Court Reporting & Stenography
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A stenographer has a variety of career options as the skills obtained during education and training is useful in a wide variety of applications. The most commonly know job function is the person who records the words that are spoken during a legal proceeding or other important business meeting. At times they also might record certain emotions, indications, or expressions necessary to convey the nuances of whatever action is taking place. The recording of all those words and actions is done through the use of a stenography machine or through a method of voice recording. Although the setting of the job may change, the one common element is the ability to quickly and accurately transcribe words to text.
Stenographers can also perform transcription of webcasts that take place over the internet. In addition to webcast depositions and other types of events, they also perform services as broadcast captioners for video recordings and television programs. With the passage of legislation by Congress in 1996, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began the task of implementing closed captioning requirements to video programming distributors. Beginning January 1, 2006, most broadcast programming is now required to include closed captioning. This action dramatically increased the need for skilled stenographers.
In addition to working in a courtroom setting, a stenographer also works directly with lawyers in recording information from witnesses through examinations under oath, sworn statements, or depositions. This type of information is gathered from witnesses before a court trial is had. The majority who work in this capacity and are most commonly referred to as “freelance court reporters,” as opposed to “official reporters” who work primarily for one judge in one courtroom. Working as a freelance court reporter does provide work schedule flexibility, as well as opportunities for professional enhancement.
Though a freelancer’s work schedule is somewhat flexible, sincere dedication is required for the job. It can be challenging, as well as rewarding. Requests for expedited turnaround on a transcript are common, with turnaround sometimes as quickly as 24 hours or sooner. A stenographer must be intuitively connected and have the ability to pick up the subtle nuances in discussions between individuals to produce a transcript that contains proper context. Use of an incorrect word or even improper punctuation could be enough to cause serious problems in a case.
Becoming a stenographer requires certain classes and/or certifications, depending on the state in which you live. One who is flexible and creative can do well in this challenging career. Having the right skills can lead you to the halls of Congress or simply to the halls of your local municipality or courthouse. You can also work at home by transcribing dictation over the Internet through webcasting or other highly technical methods. Sometimes the job of a freelancer requires working many hours on a transcript, but then have the ability to refuse work the next day if necessary. On jobs which require a quick turnaround, it is not uncommon to work as much as 16 to 20 hours straight to complete a transcript on time. Those long hours, though, can pay off well for the dedicated, many of whom earn over $80,000 a year. Visit our Article Library for more information about a stenographer’s career, salary, working environment and much more.
A career as a court reporter can be achieved through training pursuant to your particular academic degree and employment goals. The skills necessary to perform efficiently include a comprehensive education encompassing the variety of reporting job functions as well as a full certification proving competency and typing proficiency. In addition to successfully learning how to operate a stenography machine, students are also encouraged to take coursework in legal procedures and terminology, medical terminology, and interpersonal communication. This will provide students with a diverse skill set offering the greatest number of employment opportunities.
Degree programs can range from one to four years, though the most common is an associate’s degree program having 24-month duration. Though many colleges and universities offer degree programs in legal transcription, with the advancements in technology, many private business schools, community colleges, and online academic institutions also offer the same types of classes and training.
The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) offers several levels of certification for stenographers using machine shorthand. Initial certification requires successfully passing the writing speeds of 180, 200, and 225 words per minute, along with a written knowledge test. The National Verbatim Reporters Association (NVRA) certifies voice writers. Though learning the technique of voice writing takes less time than learning the skills of machine shorthand, certification as a voice writer requires successfully transcribing tests at 200, 225, and 250 words per minute.
Skills in English grammar, legal research and procedures, and legal terminology are very important and are emphasized throughout the necessary training. Opportunities in the legal and business world can move beyond the courtroom. Many legal transcriptionists find employment in various capacities, such as private companies requiring official conference meeting records, broadcast companies requiring captioning services, and government agencies requiring accurate and detailed accountings of transactions and negotiations.
According to the United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job prospects for court reporters and stenographers are expected to continue to remain high, even more so for reporters who obtain certification.
The average income for U.S. court stenographers was $53,710 in May 2012. Many states now have a great need for certified transcriptionists in order to keep up with the demand resulting from the increasing numbers of legal proceedings, as well as other types of agencies and organizations that require accurate record keeping of the activities that transpire during the course of business.
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