Official transcripts of legal proceedings are a valuable resource for judges and attorneys. Even in the highly structured environment of a court room, individuals often hear, interpret, and remember things differently. A hard copy transcript helps to reduce confusion and provides a record of statements. Court reporters are the legal professionals who create these documents and ensure their accuracy and authenticity.
Court Reporting is a rewarding career for many. These transcriptionists scrutinize verbal communication and record it in written formats. Demand for experts in this field is growing, and new training programs make entry for new applicants more accessible. Court reporting is suitable for those interested in working in a legal environment, but it does not require the investment in time and money it takes to become an attorney.
Court reporters must be keen observers that type rapidly and accurately. These aptitudes are further developed through intense training. The challenges students encounter during their studies cause many to drop out. While this helps to drive the wages up for successful graduates, this career path should be carefully considered before resources are devoted to training.
Average Typing Speed of Court Reporters
To create a usable document, typing speed must match the speed of a conversation. Most business professionals can type between 50 and 70 words per minute. An expert typist using a standard alphanumeric keyboard should be able to type 90 words per minute reliably, but court reporters must perform at much higher level. Using a stenotype keyboard, these professionals are required to type at a minimum of 225 words per minute in order to meet their certification requirements.
While typing speed is the most critical skills a court reporter needs, the format of the document is also important. Discipline must be observed to accurately transcribe the exact conversation without changing the meaning. This takes a keen understanding of grammar. People speak in conversational tones that are different than formal writing styles. Capturing the true meaning of what is said requires the right punctuation to make clear sense out of the broken sentences and phrases common in dialogue.
Cost of Court Reporting School
Any training program selected should serve two primary functions. It needs to prepare students to successfully develop the skills required to perform on the job, and it should also prepare students to acquire their professional licensing certificates. The National Court Reporter Association lists dozens of programs that meet its basic training standards. Regardless of the specific program selected, it typically requires at least a full year of dedicated practice to build the necessary typing speeds to pass certification exams and begin working.
There are three common options available for students to consider:
- Traditional College
- Trade School
- Online Study
College degree programs are available for students who prefer the traditional course structure. These programs require two to three years to complete. They also include general education studies that are not actually necessary for developing the specific job skills court reporters need but may be desirable for personal enrichment.
Trade schools focus students’ time on training only the specific skills they required for their careers. Instructors offer direct guidance and share industry specific knowledge.
For those who live in areas where attending a class is not possible, online course and home study kits are available. Like trade schools, distance learning programs focus only on the specific skills necessary, but they also allow students to learn at their own pace.
The cost of training from traditional colleges may range as high as $50,000, but will vary significantly depending on the program. Online courses are the least expensive option. Contact the admissions department of the institution you are interest in to find out specific information. Students should also include their living expenses and financing charges to their total expected education expenses.
Licensing and Certifications
In some states, it takes more than just stenograph equipment and training to work as a court reporter. There are licensing restrictions. It may be a requirement to register as a bonded notary public. In some other states, it is necessary for court reporters to pass written and performance exams to become a certified court reporter. These exams cost several hundred dollars.
Average Court Reporter Salary
According to the most recent labor statistics for court reporters, their median income is slightly above $48,000 a year, but many are capable of earning much more. Plenty of overtime is available from the backlog of recorded cases. Top level income for the highest earners is above $90,000 annually. There is steady growth predicted for this field, and qualified transcriptionists are capable of branching out into other areas of work as well. Television stations hire court reporters to transcribe for broadcast closed captioning, and freelance opportunities available at law firms further expand the earning potential.