Training, Certifications, Skills, Advancement: Court Reporters

The amount of training required to become a court reporter varies with the type of reporting chosen. It usually takes less than a year to become a voice writer. In contrast, the average length of time it takes to become a stenotypist is 33 months. Training is offered by about 160 postsecondary vocational and technical schools and colleges. The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) has approved about 82 programs, all of which offer courses in stenotype computer-aided transcription and realtime reporting. NCRA-approved programs require students to capture a minimum of 225 words per minute, a Federal Government requirement as well.

Some States require court reporters to be notary publics. Others require the certified court reporter (CCR) designation, for which a reporter must pass a State certification test administered by a board of examiners. The NCRA confers the entry-level designation “registered professional reporter” (RPR) upon those who pass a four-part examination and participate in mandatory continuing education programs. Although voluntary, the designation is recognized as a mark of distinction in the field. A reporter may obtain additional certifications that demonstrate higher levels of competency, such as “registered merit reporter” (RMR) or “registered diplomate reporter” (RDR). The RDR is the highest level of certification available to court reporters. In order to receive the designation, a court reporter must either have 5 consecutive years of experience as an RMR or be an RMR and hold a 4-year baccalaureate degree.

The NCRA also offers the designations “certified realtime reporter”(CRR), “certified broadcast captioner” (CBC), and “certified CART provider” (CCP). These designations promote and recognize competence in the specialized skill of converting the spoken word into the written word instantaneously.

Some States require voice writers to pass a test and to earn State licensure. As a substitute for State certification, the National Verbatim Reporters Association offers three national certifications to voice writers: “certified verbatim reporter” (CVR), the certificate of merit (CM), and ”real-time verbatim reporter” (RVR). Earning these certifications may be sufficient to get licensed in the State. In order to get the CM or RVR, one must first earn the CVR. Candidates for the CVR must pass a written test covering punctuation, spelling, grammar, legal terminology, definitions, and more and also must pass, three five-minute dictation and transcription examinations that test for speed as well as accuracy. Passing the CM exam requires a higher level of speed and accuracy. The RVR measures the candidate’s skill at realtime transcription. In order to retain these certifications, the voice writer must obtain continuing education credits. Credits are given for voice writer education courses, continuing legal education courses, and college courses.

In addition to possessing speed and accuracy, court reporters must have excellent listening skills, as well as good English grammar, vocabulary, and punctuation skills. Voice writers must learn to listen and speak simultaneously and very quickly, while also identifying speakers and describing peripheral activities in the courtroom or deposition room. They must be aware of business practices and current events as well as the correct spelling of names of people, places, and events that may be mentioned in a broadcast or in court proceedings. For those who work in courtrooms, an expert knowledge of legal terminology and criminal and appellate procedure is essential. Because capturing proceedings requires the use of computerized stenography or speech recognition equipment, court reporters must be knowledgeable about computer hardware and software applications.

With experience and education, court reporters can advance to administrative and management positions, consulting, or teaching.