Being a court reporter is actually an exciting profession. What exactly are court reporters though and
how do you become one? Court reporters create transcripts of legal proceedings and other events
where words need to be recorded. The two types of court reporters are stenographers and voice
Stenographers write what is said at events into a machine called a stenotype machine. Voice recorders
or writers speak into masks containing a recorder and voice silencer. The training for each depends on
what specialization you are interested in.
Let’s address stenography first. To be certified as a stenographer, you must be able to type quicker and
more accurately than most other people. According to the National Court Reporters Association, a court
reporter should be able to write 225 words per minute in shorthand. Shorthand will be taught during
the educational process.
There are also state-specific requirements for becoming a court reporter with some states only needing
certification from one of the court reporters’ associations and others needing both certification and
completion of a vocational program at a technical school. One random fact to note is that if you have a
criminal report you are not allowed to become a court reporter.
Since the requirements vary by state, the amount of accredited educational programs in a state can be
quite different from other states. For example, New York doesn’t have strict requirements and has many
ways for students to learn court reporting such as online, at community and technical colleges, and at
schools specifically dedicated to court reporting. Georgia on the other hand has strict requirements and
only has one accredited institution to learn court reporting.
The next thing to consider is what you need to buy to become a court reporter. Most education
programs want students to have a manual stenotype machine which typically costs between $100 and
$250 and a professional computerized writer which costs between $2,500 and $5,000. Since a
computerized device is so expensive, many schools provide rentals.
A final requirement is the licensing test. Most states want prospective court reporters to take licensing
tests provided by the state. This can cost anywhere between $200 to $600. The test has a written and
skills portion and you have to pass the written portion with a 70% or better. Some states also want you
to join a professional association such as the National Court Reporters Association to become fully
Stenographers are generally considered more highly than voice recorders or writers and in 2015 only 37
states allowed voice reporters in the courtroom. There are also fewer schools that offer instruction in
voice reporting and are mainly online trainings. The equipment costs between $1800 to $2200 and
tuition can cost between $4000 and $7000 at a program sponsored by the National Verbatim Reporters
Association. Voice writing is tested by the National Verbatim Reporters Association and you need to
score at least 70% on the written portion and dictation with real-time transcription at 95% accuracy.