Court reporting seems like a glamorous career, but it takes a lot of hard work to acquire the skill set needed for this profession. Court reporting is unique to other careers because a special skill – stenography – is required. Stenography forms the foundation for the many jobs that are available to stenographers, such as court reporting and closed-captioning for television networks and other broadcast media.

It’s All About Speed

Just as shorthand was developed to make note-taking faster, stenograph machines were developed to help capture spoken word as fast as humanly possible. The first “shorthand machine” was invented in 1877. The stenotype machine is operated by pushing multiple buttons at the same time, and the letter combinations can represent words, phrases, sounds and emotions. The stenographer then computer-translates the information into text.

Stenographer training is focused on learning how to use a stenograph machine while you also pursue the path to become a licensed court reporter or CART (Communication Access Real Time) reporter. According to courtreporterEDU, an independent resource for stenographers and closed-captioners, there are more than 300 courts in New York’s sixty-two counties, and New York City court reporters earn the highest wages.

One Small Step

The first step to becoming a professional court reporter is stenographer training. To learn stenography, you will enroll in a court reporter program at a college or university, preferably one that specializes in stenographer training. It’s important that any college or university you consider is a nationally recognized stenographer training school. The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) lists the schools that have met the General Requirements and Minimum Standards (GRMS) for stenographer training recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Your stenographer training classes will be ongoing and  will probably include forms of Stenotype Theory and Stenotype I, II, III, and IV. Other necessary courses for certification or an Associate Degree in Court Reporting may include:

  • Computer technology
  • Courtroom Procedures
  • Psychology
  • Terminology – legal and medical
  • English, including grammar, punctuation, spelling and written communications
  • Court Reporting Internship

You’ll need a formal verification and/or certification of your ability to record spoken words at 225 wpm (words per minute) to practice court reporting in New York, and some court reporters are required to pass the civil service exam if working for the government. With the Associate of Occupational Science (AOS) degree in Court Reporting or certification in Communication Access Real Time Translation (CART), you can take your career in so many directions!

You can work a typical 9-5 job or can freelance at your own discretion. Some freelance court reporters spend much of their time working at home. When your style of living changes, you can change your work life, too!

Areas where stenographer training is needed include:

  • Attorneys’ offices
  • Corporate meetings
  • Court reporting (freelance and judicial)
  • Emergency broadcasts
  • Entertainment and sporting events
  • Government offices
  • Legal procedures in a non-courtroom setting (depositions)
  • Political gatherings, congressional hearings and debates
  • Television newscasts and broadcasts
  • Webcasting

Certified Shorthand Reporter (CSR) Exam

When you’ve completed stenographer training and you begin job-hunting, you’ll find that you have a leading edge over other candidates who are not Certified Shorthand Reporters. In New York, licensing is not required, but it is proof that you are not only tested and qualified, but that you are a U.S. citizen “of good moral character.” This is important because you will be recording information that may be sensitive, personal, confidential and possibly impact our country’s security. Also, a CSR is qualified to administer oaths such as, “Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth…?”

The CSR exam is voluntary, and has two parts:

  • Written knowledge
    • Legal terms and processes, court structure, rules of evidence
    • English usage, grammar, vocabulary, punctuation
  • Transcription skill
    • 1-voice, four-minute jury charge dictation at 175 wpm and ability to read it back
    • 2-voice, five-minute dictation on a medical topic at 175 wpm
    • 4-voice, seven minute dictation and transcription at 200 wpm

Registered Certified Reporter (RPR) Exam

The National Court Reporters Association is a well-respected organization and for New York court reporters it offers certification programs and an exam. There are over 11,000 Registered Professional Reporters in New York by virtue of the NCRA’s testing. Additional certifications include Certified Real Time Reporting (CRR), Certified Broadcast Captioners (CBC), and Certified CART Providers (CCP).

The RPR test includes:

  • Written knowledge
  • Professional practices
  • Technology
  • Reporting practices
  • Skills
  • Jury Charge, 200 wpm
  • Literacy, 180 wpm
  • Testimony questions and answers, 225 wpm
  • Transcription at 95% accuracy

There is no time limit for the RPR – you can take the different parts of the test over time. Also, you don’t have to be a NCRA member to take the exam.

Work to Learn: Internship

Before you graduate with your AOS degree in Court Reporting, you’ll put your stenographer training to use in a professional workplace setting that will emphasize education through experience. Be sure to look for a school with long-standing relationships with some of New York’s most reputable employers, so they can provide you access to competitive internship programs that can offer you valuable on-the-job training in an interesting setting.

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