Court Stenographer Certification and Licensing

The amount of training required to become a court reporter varies with the type of specialty you have chosen. You will need between two and four years of education at a stenography school. The average length of time it takes to become a real-time stenographic court reporter is 33 months; this includes internships with practicing court reporters. Stenographers and transcribers learn a lot of their skills on the job. The most common degree awarded for court reporting is an Associate in Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree, but there are also Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degrees. Although the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) is not an accrediting agency, it does regulate many court reporting training programs. The NCRA has certified 60 schools and training program, all of which offer courses in stenotype computer-aided transcription and real-time reporting. NCRA-certified programs require students to type a minimum of 225 words per minute.

Getting a State Court Reporter License

Some states require court reporters to pass a test and to earn state licensure. Many states though accept or use the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) testing in place of the state certification or licensing examinations. The RPR is a four-part examination and it is mandatory that participants have continuing education, about 3.0 credits or 30 hours every 3 years. Although voluntary, the designation is recognized as a mark of distinction in the field. States where the voice method of court reporting is permitted accept the following certifications for voice writers: Certified Verbatim Reporter (CVR), Certificate of Merit (CM), and Real-Time Verbatim Reporter (RVR). Candidates for the CVR must pass a written test involving spelling, punctuation, and vocabulary, legal and medical terminology, as well as three 5-minute dictation and transcription examinations that test for speed, accuracy, and silence. The CM requires additional levels of speed, knowledge, and accuracy. The RVR certification measures the candidate's skill at real-time transcription, judicial reporting, CART reporting, and captioning, including webcasting. Some states require court reporters to become Notary Publics. Others require the Certified Court Reporter (CCR) designation, for which a reporter must pass a state test administered by a board of examiners.

In addition to possessing speed and accuracy, court reporters must have strong English skills. Court reporters also must work well under deadline pressures and be able to concentrate for long periods of time. They must be aware of business practices and have an advanced knowledge of legal terminology. Because stenographers use computerized stenography or speech recognition equipment, a court reporter must be knowledgeable about computer hardware and software. Voice writers must learn to listen and speak simultaneously, speak very quickly and quietly, while also identifying speakers and describing peripheral activities in the courtroom.

Additional Court Reporting Certifications

Proper training and certifications are essential for court reporters to get jobs and advance in their careers. Several associations offer certifications for different types of reporters. A court reporter may obtain additional certifications that demonstrate higher levels of experience and competency, such as Registered Merit Reporter (RMR) and Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR). The NCRA also offers the designations Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR), Certified Broadcast Captioner (CBC), and Certified CART Provider (CCP), designed primarily for those who caption media programs or assist people who are deaf.

The United States Court Reporters Association offers another voluntary certification designation, the Federal Certified Realtime Reporter (FCRR), for court reporters working in Federal courts. The exam is designed to test the basic real-time skills of Federal court reporters and is recognized by the Administrative Office for the United States District Courts for purposes of real-time certification.

The American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT) certifies electronic court reporters. Certification is voluntary and includes a written and a practical examination. To be eligible to take the exams, candidates must have at least 2 years of court reporting experience, must pass the Notary Public test in their States, and have completed high school. AAERT offers three types of certificates: Certified Electronic Court Reporter (CER), Certified Electronic Court Transcriber (CET), and Certified Electronic Court Reporter and Transcriber (CERT).