Is Court Reporting the Career for You?

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Court reporting is one of the more interesting careers that people don’t often consider. In fact, many don’t even realize that it’s an actual profession. But despite being an underrated job path, court reporting is paramount to a successful courtroom atmosphere and reporters are fundamental in assisting with depositions and discovery.

Many states have a high demand for court reporters, so it’s a career path where you can truly thrive. If you’re wondering if court reporting is the career for you, here’s some information to help you make up your mind.

What is a court reporter?

Court reporters are also known as stenographers and, less commonly, shorthand reporters. At trials, hearings, and other official legal events, they are responsible for transcribing the testimony of all parties involved to keep an accurate record of the courtroom proceedings. Most often, this is done through the use of a steno machine. Though it sometimes resembles a children’s toy, a steno machine is a word processor of sorts. It uses a 22 word keyboard to phonetically record testimonies. This means the reporter needs to work quickly and efficiently to capture the spoken word of all parties involved, and attention to detail is a must-have skill.

How to become a court reporter

Most court reporting educational programs take two to three years to complete. However, depending on the coursework involved (and the effort a student puts in) this period can extend to around five years. The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) compiles an up-to-date list of certified courses, schools, and programs which is a great resource to find education near you.

As far as holding an actual certification goes, it’s typically handled on a state-by-state basis.  Using Florida, which is ranked third in the nation in the number of court reporters, as an example, if you wanted to check into court reporters in West Palm Beach, you’d find that the hiring process is fairly competitive. Also, due to the lack of license requirements, it’s required that all prospective court reporters pass the Florida Professional Reporters Certification exam held by the Florida Court Reporters Association (FCRA). Note that this certification must be maintained while a court reporter is actively working in the state.

A coveted career path

As a result of an aging workforce, an increased demand for reporters has developed throughout the country. Estimates show that between 2017 and 2022, there will be a need for approximately 5,500 new court reporters around the country. That doesn’t even take into account the amount of freelance court reporting jobs that are available for independent reporters. Typically, the most desirable jobs in the field are official court reporters. These are the individuals who are hired by a specific court system and are placed within the courtrooms. Keep in mind that these positions are in high demand as they’re directly involved in the proceedings of legal cases.

For the truly ambitious court reporters (or the political savants), there are lofty positions handling the reporting for Congress or captioning official speeches delivered by elected officials. A talent for court reporting can even be translated into the world of closed captioning. Have you ever wondered how live programming is able to keep up with its captions? If you guessed that it was via a stenographer, you’re right! The skillset of a court reporter has such varied applications and career options that you’re only limited by your imagination and your drive.

Reporting for duty

While court reporting is an exciting way to be a part of the justice system, it isn’t for everyone. It requires great attention to detail, quick analytics skills, and efficiency. However, if you possess those traits and have always wanted to immerse yourself in courtroom culture, becoming a court reporter should be a no-brainer. Pursue the extra education, maintain your certifications, and get ready for a fascinating career in the courtroom. Somebody’s got to handle the reporting. Why not you?


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