How to Become a Court Reporter in 5 Steps

Explore the career requirements for court reporters. Get the facts about education, salary, certification requirements and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Legal Transcriptionist degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Court Reporter Do?

A court reporter creates official documentation of dialogue that occurs during legal, political and other proceedings where formal transcripts are required. They use specialized equipment, like stenography machines and audio recording machines, to help them capture all the dialogue. They listen to the judge's directions regarding what to strike from the transcript and may sometimes be called upon to read back portions of the proceedings. The following chart provides an overview about becoming a court reporter.

Degree Required Certificate or associate's degree
Field of Study Court reporting
Certification or Licensing Certification and/or licensure requirements vary by state; some states require court reporters to be a notary public
Key Responsibilities Make a verbatim written record of official proceedings; prepare and edit transcripts of official proceedings; read back testimony during official proceedings
Job Growth (2014-2024) 2%*
Median Salary (2015) $49,500*

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

What Is a Court Reporter?

As a court reporter, you may work either in a courtroom or outside of a courtroom in an attorney's office or other setting to record trials, meetings, conferences, training seminars, depositions and other events.

Step One: Get Trained

There are different types of court reporting, and training is available for each. Stenographic court reporting utilizes stenotype machines to create documentation, while computer-aided transcription (CAT) involves the use of software to translate and coordinate text and stenographic combinations. Electronic court reporters use audio-recording devices for proceedings.

As a communications access real-time translation (CART) reporter, you would learn to use real-time software used with stenographic court reporting procedures. As a voice court reporter, you would be trained to verbally dictate verbatim dialogue during proceedings into a special voice recorder with a speech-recognition system.

Training is available through vocational schools, colleges, trade associations and other organizations. Coursework, training levels and completion times vary with the type of court reporting chosen. For example, as a novice voice court reporter, you can be trained in less than 12 months, whereas CART training is completed within 33 months, on average. Training levels are available through certificate, associates and baccalaureate programs.

Step Two: Obtain a License

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), licensing for court reporters varies by state. Some states require that you pass an exam to become a Certified Court Reporter, and some states will accept certification via the National Verbatim Reporters Association as a substitute for licensure. Still others require that if you work as a court reporter, you must also be a notary public (www.bls.gov).

Step Three: Acquire Certification

Some employers may require professional certification, available through numerous trade organizations, such as the National Court Reporters Association, the United States Court Reporters Association and the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers. These organizations offer a wide range of certifications based on court reporting types, specialties and levels of experience.

Step Four: Get Work Experience

The BLS has predicted a lower than average number of job opportunities for court reporters for 2014-2024, due in part to an increasing use of technology in the workplace. These jobs entail basically the same training that you would need for working inside a courtroom. In 2015, court reporters made a median annual wage of $49,500, according to BLS statistics.

Step Five: Join a Trade Association

Many trade associations offer numerous professional benefits, such as industry updates, insurance plans, educational programs and networking opportunities. Some of the associations that provide court reporting certifications also offer these benefits.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are several alternative jobs that would require a similar skill set to court reporting. Individuals could pursue a career as a medical transcriptionist, which involves listening to recordings made by medical professionals and and turning them into written work. Like court reporters, aspiring transcriptionists also need some postsecondary training, typically through a certificate program. Individuals could also pursue jobs in interpreting and translation if they had skills in a foreign language. However, these positions have somewhat higher education requirements than court reporting does, and most interpreters and translators need a bachelor's degree.

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