A Guide To Court Reporting Schools

Court reporting is a growing field with many emerging applications. For aspiring court reporters, it is necessary to undergo vocational training to qualify as a Registered Professional Reporter, or RPR. Additional certifications require more schooling, but offer greater career opportunities and compensation.

Court reporter school can take as few as six months for a basic certificate, and as long as four years for a bachelor’s degree. A professional stenotypist is usually expected to have completed between two and four years of postsecondary education.

 Choosing a Court Reporting SchoolAccreditation and LicensingThe National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) is the predominant organization providing certification for court reporting schools. While it is not an accrediting agency, the NCRA says all the programs it certifies are also approved by Department of Education-recognized bodies, such as the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). Nearly half of court reporting programs in the United States are NCRA-certified.

Licensing depends on one’s state of residence. In California, for example, the state’s Court Reporter Board oversees licensing, accreditation and professional regulation.

Many for-profit and some online court reporting schools offer non-accredited programs in stenography, but consumers should be cautious since these programs may not satisfy state licensing requirements.

Training StandardsIn part, the amount of training required to become a professional realtime-capable court reporter depends on how long it takes individuals to meet the NCRA’s competence benchmark of 225 words per minute, measured by the RPR exam—about 33 months for the average student, per BLS figures.

The 225-wpm standard is required for federal government jobs, underscoring the NCRA exam’s utility for career purposes. It is important to ensure an educational institution under consideration provides a curriculum that reflects the demands of either the NCRA’s RPR exam or testing procedures established by the state’s court reporter board.

Certifications at all levels must be periodically renewed. As a result, continuing education is very important in the field of court reporting. Renewal typically requires maintenance of good standing with state and third party certifying agencies.

SpecializationsCourt reporters can train for additional certifications in specialized areas to strengthen their resumes. The NCRA, for example, offers advanced certifications in seven emerging professions:

  • Certified Broadcast Captioner (CBC)
  • Certified CART Provider (CCP)
  • Certified Legal Video Specialist (CLVS)
  • Certified Reporting Instructor (CRI)
  • Master Certified Reporting Instructor (MCRI)
  • Certified Program Evaluator (CPE)

TechnologiesCourt reporting and closed captioning relies on several assistive technologies, from stenotypes to instant captioning software. 22% of the RPR certification exam tests students’ technological skills and knowledge.

In some states, licensure also requires familiarity with guidelines for the usage of Computer-Aided Technology and other advanced communication tools.
 Court Reporter Degrees OverviewCertificationCourt reporting certificates typically last six months to a year and require only a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Most students acquire postsecondary court reporting certificates through community colleges or vocational schools.

The most common court reporter certification is the RPR, or Registered Professional Reporter, currently accepted in 22 states in place of a state certification or licensing exam.

Prospective students should decide on a particular field of application before investing in a court reporting program. For example, those interested in a TV broadcast captioning career will have a different educational pathway than those focused on medical transcription or real-time courtroom reporting.

Different certificates are useful for different kinds of jobs, so schools should be chosen to target the desired employment outcome. For example, legal settings usually require court reporters to be licensed by the state. Thus, it is important to choose a program that provides enough training to earn licensure for the relevant state board.
Associate Degree in Court ReportingAn interview may be necessary for admission to an Associate program, in addition to the required High School Diploma or GED. An internship may also be necessary for degree completion.

Students that pursue an Associate degree in court reporting can expect training to last two years, which is about how long it takes to master real-time reporting. However, rates may vary depending on individual circumstances.

Degree candidates are exposed to a specialized academic curriculum targeting issues of vital importance to professional court reporters, such as confidentiality in sensitive settings. Associate-level programs teach steno writing skills that can be profitably deployed in a variety of fields. Graduates can, for example, be found in hospitals, courtrooms, conferences, and other sectors that utilize verbatim transcriptions.

Bachelor Degree in Court ReportingA Bachelor degree is typically the highest level of education sought by court reporters and is frequently offered as part of a regular four-year university. Students generally need a High School Diploma or equivalent for entry into these programs, though each court reporting school has its own requirements for admission.

Bachelor candidates will be able to master many of the computer technologies critical for breaking into the real-time captioning and Communication Access Real-Time Translation (CART) fields. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these will comprise the most lucrative employment opportunities in the years to come.

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