated with court reporter training.  A complete list of NCRA-certified programs is available on the NCRA website.

The National Verbatim Reporters Association (NVRA) also provides a list of employment opportunities for court reporters on its website.  With its primary focus on voice writers, the NVRA maintains a list of education affiliates offering court reporter training.

The Right School for You

Whether you choose machine shorthand or voice writing, a career in court reporting can be a rewarding experience, both financially and professionally.  Choosing the right school is your most important decision.  Many great programs are available, but not every program would necessarily be great for you.  When making your decision, consider your lifestyle, family obligations, and personality to help choose the program that fits you best.

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