Court Reporting is used to describe professional transcribing of official court proceedings; however, court reporters have more diverse employment opportunities than merely working in the legal field. A court reporting degree, diploma, or certificate program can prepare an individual for work as a captioner for television, government transcription, or freelance court reporting. Often additional Certified Shorthand Reporter licensure is beneficial.
So, you’ve thought long and hard about the pros and cons of online education, and decided it may be right for you. Now comes the hard part of picking out a great online program that deserves your hard-earned cash. Here are some ways to avoid getting ripped off, and to choose a school that fits your needs.
What to Look For
- For court reporting schools, the gold standard is National Court Reporting Association (NCRA) certification. The NCRA has an online database of its certified schools; the ones offering online programs are denoted by the symbol (ON). (ed.gov)
- Financial Aid: If you’re interested in applying for federal financial aid via the FAFSA, you need to apply to schools that participate in the Department of Education’s federal financial aid program. Check out the school’s financial aid web page or ask the financial aid officer if you’re unsure.
- Type of Classes: You want to make sure that you’ll be getting great, interactive classes, when you sign up for an online degree program. Ask for a sample of the curriculum. Check out how often students converse with professors. If the college uses a nationally recognized online platform likeBlackboard for its classes, that’s a good sign.
- Program Type: There are many specialized types of court reporting classes. From stenography to voice recording to Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART), exactly what kind of job you’ll land will depend on the type of court reporting training you received. Make sure the school you choose has the program that will get you where you want to be.
There are many different types of court reporters, several of whom don’t even work in a court room. The act of making a written, spoken, or electronic transcript of a meeting can be useful for many different fields.
Stenographers are perhaps the most well-known of court reporters. These individuals use a stenography machine, with its specially equipped keyboard of phrases, letters, and sounds, to quickly record verbatim what is spoken inside a court of law. Computer aided transcription (CAT) is then used to take these keystrokes and transcribe them into a full, written record.
Other reporters, known as electronic reporters, use audio equipment to record the events of the courtroom; these court reporters are responsible for introducing speakers and ensuring that the recording is clear and audible. Voice writers, yet another type of reporter, make a spoken record of the courtroom, by repeating everything said by the witnesses, attorneys, and judge, into a sound proof voice mask.
Outside of the court room, verbatim recorders use their skills to aid the deaf and hard of hearing. Communication Access Real-Time Transcription (CART) is a version of closed captioning, where transcribers make a record of classes, doctors appointments, or other important meetings for the audibly disabled. Closed captioning reporters may also work for television stations, to make transcripts of TV shows or emergency broadcasts. (bls.gov)
Decide on a School
After you’ve thoroughly considered your options for what type of court reporting to pursue, you’ll need to find a good school to begin your training. Court reporter training varies in length and intensity depending on the type of reporter you’d like to become. Stenography training takes nearly 3 years, while 2 years is the minimum for becoming proficient at real-time voice writing. Many vocational and technical schools offer court reporter training, as do online colleges. Choosing a school that is certified by theNational Court Reporters Association is a good way to ensure that you’re getting a good education; this designation is the gold standard for choosing a quality program. (bls.gov)
Court Reporting Career Outlook
Job prospects are expected to be excellent in the next few years; 18% growth of new jobs is expected by 2018. Finding a job should be relatively easy, as job openings will exceed the number of job seekers. Growth is expected to be highest for positions in real-time broadcast captioning.
While many court reporters work on salary, CART providers are paid hourly, and many court reporters also do freelance transcribing to supplement their income. The median court reporter salary is $49,000, while the middle 50% made $35,000-67,000. (bls.gov)
With job competition still high, it pays to distinguish yourself from fellow job hunters. You can only tweak your resume so much, however, and smiling until it hurts won’t make you an interview favorite, if your contenders have more qualifications than you. Here are some ways to get the edge, and score the type of job you want.
There are many ways an experienced court reporter can become certified. Certification basically means that you have passed a test or examination, proving your ability in a particular type of reporting. Certification is a relatively quick and easy way to prove to a potential employer that you have concrete skills and abilities. (bls.gov)
Registered Professional Reporter (RPR): This is the entry level designation from the National Court Reporters Association. To receive this designation, students must graduate from an NCRA certified program, pass an examination, and maintain their skills through continuing education. The RPR certification is a widely recognized way to distinguish yourself in the field.
While RPR is the entry-level designation from the NCRA, the organization offers a number of upper-level certifications for various types of court reporting. A few popular ones are Registered Merit Reporter,Registered Diplomate Reporter, and Certified Realtime Reporter. There are other certifications for broadcast reporters, CART providers, program instructors, and program evaluators. The cost for the examinations varies from $125-200, depending on if you’re an NCRA member or not.
As you can imagine, working as a court reporter in upper-level, federal courts requires even more experience and a demonstration of expertise. The United States Court Reporters Association offers a certification called Federal Certified Realtime Reporter, for court reporters in the federal court system. It costs $150 to sit for the test.
If you’re an electronic court reporter, you have some other special certifications available to you, offered by the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers. The AAERT offers three types of certifications, based on the type of electronic reporting you do. The exams have both written and practical components, require 2 years of professional experience to take, and cost $150.
Beyond certification, there are several things court reporters can do to better their proficiency at reporting.
- Vocabulary: Understanding and recognizing a wide variety of words is essential for any court reporter. Those who work in courts must have an excellent understanding of legal terms. Reading often and widely will expand the vocabulary and improve one’s familiarity with obscure words. (bls.gov)
- Concentration: Reporters must be able to tolerate sitting in one place for long periods of time, with a sustained attention span. This is a skill that can be practiced and honed. Unbroken periods of reading, playing an instrument, or doing any focused skill can help build the attention span and one’s ability to tolerate sitting at length. (bls.gov)
So you’ve just finished your court reporter training and have applied to a few jobs, only to get rejected. No, your words per minute are high enough, and your accuracy is good too. It’s not your actual skills that have gotten you rejected—it’s the fact that you don’t have the right licensure or certification.
Becoming licensed or certified can be an important, though often overlooked, part of becoming a court reporter. The requirements vary by state, so it helps to be in the know. Read on to learn the details.
What is licensure? It is basically when a state decides that you have passed or completed some standard of competency, and that you may receive a license to practice court reporting in that state. The annoying part of state licensure, however, is that the requirements vary widely. Some states don’t have any licensing at all, while others may require licensure and that court reporters be notary publics.
In some states, you have to pass the state’s own licensing examination, to achieve the title of Certified Court Reporter (CCR). The length and difficulty of these tests may vary slightly. Proof of NCRA Registered Professional Reporter status is sometimes accepted in place of taking a state examination. For voice writers, a national certification from the National Verbatim Reporters Association is usually an acceptable substitute for getting individual licensure in any particular state.
You can check out this resource for an idea of the different requirements for several states. Be sure to check your own state government’s website for the most accurate and up to date information. (bls.gov)
Maybe it wasn’t licensure that kept you from landing the job you want—maybe the employer wanted a court reporter with more certifications than you. Certification, like licensure, consists of taking an extra examination to prove your skills. These certifications are offered by a few professional groups, some of whom specialize in different types of court reporting. While voluntary, earning these certifications is a concrete way to prove your skills, and it may help you apply for advanced positions.
The National Court Reporters Association offers many different types of certification. The Registered Professional Reporter is the standard, and is seen as a sign of distinction in the industry. Other certifications are for diplomatic reporters, closed captioning reporters, and CART providers. The United States Court Reporters Association offers certification to reporters working in federal courts, and the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers offers various certifications to electronic court reporters. (bls.gov)