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Criminal Justice Articles

What does it take to become a Court Reporter?

Court reporters record testimony and evidence during legal proceedings, important meetings, speeches, and sometimes conversations. In most cases, court reporters must transcribe a recorded version of the actual proceeding into typed documents they prepare for printing. To accomplish these tasks, the court reporter must have great hearing, excellent grammar and punctuation skills, and a good vocabulary, often including medical, financial, and legal terminology. Accurate, fast typing is also a job requirement. In additional to these skills, court reporters must have relevant education and certification, before they become eligible for employment in this field.

The training needed to become a court reporter will depend on the type of reporting that an applicant is seeking. The main types of court reporting are stenography, voice writing, and electronic reporting. The most commonly used method today is stenography. With this method, court reporters use a machine that allows them to enter symbols for words and phrases. Electronic reporting uses digital or audio tape recorders to capture information. Voice writers repeat each speaker's words by talking into a mask that allows them talk without interfering with the proceedings.

Initial training to become a voice writer usually takes a year, but developing proficiency in this method may require another year of work experience. Stenographic court reporter training takes over two years, for many as long as 33 months, according to the Department of Labor. Court reporters that specialize in electronic reporting often learn this method through on the job training.

Court reporters must attend vocational school, college, or technical school to learn their job skills. It is important to choose a program that meets the certification requirements of the National Court Reporters Association. NCRA-certified programs must require stenographic court reporter students to achieve a minimum recording speed of 225 words per minute. The federal government also uses this requirement as the minimum qualification for court reporting jobs. Currently, only 70 of more than 100 available court reporter training programs have NCRA certification. Ask an admissions officer about each school's certification. A high school diploma or G.E.D. is usually required prior to admission to a certified program.

The NCRA gives a four-part certification exam that leads to certification as a Registered Professional Reporter. Participation in a continuing education program is also necessary for continued certification. Voice writers can obtain certifications by exam through the National Verbatim Reporters Association. Each state sets it own requirement for court reporter's licensing. Some states administer the exam for certification as a Certified Court Reporter; others may require court reporters to be notary publics. The best plan is to check whether your state requires court reporters to qualify for a licensing examination, before enrolling in a course.

Career advancement opportunities for a court reporter include management and supervisory careers as well as teaching. Additional certifications are available for federal court reporters through the United States Court Reporters Association for court reporters employed in federal courts. Electronic court reporters with at least two years of experience can seek voluntarily certification by passing any one of the three examinations offered by the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers. The court reporters who apply for this certification must also be eligible to become notary publics.

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