A career as a court reporter can be rewarding and enjoyable for people with excellent listening and concentration skills. If you have not yet started on your journey to become a court reporter, you may be unsure about the education, certification, and training requirements for your desired career. Here is a step-by-step explanation of the process of becoming a court reporter.
Many community colleges and technical institutes offer programs that will reward you with an associate degree or certificate for court stenography. These programs will provide the education you need to pass your licensing exams and obtain an entry-level court reporter position.
Postsecondary court reporter programs will first cover English grammar and phonetics, legal terminology, and court proceedings. After these basic courses, you will receive hands-on training with professional, state-of-the-art transcription machines. Every postsecondary course will teach you phonetic typing with stenotype machines, and many will also cover more advanced topics such as how to setup and use a stenomask.
Court Reporter Licensing
The next step after graduating from your community college or technical institute is to obtain a Registered Professional Reporter license. These licenses are rewarded by the National Court Reporters Association, and are your most important credentials for landing a career as a court reporter.
To qualify for your Registered Professional Reporter license, you will take an exam that tests your grammar, listening, and typing abilities. The first part of the exam consists of a written portion that covers English spelling, vocabulary, word usage, and legal terminology. After the written test, you will be asked to transcribe three short recordings of courtroom dialogue. Your transcriptions will be judged on typing speed and accuracy.
Finding Your First Court Reporter Job
Once you have passed your license exam, you are ready to start looking for employment. Many aspiring court reporters find entry-level positions through court reporting agencies that offer job placement services, while some will choose to work as freelance reporters, providing transcriptions for broadcast companies and doing other contracted work.
When crafting a resume for your first court reporter job, it may be a good idea to shy away from a chronological format. Instead, consider a functional resume that places emphasis on your skills, education, and certification. This will immediately show potential employers that you are qualified for the job, without requiring them to sift through job history that is not relevant to the position.
On-the-Job Training and Certification
The first few weeks of your court reporting job will consist of on-the-job training to help get you up to speed with the requirements of your new career. This training is meant to further familiarize you with the stenography machines that you will be using on a daily basis. Often, you will also study more technical, legal, and medical terminology to improve your accuracy when transcribing complex cases.
There are several voluntary certifications that you can pursue after you have obtained your first job that will make it easier for you to obtain higher-paying positions and move up in your career. Registered Merit Reporter and Registered Diplomate Reporter are the next levels of certification offered by the National Court Reporters Association. Obtaining these certifications will qualify you for the most prestigious court reporting jobs in the country when combined with a professional resume and relevant experience as a court reporter.
If you are interested in the courtroom process but do not want to be an attorney, a career as a court reporter may be an excellent choice for you. Enroll in a postsecondary court reporting course as soon as possible so that you can take your first step toward becoming a court reporter.