Education Requirements for Court Reporters




Some state require a certificate or some kind of court reporting trainingRegardless of the geographical location in which you want to work as a court reporter, obtaining proper training is a necessary first step.  The extent and focus of your training, as well as the various types of certifications you may need, depend on the type of work you plan to do.

Training Options Available Today

It has never been easier or more convenient to obtain training to become a court reporter.  Programs have been streamlined to focus intently on the fastest and most efficient methods for learning the necessary skills to carry out the important duties of this profession.  Because not everyone has the same type of lifestyle or family and employment obligations, educational facilities have concentrated on developing quality training programs which can accommodate the variety of students interested in this field.

Courses that can be completed at the student’s own pace are very popular and offer real options for people who wish to either accelerate their training or proceed more slowly.  These types of classes can be completed at physical campus locations, online from home, or even a combination of both.  Being located too far from a training facility is no longer an obstacle for students who wish to pursue a career in court reporting.

Certification Requirements

While undergoing training, much preparation will be made in anticipation of passing required examinations.  This is not only to ensure that the student can perform the necessary job duties successfully, but also to enable the student to obtain the speed levels necessary for certification.  Educational programs are structured to aid the student in persisting through the necessary period of time during which writing speeds are continually increased to acquire the skills essential for certification credentials.  

– Types of Certifications

The type of certification you may be required to obtain depends quite a bit upon the location and job position you wish to pursue.  Obviously, completing your training program is important, and, for some states, graduation from a program which has been certified by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) is a requisite.  For other states, obtaining either the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) or the Certified Verbatim Reporter (CVR) certification must be accomplished prior to a reporter being granted a license to practice in that state.  Some states offer their own certification examinations, and may or may not accept the RPR or CVR in lieu of them.  There are still some states, however, which have no certification requirements at all.  

Being aware of your particular state’s requirements for licensure is very important prior to even beginning your training.  These requirements may impact the choice you should make in determining the best educational program for your particular situation.  When narrowing down your training program choices, speak directly to a director and/or guidance counselor to determine the certification requirements for your particular state.  These people will either know or know how to find out that vital information for you.  The NCRA also offers additional information for prospective students who are interested in a career in court reporting, CART or captioning.

– Legislative Impacts

Another aspect of certification that should be considered by potential students prior to enrolling in a particular program is what future implications there may be for the profession.  It is important to research any pending legislation that may be in the works in your state when considering your alternatives for obtaining training.  Generally changes in legislative requirements would not apply to students who had already started a training program, but it is certainly more prudent to be proactive and aware of things that may affect your career.  Your state’s court reporting association and/or licensure board are good places to start your investigation into present and possibly future requirements you could face.

Training to Work in the Legal Field and Beyond

A variety of employment options exist for people who are trained to be court reporters.  While most students enter a program anticipating a career in the legal field, they soon discover that one of the great benefits of having these types of skills is the flexibility in employment that they offer.  In addition to working as a judicial reporter, court reporting training also prepares students to have careers such as CART (communication access realtime translation) providers, broadcast captioners, or legal transcriptionists.  Substituting or adding a minimal number of courses can prepare you for a variety of employment options.

– Beginning Training

For those students who wish to work in the legal field, training to become a judicial reporter will be the central theme of the educational program.  As with the other types of fields which require these special skills, introductory courses will include a choice of shorthand theory in either stenotype machine or voice writing.  These classes acquaint the student with the process of developing the essential skills for hearing the spoken word and instantly translating it into an abbreviated format.  Machine writers learn to operate a stenotype machine consisting of a small blank keyboard with 23 keys, while voice writers learn to quickly whisper with total clarity into a sound-blocking stenomask.

– Taking Program Electives

Program electives may be required to earn a court reporting certificateTo complement the required shorthand theory courses, most all training programs offer classes that help better prepare students for the types of situations they may encounter while working with attorneys, expert witnesses, and judges.  Instruction in subjects such as legal terminology, medical terminology, and courtroom procedures equips students with basic knowledge to enter into a field that sometimes isn’t very forgiving to a person who lacks experience.  These types of courses should never be avoided or considered unnecessary fillers by the court reporting student.  As boring as those classes may seem to be while you are in training, the first time you take the deposition of a cardiologist who is talking about a “CABG” (pronounced “cabbage”), you will be very thankful that you know he is talking about a cardiac artery bypass graft and not the coleslaw he had for lunch.  

– Building Your Speed

Upon mastering a particular shorthand theory, students begin the arduous journey of speed building.  This is without a doubt the most frustrating time endured by a court reporting student.  Instructor, classmates, and family support is more vital than ever during this period.  Some students are just naturally gifted and can obtain the required speeds relatively quickly.  For the majority of students, however, hours of daily practice are necessary to acquire the level of skill to perform well on the mandatory examinations.  The sacrifice of time not spent with family and friends is often too much to endure for some students, and many choose to terminate their training at this point.  

For those students who persist with the practice requirements and obtain the speeds necessary to complete the training program, the seemingly endless hours of practice are found to have been very much worth the effort.  Certification examinations are no longer the intimidating, unreachable goals they once seemed to be.  Lifelong friendships with classmates have been forged because only those people can truly understand what you all as students have just been through.  Employment opportunities are found to be available in many locations, as well as those that are available to be done from home.  For people with court reporting training, the versatility in employment choices is one of the very unique benefits for having these kinds of skills.  The NCRA also offers a continuing education program to help reporters keep up with changes in technology and information in the field of court reporting.

– Mastering Your Editing Software

Part of your training that is almost as equally important as speed building is learning to effectively operate your editing software.  Regardless of the profession or shorthand method you choose, the software you use to produce transcripts, whether paper or digital, will have a significant function in your performance of the job.  

Understandably, a student tends to choose the editing software he or she learns to operate while in training as the software he or she uses on the job.  While still in school, court reporting students begin to build their personal dictionaries or voice files to use with their editing software.  Taking advantage of this training as part of your education allows you to become accustomed to the software and determine if you want to explore other options while you are still in school.  Because the full versions of editing software are quite expensive, it’s a smart idea to use your student status to obtain student versions of editing software to be able to compare the features and the prices before you get out of school.  More detailed information about the companies and prices for editing software can be found in our article “Court Reporting Software.”

Types of Positions

The most recognized form of employment for people with court reporting training is certainly the official judicial reporter.  However, those positions actually make up a very small percentage of the number of jobs done by people with shorthand skills.  The greatest number of jobs are performed by freelance reporters.  With the growing need for people to accomplish the services required by the rules of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), captioners and CART providers are finding no problem with securing employment.

- Judicial Reporters

Judicial reporters primarily work as either official court reporters or freelance court reporters.  Both of these positions are necessary for the proper and efficient functioning of our legal system.  For students interested in this type of work, the value of working with a mentor while you are still in training cannot be stressed enough.  There are many aspects of the job of a judicial reporter which cannot be fully addressed in a classroom setting.  They can only be experienced and learned through on-the-job training.  However, that first solo day is far less stressful if a student has been exposed to some of these unique aspects of the job through interaction with a mentor.  By accompanying a good mentor to his or her jobs, a student can take note of how an experienced court reporter handles these various circumstances that undoubtedly come up in every proceeding.  

Official reporters are those who work in a courthouse, usually for a specific judge.  They are employees who work a regular schedule and generally have county or state benefits.  Because techniques and preferences vary from court to court, some on-the-job training is necessary in addition to that received in school.  Marking and handling exhibits during and after hearings and trials, preparing transcripts requested by attorneys, and maintaining recording equipment in the courtroom are the types of duties that are the responsibility of the official court reporter.

Freelance court reporters are generally independent contractors who accept assignments from court reporting firms or directly from attorneys.  These reporters have a different work schedule every day, and, like any other self-employed person, they are responsible for paying for their own health insurance, business expenses, and income taxes.  Many freelancers work for one or more firms, and, thus, must adapt their work product to the preferences of the hiring firm.  Though this process can be somewhat intimidating in the beginning, most firm owners fully understand the many aspects of the job that students are not exposed to in school and are willing to train promising new graduates.

- Captioners and CART Providers

Closed captioning benefits the hearing impaired and can become your professionCaptioners and CART providers work for either companies or as freelancers.  Their services are imperative for people who are deaf or hard of hearing in helping them have the highest possible quality of life.  In addition to providing services for that group of people, captioners and CART providers also assist people who are learning to read, those learning English as a second language, or even those attempting to obtain important information in a noisy environment.  Though these people are not working in a judicial setting, they must first acquire the same skills as those necessary for a realtime court reporter in order to perform their duties.

Never a Better Time to Get Training

If court reporting is a career that interests you, the time has never been better.  Training is available to fit any possible lifestyle, financial assistance is available to meet any budget, and the types of jobs these skills will allow you to do are in ample supply.  The future is wide open for people with the training and skills necessary to become a court reporter!

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Written by , CCR on 2/11/2013 Suzanne has been a court reporter and worked in legal communities for over 18 years. 

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