What Do Court Reporters Do

Court reporters (also named certified shorthand reporters) need to record every word that is spoken at an official court proceeding. The court proceeding could be a hearing or a trial. Instead of using a pencil to put it all to paper or making use of a regular word processor (with a full keyboard), court reporters use a stenographic machine (the ‘stenograph’) that includes only 22 keys.

By using these 22 keys, court reporters are able to produce symbols on a very tiny and narrow paper strip in the machine and record all the things that are said in court. The stenograph is hooked up to a computer to convert the records into English that we can understand.

Court reporters are also required, if instructed by the judge to do so, to read out loud portions of what they have transcribed on their stenograph. Court reporters are also required to prepare official written transcripts of the court proceedings.

What Does It Take To Become A Court Reporter?

In practically all states, a court reporter must hold certification. Students will, in general, require some two to four years full-time study to get acquainted with all needed basic skills. For voice-writing reporters (they don’t use steno, but digital recording devices) the basic education is just six to nine months, and if you would like to become a real-time voice-writing professional, you are going to need one or two more years of education and training.

Several colleges and universities now are offering an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program, and students can also apply to private colleges that offer specialized certificate courses at their business schools. For both specializations, there are also several online study options. Court reporters require licensure in practically all states, and in America, there are three bodies for that purpose:

NCRA – The National Court Reporters Association
NVRA – The National Verbatim Reporters Association
AAERT – The American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers

After their formal education, court reporters need a lot of on-the-job-training and to remain certified, they are required to attend periodical continuing education courses. They must also remain on top of new computer and software developments. To pass exams, and to remain licensed, court reporters need to produce at least 225 words per minute on their tiny machines.

Please don’t underestimate how hard it is or what it takes to become a professional court reporter. The training pretty tough, of the nature of the job is such that the drop-out (both at school and in the professional field) is considerable.

Let’s see what the situation is like in the state of California. If you want to become a (certified) shorthand reporter for California’s Superior Court, you need to meet quite a few qualifications:

– You must have a high school or equivalent diploma
– You must have learned how to use a ‘stenograph’ to record words as they are spoken.
– You must meet several academic requirements, for example having taken courses in medical and legal terminology and English.
– You must attend a specialized program at a court reporting school.
– You are required to translate symbols into a regular English at the rate of at least 200 words per minute.
– You must have taken and passed a state-required test to obtain a Certified Shorthand Reporter (CSR) License, which is issued by the Court Reporters Board of your state.