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How to Become a Court Reporter

November 14, 2023
5 min read


Reviewed by:

Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University

Reviewed: 11/14/23

Are you interested in learning how to become a court reporter? If so, you’ve come to the right place! 

Are you interested in learning how to become a court reporter? If so, you’ve come to the right place! 

Court reporters play a critical role in the judicial process. Commonly referred to as stenographers or shorthand reporters, they record all spoken words and gestures made in court proceedings. Without the diligent work of court reporters, judges, and lawyers wouldn’t have the accurate records they need to fulfill their duties.

If you’re a detail-oriented individual with an interest in the legal field, a career as a certified court reporter might be the right fit for you. If you find yourself asking questions like, “how long does it take to become a court reporter?” and “where do I start?” keep reading. We’ll outline the steps you need to take to pursue this career, including a breakdown of what you’ll do and how much you can expect to make. Let’s get started!

Steps to Becoming a Court Reporter

There are important steps to take to become a successful court reporter, from getting the training and acquiring the necessary equipment to determining the best path for your personal and professional goals. Continue reading to learn how to become a court reporter.

Explore Career Paths

There are various directions you can take while pursuing a career as a court typer; it’s important to take them all into account and consider which path interests you the most. Since court reporter programs don’t have any prerequisites, you can start exploring career paths at any time. 

The goal of all court stenographer programs is to prepare students for state licensure and/or professional certification. However, some programs are designed with a focus on specific areas of court reporting. Specializing will help you become an expert in a particular area of court reporting. 

Here are some specialized career paths pursued by court reporters:

  • Broadcast Captioning: Provide subtitles for live television programming, to assist deaf and hearing-impaired viewers.
  • Judicial Reporting: Record notes in depositions, court proceedings, and procedural hearings
  • Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) Reporting: Provides captioning for live, individual, and in-person events, to assist deaf and hearing-impaired viewers.
  • Certified Legal Video Specialist: Produce legal, forensic, and courtroom videos. Also known as a Video Court Reporter. 
  • Certified Manager of Reporting Services: Manage court reporting organizations and individual court typers.
  • Stenography: Uses a computer and a stenotype machine for CART, court reporting, and closed/broadcast captioning.
  • Voice Writing: Uses a steno mask device that transmits speech into voice recognition and translation software on a laptop.

If you’re more interested in general stenographer court reporting programs, they’re available too! You can study a combination of the career paths noted above in one comprehensive program. Taking this route will help ensure you’re a well-rounded court reporter. 

Equip Yourself

Make sure you have everything you need before embarking on a court reporting program. Depending on which program you’re taking, the following items may be required: 

  • Manual stenotype machine: A specific typewriter or keyboard with chords that stenographers use to type shorthand.
  • Computerized writer: Connects with a computer, to translate phonetic code 
  • Computer: Used in conjunction with the computerized writer and CAT software 
  • CAT Software: Computerized translation system used on computerized writers

These items are essential in most programs. They’ll help prepare you for a career as a court reporter in our increasingly digital world. 

Practice Your Typing

Most court reporting programs require you to take an entrance exam. They usually focus on your typing accuracy and speed, so take some time to brush up on your skills. Court reporting programs are looking for individuals with high attention to detail. Make sure you’re in the right headspace to take the exam. 


Complete a Court Reporting Program

To become an expert court reporter, you need to complete an accredited court reporting program. A variety of higher education institutions offer court reporting programs and provide you with an associate’s degree, professional diploma, or certificate. 

Court reporting programs prepare students to attain state licensure and/or professional certification. So, despite the nuances between programs, they all focus on equipping students with the minimum shorthand skills, which are set by the National Court Reporters Association

The following speeds are required of certified court reporters:

  • Literary speed: 180 wpm
  • Jury charge speed: 200 wpm
  • Testimony/Q&A speed: 225 wpm

It’s important to complete a program that’s in line with your aspirations. There are many great programs to choose from that will help you equip you with the skills and knowledge you need to become an expert court stenographer. 

Meet All the Requirements 

The requirements you need to meet to become a certified or licensed court reporter depend on the state you reside in. To become a court reporter, you need to prove your skill and knowledge by meeting every requirement. 

What Does a Court Reporter Do?

Court reporters are often referred to as guardians of the record, as it’s their primary role to ensure that the judicial process is recorded accurately, and impartially. 

An Attorney in Blue Suit Holding a Document while Sitting

Court Stenographer Job Responsibilities

Court reports record exactly what they’re seeing and hearing, to ensure that all parties involved have a detailed record of court proceedings. Their main job responsibilities include:

  • Participating in hearings, proceedings, and depositions
  • Accurately transcribing all spoken words, gestures, and audible sounds
  • Researching technical terminology and reviewing notes
  • Editing transcripts for precision
  • Distributing transcripts and recordings to all involved parties in a proceeding
  • Few administrative procedures similar to legal secretaries like correspondence and scheduling 

How Do Court Reporters Produce Records?

The method used to transcribe depends on the type of court reporter. However, the most commonly used method is known as shorthand. Time is of the essence in court, so court reporters need to be as efficient as possible. Shorthand enables this, by providing court reporters with a rapid way of writing using abbreviations and symbols. 

Court reporters then go on to produce verbatim transcripts that lawyers and judges can rely on during the judicial process. Transcripts are used in many different scenarios throughout, so it’s important they’re readable to everyone. 

Some court reporters also provide real-time transcripts using voice-to-text translation. This method offers lawyers and judges accurate transcripts instantaneously. It also allows those who are deaf and hearing impaired to follow along in the judicial process. 

Licensing and Certification

Most states require court reporters to be licensed through exams. These reporting exams generally consist of a skill test and a written exam. 

Many states rely on the Certified Verbatim Reporter’s examination (CVR) via the National Verbatim Reporters Association or the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) designation through the National Court Reporters Association in place of state exams.

Court typers often pursue professional certification from recognized organizations. The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) and the National Verbatim Reporters Association (NVRA) are two major organizations that offer certifications, such as the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) and the Certified Verbatim Reporter (CVR), respectively.

certificate in frame

Court Reporter Salary and Job Outlook

The role is projected to grow in the next decade and therefore has a positive job outlook. Over the coming decade, approximately 2,000 court reporter job openings are projected each year. As more court reporters retire or transition to other careers, there will be more opportunities for fresh court reporters to make their mark. 

Court reporters will continue to be needed in a variety of industries. Their skills will be in demand outside the court, as more organizations start to use closed captioning and broadcast captioning. As the aging population grows, there is more need for Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART), to assist those who are deaf or hearing impaired. 

Court reporters earn an average of $63,560 per year. The lowest 10% made less than $33,030, and the top 10% earned more than $116,380. 

FAQs: Becoming a Court Reporter

Now that you have a solid understanding of how to become a court reporter, you may have some questions about what the career is like. If so, keep reading!

1. Is Being a Court Reporter Worth It?

Absolutely. Working as a court reporter is an important job. Court reporters are an integral part of the judicial process. Without them, lawyers and judges would be at a huge loss. So, being a court reporter is certainly worth it. 

2. Is a Court Reporter a Hard Job?

Yes, being a court reporter can be a hard job. However, if you work hard to hone your skills and have the proper equipment—it is entirely achievable to excel as a court reporter. 

3. Where Do Court Reporters Make the Most Money?

Court reporters working in state government, except hospitals and education, tend to make the most money.

4. How Long Does It Take to Complete Court Reporting Training?

It takes 1-2 years to complete court reporting training. Associate’s degrees typically take two years whereas certifications can typically take around one year to finish. 

Final Thoughts

There are many important careers within the legal system, from working as a jury consultant, prosecutor, or court reporter. Without these positions, the judicial process would be missing important pieces of the puzzle. 

Court reporters play an invaluable role in the legal system by ensuring court proceedings are clearly, accurately, and unbiasedly recorded. With dedication, hard work, and the right training, you can become a part of this rewarding and fulfilling career path! 

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