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Criminal Justice Articles

A Day in the Life of a Court Reporter

A court reporter provides a vital service in the field of Criminal Justice. It is a position that requires skill, dedication and education to be successful. Some states require court reporters to obtain a license. Statistics provided by the US Labor Bureau show average earnings of about $61,500 per year, even though salaries vary by state.

What Job Duties Does a Court Reporter Have?

While court is in session, a court reporter records verbatim, everything that is said during the official proceedings. This is done during hearings as well as trials. If so instructed by the judge during the proceedings, a court reporter must read out loud portions of what they have recorded. At the close of the session, the court reporter prepares an official transcript of the proceeding, compiles and correlates court records to stand as the official court records, and makes copies for the judges and attorneys and any other individuals who request them through proper channels.

Court reporters may also work outside the courtroom on a freelance basis. Freelance court reporters are often hired by Attorneys to record inquiries, depositions or other legal proceedings that do not take place in the courtroom. Corporations and other private entities may also hire court reporters on a freelance basis to record board of director meetings or stockholder minutes. Most freelance court reporters work through agencies that locate jobs for them.

Another evolving field open to trained court reporters is the area of Broadcast Captioners. Another name for this area is Stenocaptioner, since a stenograph machine is used to enter captions of live TV programs for hearing impaired viewers. A similar process is used in some courtrooms, where court reporters use advanced technology to present instant transcripts on computer screens immediately while court is in session. This process is referred to as CART or Communication Access Realtime Translation.

What Equipment Does a Court Reporter Use?

A court reporter uses a special stenograph machine that has 22 keys. This machine prints out information in a condensed form that the court reporter later transcribes to create the official court record. The keys create symbols that must be translated by the machine's computer.

What Training Is Required to Become a Court Reporter?

Becoming a court reporter involves a combination of formal training along with on-the-job training. There are currently about seventy schools or programs that are certified by the NCRA (National Court Reporters Association). In some states, even after completing classes, a state-certified license must be obtained before working as a court reporter.

Most court reporting training lasts from 12-33 months, depending on what type of reporting is studied. While enrolled, students are taught how to use the equipment, as well as how to take dictation and read it back. Proper English grammar is also stressed. Classes in medical terminology and legal terminology are also important.

What Other Skills Are Necessary?

A court reporter needs to possess excellent communication and time management skills in addition to using a stenography machine. They must be organized and have the ability to work in a high-pressure environment. Work must be completed quickly, accurately and often within a deadline.

Individuals with these skills will find court reporting a challenging and rewarding career option. With the increasing number of civil and criminal cases going to trial, along with the increasing need for live broadcast captioning, prospects are favorable in this area of the criminal justice field.

Schools Offering Court Reporting Courses:

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