If you are interested in working inside a courtroom but don't want to do a lawyer’s job, then there is a great job that will definitely fit for you. You need not to be a lawyer in order to be present inside a courtroom; you just have to be a court reporter.
Court reporters are professionals that transcribe spoken statements in legal proceedings, meetings, speeches or other events. Typically, there are three types of court reporters, a stenotypist, electronic reporter or transcriber and voice writers. Each performs using a different transcribing method but all of them are responsible for ensuring an accurate and complete legal record, especially for court proceedings.
To start your journey towards becoming a court reporter, you must consider reading relevant information regarding qualification, requirements, licensing and other factors that will help you start your career.
How to become a court reporter
1 Determine your skills and decide what type of reporter you want to pursue
To become an effective court reporter, you must possess the skills required to become one. Depending on the type of court reporter you want to pursue, here are some of the skills that will be useful once you start your journey towards this career.
- The most popular type of court reporting is the stenotypist. Stenotypists are court reporters that record all statements made verbally in court proceedings into texts. You will be making use of a stenograph, a machine that will enable you to press multiple keys at one time in order to enter a combination of letters.
- To become an effective stenotypist, you must have excellent typing and listening skills. You must also be good in vocabulary, grammar, spelling and the use of punctuation.
- Electronic Reporter
- Another type is electronic reporting. This method will allow you to make use of audio equipment that will enable you to record the entire proceedings. Your job as an electronic reporter is to take note of the whole process and ensure the quality and clarity of the recording.
- You must have the ability to observe the whole process of the proceeding and must have excellent writing skills as most reporters are required to transcribe into text what they have recorded.
- Voice Writer
- This type of court reporting allows you to speak directly into a hand-held mask that contains a microphone and is sound-proof. Your job is to record everything that has been said inside the courtroom, from the judges, witnesses, attorneys and participating parties. A written output will then be processed after the proceeding.
- As a voice writer you must learn to listen and speak simultaneously. You have to take note and identify the speakers and describe marginal activities inside the courtroom.
- All court reporters must possess speed and accuracy. Your work as a court reporter will require you to be accurate in transcribing statements and the entire process of the proceeding as these are legal records.
- You must also be able to work well, even under pressure, and concentrate for a long period of time. You must have the ability to manage your time in order to meet deadlines.
- You must have excellent knowledge of medical and legal terminologies. This is commonly learned during training, but it will be an advantage for you to study in advance.
- Because all court reporters make use of either a stenograph or hand-held voice recognition equipment, it is useful that you have knowledge on operating computers and software applications.
2 Complete Required Education and Training
The education and training required may vary depending on what type of court reporter you would want to be. There are around 100 postgraduate technical and vocational colleges that offer this training.
- It is important that you enroll into programs that are certified by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) or the National Verbatim Reporters Association (NVRA). Programs certified by these organizations are preferred especially by the federal government.
- Stenotypists are technically required to complete a 33-month coursework. Around 60 programs that offer courses like stenotype computer-aided transcription and real-time reporting are certified by the NCRA.
- Certified programs will require you to transcribe a minimum of 225 words per minute. If you would like to work for the federal government this requirement is essential.
- Voice writers usually take less than a year in order to become a beginner voice writer. But to become an expert in this type of court reporting, it is best to take courses that will enable you to be skilled in real-time voice writing, usually taking less than 2 years to complete.
- Electronic court reporters usually gain skills on the job. Court specific training will be provided on the job and you will usually be provided with manuals and will discuss the content with your trainers. You will also be given an actual observation of an expert electronic transcriber while performing the procedures.
3 Meet State Licensing or Certification Requirements
The licensing requirement of each state may vary from one to another. Some states will require you to pass a test and obtain a state license. Others may require specific certifications in replacement of the license.
- Some states may require stenotypist court reporters to pass a dictation exam.
- Others may also require all court reporters to be a notary public. While other states will require you to pass a state-administered exam that will give you the Certified Court Reporter (CCR) designation.
- Notary requirements will also vary from state to state, but usually includes training, passing a written exam and a background check and fingerprinting.
- Voice writers are required by some states to be licensed, others will require them to have specific certifications in lieu of the state license. The NVRA offers 3 national certifications intended for voice writers.
1. Certified Verbatim Reporter (CVR)
In order to get hold of this certificate, you must pass a written exam, which will test your vocabulary, spelling, use of punctuations, and your knowledge on medical and legal terminologies. The other part would be a 3 transcription and dictation tests. Each test usually takes 5 minutes to complete and will test your speed, silence and accuracy in transcribing.
2. Certificate of Merit (CM)
This will require a higher level of knowledge, speed and accuracy.
3. Real-Time Verbatim Reporter (RVR)
This tests your ability to perform real-time transcription, judicial reporting, CART or communications access real-time translation reporting, webcasting and captioning.
In order for you to maintain these certifications, you must obtain continuing education. Advanced courses like voice writer education courses, continuing legal education courses and other college courses will give you additional credits.
- You may also check with your states’ justice department for you to take a list of the specific requirement mandated by your state.
4 Advancements and Certifications
Certifications and advancements will help you to be superior in your career. Though certifications are voluntary, there are several certifications you may obtain in order to have better job opportunities ahead of you.
- Certifications for stenotypist court reporters are voluntary. You may pursue obtaining certificates in one or more areas in order for you to advance in your career and have good job opportunities in the future.
- The NCRA offers a designation exam for stenographic reporters.
- You must pass a four-part written skills and knowledge exam in order to get hold of the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) designation. Pass the written exam with a score of 70% and above, and 95% accuracy for each 3 areas of the skills test.
- There are additional certification that you may obtain to exhibit your competence and expertise in the field. This certifications includes:
- Registered Merit Reporter (RMR) – the second highest certification offered by the NCRA. A RPR certificate is required for you to take the exam. Passing rate is same with the RPR exams.
- Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR) – the highest certification designation offered by the NCRA. You must have the RMR designation and at least 6 consecutive years of membership with the NCRA. This certification will require you to pass a written exam with a passing rate of 70% or better.
- Certified Real-time Reporter (CRR) – this certification is intended for entry-level court reporters. You must pass the test with 95% accuracy and 200 words per minute speed. You will also be graded according to how you set-up and operate your equipment, and your final text output.
- Certified Broadcast Captioner (CBC)
- Certified CART Provider (CCP)
These are intended for those who create captions for media programs or assist people who are deaf.
Pass the written exam with a score of 70% or more, and the practical test with 96% accuracy and 180-word-per-minute speed.
- The United States Court Reporters Association (USCRA) also offers the Federal Certified Real-time Reporter (FCRR) designation, which is useful for those who work for the federal government.
- Certifications intended for electronic reporters are offered by the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT). Similar to stenotypists, the certification for electronic reporters is voluntary. The AAERT offers three types of certificates:
- Certified Electronic Court Reporter (CER)
- Certified Electronic Court Transcriber (CET)
- Certified Electronic Court Reporter and Transcriber (CERT)
- To be eligible for the exam, you must have at least 2 years of experience as a court reporter or transcriber, you an eligible notary public in your state, and have completed a high school diploma or its equivalent.
- The examination costs $150 and $75 for re-testing of any portion of the written or practical exam.
- You must pass all three section of the written exam with a passing score of 70%. You must also pass the practical exam which has the passing score of 80% accuracy for reporters and 98% accuracy for transcribers.
Advancements and additional certifications will allow you to be on top of everyone else. With the tight competition among individuals who wanted to become a court reporter, it is best you invest as much as you can in order to land a greater job. Once you obtain certifications, you must maintain them by completing continuing educational requirements. These may vary depending on the state so it is best that you check on your state’s justice department.
Becoming a court reporter is a demanding but a rewarding job as well. This could be an excellent choice especially for those who are passionate working inside a court system and be a part of the court system.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
- What Does A Court Reporter Do?
- How Long Does It Take To Be A Court Reporter?
- What Are The Requirements To Become A Court Reporter?
- How Much Does A Court Reporter Make?
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