A court reporter records verbatim proceedings of courts, legislative assemblies, committee meetings, and other events. A court reporter is responsible for entering, transcribing, recording, storing and maintaining information in written and electronic form.
Most court reporters work in courts, law offices, and government agencies. An increase in the need for closed-captioning and realtime translating services for the hearing impaired has contributed to a high growth rate in the court reporting profession. According to the United States Department of Labor, the job outlook for court reporters will be excellent through 2016.
Court Reporter Job Responsibilities
Based on the type of court reporting and work environment, the specific job responsibilities of a court reporter will vary. Most court reporters are responsible for recording and transcribing accurate communications, storing and retrieving recordings, and providing clerical support as required. Court reporters use several methods to accurately record proceedings.
Stenographic is the most common method of court reporting. All statements made during the proceedings are recorded by using a stenotype machine. Words are captured in a phonetic code; each line of characters represents a sound or syllable. Information is then translated as a written transcript. If realtime captioning is required, the stenotype machine is connected to a computer and text is displayed on a screen. This process is referred to as CART, which is an acronym for communications access realtime translation, and is widely used in courts, official meetings, classrooms, and for closed-captioned television.
Voice writing is another method of court reporting. The court reporter captures the proceedings through the spoken word instead of the typed word. A voice silencer connected to a computer ensures the voice of the court reporter is not heard while recording information. A written transcript is prepared afterwards from the recordings.
Electronic reporting is also a distinct and popular method of court reporting, particularly in court proceedings. This technique utilizes audio equipment, including both analog and digital, to record proceedings. A written transcript of the recorded proceeding is also prepared by the court reporter.
Court Reporter Training and Education Requirements
Formal training is required to become a court reporter. Specific training and education requirements vary widely. Some states require a court reporter to be qualified as a Certified Court Reporter while other states require a court reporter to be qualified as a notary public.
According to the National Court Reporter’s Association (NCRA), formal training for court reporters is offered by 130 programs, including community colleges, technical colleges, four-year universities and distance learning programs. Curriculum for court reporting programs will vary, but typically include classes in legal terminology, criminal and appellate procedure, keyboarding, computer-aided transcription and real-time reporting.
The type of program selected will depend on the specific skills that will be used as a court reporter. If working exclusively with the stenotype machine, for example, three years is typically required to learn to accurately capture at least 225 words per minute. Conversely, approximately one year of training is required for a voice writer.
All court reporters must also possess excellent attention to detail, the ability to listen carefully, strong grammar and punctuation skills, and proficiency with computers.
Court Reporter Salary and Wages
Court reporters earned an average annual salary of $52,460, according to the May 2009 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Compensation for court reporters varies based on several factors: the type of court reporting, the location of the job, and the expertise of the court reporter.
Court Reporter Certifications
Although certification is not always a requirement of employment, many employers require the qualification of Certified Court Reporter. To work as a courtroom reporter, a Certified Shorthand Reporter certification is required. Whether required or voluntary, certifications increase opportunities for employment and may lead to career advancement.
Court Reporter Professional Associations
Several professional associations offer certifications for court reporters.
The National Court Reporters Association awards the Registered Professional Reporter certification. This entry-level designation requires a four-part examination and participation in continuing education programs.
The United States Court Reporters Association awards the Federal Certified Real-time Reporter certification to court reporters working in federal courts. The focus of the examination is on speed and accuracy when recording dictation.
The American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers awards three types of certificates for electronic court reporters. To be eligible to take the written and practical exams, candidates must have completed high school, have at least two years of court reporting or transcribing experience, and be eligible for notary public commissions in their states. The certifications include: Certified Electronic Court Reporter, Certified Electronic Court Transcriber, and Certified Electronic Court Reporter and Transcriber.
The National Verbatim Reporters Association awards several certifications to voice writers. To earn a Certified Verbatim Reporter or a Certificate of Merit designation, a written test is required to demonstrate knowledge of English conventions and legal and medical terminology. A performance-based test that measures speed and accuracy in recording dictation and transcribing material is also required. To earn a Real-Time Verbatim Reporter certificate, performance-based tests in realtime transcription, judicial reporting, and webcasting are required. Additional Real-Time Verbatim Reporter certificate tests that measure speed, knowledge, and accuracy in CART reporting are also offered.