Court reporters serve an important role during legal proceedings, creating a word-for-word transcript of what transpires. Court reports most often work in court rooms, mediation meetings and legislative meetings. However, many are able to transfer their skills to find work in television or in providing close captioning for public events. To become a court reporter, you need a certificate or degree in court reporting or stenography, which takes two years on average to complete.
Time to Degree
Certificate and degree programs for court reporting vary widely in their time to completion. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some programs in steno masks and digital recording can last as little as six months. However, most degree programs in stenography and court reporting take up to two to four years to complete, with the average being two years. Some court reporters note that it can take even longer to become proficient.
Choosing a Program
The National Court Reporters Association provides a state-by-state list of approved court reporting programs. Though the NCRA is not an accrediting agency, it does create a list of NCRA-certified programs that meet minimum standards established by the Council on Approved Student Education and that are accredited by agencies recognized by the U.S. government. It's important to select a program from this list to ensure that you earn a quality degree recognized by industry professionals. The list provided by the NCRA is broken down by state, programs with day and evening options, and those that offer associate and bachelor degrees.
Court reporters who work in legal settings are required to be licensed in most states. Some states offer their own licensing exam, and some states accept the licensing exam administered by the NCRA, which includes a written test and skills test. Court reporters must meet a minimum typing speed in order to be licensed, which is why training may take longer for some.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects there to be continuing demand for court reporters. The BLS estimates that jobs will grow 14 percent between 2010 and 2020, which is about as fast as average for other industries. The median pay for court reporters in 2010 was $47,700. The agency reports that those with experience or training with real-time captioning such as for helping deaf and hard-of-hearing people have better job and earning prospects.