Court reporting is completed in the form of written accounts of events created on a stenotype machine; this process is known as stenography. Courtroom stenographers — commonly referred to as court reporters — are required to document various events, including conversations, meetings, speeches and legal proceedings. In this article, we will look at the career path of a courtroom stenographer and discuss what an aspiring courtroom stenographer must do in order to pursue their career.
Court reporters are relied on to record word-by-word transcription of what transpires in a courtroom; in the performance of this work, court reporters usually employ stenography. They press multiple keys simultaneously on the stenotype machines that resemble typewriters in a way due to their designed, thereby recording letter combinations that represent words, phrases and sounds. The results are recorded, translated and displayed by employing a computer-aided transcription. Stenographers not only interpret events; their duties require them to establish and maintain the computer dictionary employed by them in the translation of keystrokes relating to their stenography machine. Offices, conventions and courtrooms are the most common settings in which stenographers are employed.
Prospective courtroom stenographers prepare for their profession of choice by undergoing training that lasts about thirty-three months. Training programs in court reporting are offered by technical and vocational schools; such programs are usually associate degree programs or certification courses. Students are required to reach a speed of 225 words a minute, as mandated by the National Court Reporters Association; the NCRA offers certification to individuals and training programs (www.ncraonling.org). Coursework includes topics such as computer-aided transcription, tech reporting, speed building, dictionary production, dictionary maintenance, and writing theory. By the time they finish the program, students are required to achieve the mandated rate of words-per-minute. Court reporters are required to pass a state-run exam that will grant them the designation of notary public where the state of a particular candidate’s location requires this designation.
Wage and Job Potential
Stenographer’s income depends on their certification, experience and location (source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (www.bls.gov)). Apart from an annual salary, an official court reporter’s income includes transcript fee charged for each page. Salaried stenographers can use their skills to earn extra income through freelance work. In August 2010, court reporters took home an average annual salary ranging between $38,398 and $68,659. In May 2009, the average annual salary of a court reporter was about $52, 460 (source: BLS). Job growth for court reporters has been projected at eighteen percent during the decade from 2008 to 2018. This optimistic forecast (faster than the average for all other occupations) is partly due to the shortage of trained stenographers to perform available jobs. Court reporters who have earned certification are more likely to gain employment than those who have not.