Education and Training Requirements
To be a court reporter, you need to have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Take as many high-level classes in English as you can and get a firm handle on grammar and spelling. Take typing classes and computer classes to give you a foundation in using computers and a head start in keyboarding skills. Classes in government and business will be helpful as well. Training in Latin can also be a great benefit because it will help you understand the many medical and legal terms that arise during court proceedings. Knowledge of foreign languages can also be helpful because as a court reporter, you will often transcribe the testimony of non-English speakers with the aid of court-appointed translators.
Court reporters are required to complete a specialized training program in shorthand reporting. These programs usually last between two and four years and include instruction on how to enter at least 225 words a minute on a stenotype machine, which is a requirement for federal government employment. Other topics include computer operations, transcription methods, English grammar, and the principles of law. For court cases involving medical issues, students must also take courses on human anatomy and physiology. Basic medical and legal terms are also explained.
About 100 postsecondary schools and colleges have two- and four-year programs in court reporting; more than 25 of these programs are approved by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA). Many business colleges offer these programs. As a court reporting student in these programs, you must master machine shorthand, or stenotyping, and real-time reporting. The NCRA states that to graduate from one of these programs, you must be able to type at least 225 words per minute and pass tests that gauge your written knowledge and speed. Visit the NCRA's Web site, http://www.crtakenote.com, to take an eight-question survey that will help match your skills and background with an appropriate court reporting school.
Many community colleges and technical institutes provide certificate programs in court reporting. Contact schools in your area to learn about available programs. In addition, the National Court Reporters Association offers the trial presentation professional certificate to applicants who meet experience requirements and pass an examination.
Other Education or Training
Continuing education classes, webinars, and workshops are provided by the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers, NCRA, National Verbatim Reporters Association, U.S. Court Reporters Association, and court reporting associations at the state and local levels. Contact these organizations for more information.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
The National Court Reporters Association offers several certification credentials for its members. To receive the registered professional reporter certification, you must pass a written knowledge test and an online skills test. The NRCA says that 81 percent of certificants say that their RPR designation is "valuable to them as individual reporters," and 94 percent say RPR certification is "an important part of the court reporting profession." The registered merit reporter certification means you have passed an exam with speeds up to 260 words per minute. The registered diplomate reporter certification is obtained by passing a multiple-choice written knowledge test that focuses on the following areas: technology; industry practices; business practices; and the NCRA, professionalism, and ethics. This certification shows that the court reporter has gained valuable professional knowledge and experience through years of reporting. The certified real-time reporter certification is given to reporters who have obtained the specialized skill of converting the spoken word into written word within seconds. Several other specialized certifications are available, including the registered apprentice reporter, certified realtime captioner, and certified legal video specialist designations.
The American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers offers the following voluntary certifications: certified electronic court reporter and certified electronic transcriber. The National Verbatim Reporters Association offers a variety of voluntary certifications such as certified verbatim reporter, real-time verbatim reporter, registered broadcast captioner, and registered CART provider. The U.S. Court Reporters Association offers the federal certified real-time reporter credential. Contact these organizations for information on requirements for each certification.
Some states require reporters to be notary publics or to be certified through a state certification exam. Many states grant licenses in either shorthand reporting or court reporting, although not all of these states require a license to work as a court reporter. Licenses are granted after the court reporter passes state examinations and fulfills any prerequisites (usually an approved shorthand reporting program).
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Experience as an intern at a law firm, in the court reporting department of a courthouse, or at a court reporting firm is highly recommended.
Because part of a court reporter's work is done within the confines of a courtroom, being able to work under pressure is a must. Court reporters need to be able to meet deadlines with accuracy. To succeed as a court reporter, you must have strong concentration skills, excellent listening skills, good writing and editing skills, and be very detail oriented.
Court reporters must be familiar with a wide range of medical and legal terms and must be assertive enough to ask for clarification if a term or phrase goes by without the reporter understanding it. Court reporters must be as unbiased as possible and accurately record what is said, not what they believe to be true. Patience and perfectionism are vital characteristics, as is the ability to work closely with judges and other court officials.