Real time. Word for word. You’re going to hear those phrases a lot in court reporting school. “Word for word” means to translate something using the exact words that were spoken or written. It’s often applied to translating another language into English, and that’s a version of what you’ll be doing at court reporting school.

You’ll learn how to take spoken words and, using your own language, quickly convert them to readable text. “Real time” means NOW, while it’s happening, word for word, at more than 200 words per minute! There are a limited number of people who understand your language, which means your skills and services are in demand.

The Duties of a Court Reporter

Before you consider which school and what classes you need to become a professional court reporter, you should first research the U.S. Bureau of Labor (BLS) definitions of the types of stenographic court reporting jobs and the educational requirements needed. The BLS job description for court reporting says the duties of a court reporter include:

  • Attending judicial depositions/hearings, proceedings and live events that need real-time transcripts of record or real-time translations for hearing impaired.
  • Transcribing movie dialogue and televised programs for the hearing impaired.
  • Having the ability to operate specialized equipment including stenography machines as well as video/audio recording devices.
  • Being able to describe speakers’ gestures and actions.
  • Being able to read back, real-time, what you have written for clarification to the judge or others.
  • Preparing and editing transcripts, then providing necessary copies.

Court Reporting School

Formal training by an approved college or university is needed to become a court reporter. Some states require additional certification or licensing with a professional agency. In the State of New York, for example, court reporters must have attended a recognized court reporting school, pass the New York Certified Shorthand Reporter Exam, work in New York state and participate in continuing education.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) governs the equal rights of hearing impaired people – they should be able to understand broadcast programs – which has led to an even greater need for Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) reporters.

A Stenotype Hearing Reporter for closed captioning should have the same transcription speed and working knowledge as a court reporter. A closed captioner must also demonstrate proficiency in using writing software and converting files to ASCII text plus be able to translate with 96% accuracy. In New York, you must take the exam to become a Certified Broadcast Captioner or a Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) Reporter

AOS Degree

An AOS degree (Associate of Occupational Studies) is necessary for an entry-level court reporting job. You’ll be able to record spoken or dictated words up to 225 wpm. Your court reporting school classes may include:

  • Advanced Court Reporting
  • College-level Math
  • Computer Technology
  • Courtroom Procedures
  • English for Court Reporting
  • Legal Terminology
  • Medical Terminology
  • Professional Development
  • Psychology
  • Stenotype Theory

Stenotype Hearing Reporter Certificate

Your court reporting school may also offer a stenotype hearing reporter certificate. You’ll be able to record spoken or dictated words up to 180 wpm. Along with Stenotype Theory and speed building classes, your classes may include:

  • College English
  • College Math
  • Oral and Written Communications
  • Computer Concepts
  • Psychology
  • Medical Terminology
  • Legal Terminology
  • Courtroom Procedures
  • English for Court Reporting

Learning a Living

Probably the most intensive classes on your schedule will be your stenotype courses. Stenography is the skill of being able to record the spoken word using a stenotype machine. Learning stenography is probably the most important part of your career development; it’s the key to being one of those professionals who know that one-of-a-kind “language” which allows them to document a legal proceeding or other type of event, preserving the moment forever.

Attending a court reporting school is necessary to become a court reporter; you can’t learn what you need to know from on-the-job training. Once you are working, your proficiency will probably increase, as will your confidence, but like most professional careers, your education and training will have prepared you to begin earning a living almost immediately following your graduation and/or certification.

As a student in court reporting school, you’re making a time and money investment in you. If you live and work in New York, you’ll probably see some of the highest earnings available in the U.S. for entry-level court and stenotype hearing reporters. The BLS reports New York-area court reporters’ high-end mean salary for 2014 was $88,420/year. What you learn at court reporting school can lead to an exciting, rewarding, well-paying life as a professional court or hearing reporter.

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