How to Become a Court Transcriptionist in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a court transcriptionist. Learn about job duties, education and certification requirements to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Legal Transcriptionist degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does A Court Transcriptionist Do?

Court transcriptionists create verbatim written copies of court testimonies, depositions and other trial proceedings. They are present for all types of legal proceedings and follow the direction of judges regarding if they must strike something from the record or if they need to read back a portion of the record. After proceedings, they also must edit their reports for grammatical or typological errors. The following chart provides an overview about becoming a court transcriptionist.

Education Required Postsecondary certificate or associate's degree
Education Field of Study Court reporting
Key Responsibilities Use stenographic equipment to record verbal testimony during hearings or depositions; print out and proof-read transcripts; read back recorded testimony
Licensure or Certification Licensure or certification by a professional association is required in most states
Job Growth (2014-2024) 2%*
Median Salary (2015) $49,500*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What is a Court Transcriptionist?

The role of a court transcriptionist is to provide written accounts of all legal meetings and court proceedings as they occur. In this job, you must ensure that these legal records are correct and complete, for the benefit of the attorneys, judges, reporters or private citizens who may request them. The advent of speech recognition technology allows court transcriptionists the option of becoming closed captioners for the hearing-impaired, also known as communication access real-time (CART) reporters.

Step 1: Research the Career Duties of a Court Transcriptionist

Court transcriptionists use different methods of capturing information, such as voice writing and electronic reporting, but the most well-known method is stenographic. Stenotype machines allow you to press multiple keys that correspond with a series of words or verbal sounds, and these are translated into text. Before transcribing a session, you program your equipment with a dictionary of often-used words that are likely to be spoken during the proceedings. Your transcripts must be edited for grammar and to ensure that proper nouns are correctly spelled. Your completed accounts must be filed with the courts.

Step 2: Obtain Educational Training

The amount of education you'll need to become a court transcriptionist will vary, depending on the specialty you choose. For instance, if you'd like to be a proficient real-time voice writer, you should allow for two years of educational training. However, if you're interested in becoming a real-time court stenographer, you will need about three years of study. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), electronic court reporters generally learn their skills on the job (

Some vocational and community colleges offer court reporting programs that grant certificates and associate's degrees. You may decide to enroll in a program certified by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA). These programs will require that you transcribe at a rate of 225 words per minute, which is also the standard for jobs with the federal government. Your curriculum may consist of subjects such as real time reporting, CART environment laboratory, keyboarding, information-processing systems, legal terminology and advanced machine shorthand.

Step 3: Work to Improve Your Skills

To perform well as a court transcriptionist, you must be fast and accurate, and you should be an excellent speller. An understanding of legal terminology and courtroom procedures will be crucial to your job performance. Equally important will be thorough knowledge of how your computer equipment functions, as well as the ability to talk and listen simultaneously. While your transcriptionist training program will give you the basic skills for your career, you may need to practice your skills on your own time to develop the speed and accuracy needed to succeed as a transcriptionist.

Step 4: Become Licensed or Certified

In some states, court transcriptionists must be licensed, and this requires passing an examination. As an alternative, certification can substitute for licensing in areas where voice reporting is allowed. These certifications may be obtained through the National Verbatim Reporters Association, and they include the Real-Time Verbatim Reporter (RVR) and the Certified Verbatim Reporter (CVR). You may be tested for dictation speed and accuracy, as well as for knowledge in areas such as vocabulary and punctuation. Continuing education courses may be required to remain certified. Depending on the state you live in, you may also need to be a notary public.

Step 5: Choose an Area of Specialization

When you become a court transcriptionist, you don't necessarily have to work in a courtroom. You could also perform your duties in sales meetings, press conferences or congressional meetings. You might enjoy documenting product introductions or transcribing religious services. Transcription opportunities may exist in some not-for-profit organizations and private companies. Finally, you can transcribe for television or cable networks, as well as at sporting events.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

The skills required to be a successful court transcriptionist could also be used in medical transcription. This job involves listening to recordings of physicians and other medical professionals and making them into written reports. Medical transcriptionists typically need a postsecondary certificate in order to enter the field. If you're fluent in another language, you may be interested in becoming a translator or an interpreter. Most of these professionals hold a bachelor's degree, though the key qualifier for the occupation is proficiency in at least two languages.

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