The reality for anyone entering the workforce today is that a college education alone can’t prepare you for a great career the way it did in the past. Last year, more than 2.8 million university graduates went looking for work despite the bleak employment outlook. As a result, around 40 percent of millennials ended up unemployed and the average graduate carried $33,000 in student loan debt.
In 2017, the American economy still suffers from a job quality problem. America added 76,000 jobs in retail shops and restaurants at the beginning of the year. There was also a slight uptick in factory jobs. The problem is that these are primarily low-skill jobs for equally low pay. Few, if any, come with the promise of a professional career or serious growth potential. It’s no wonder that so many young people have dropped out of the job market entirely to work for themselves.
The most creative job seekers found work by finding their own path and avoiding the crowds. They sought out specialized training for careers, like court reporting, as an alternative to the pricey four-year college experience. Sarah Nageotte, president of the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA), said that 15 percent of the industry is reaching the retirement age while new laws are proliferating. The legal profession is depending on the emergence of a new generation of court reporters.
“There is going to be a demand, and a need, for at least 5,500 new positions over the next three to five years,” Nagotte said. In some parts of the country, court reporters without a college degree are seeing offers of $100,000 or more plus benefits. In addition, court reporters can make the kind of connections with lawyers, judges and consultants in professional services that will become invaluable no matter what they want to achieve in life.
This Ultimate Guide will present you with all the facts on what court reporters actually do on a daily basis, their current average salaries, what subjects are covered in court reporting programs and where to go if you want to learn more. From there on, the ball is in your court.
What Does a Court Reporter Do?
How Much Does the Average Court Reporter Earn?
Best Places to Find a Work as a Court Reporter
Here are the top 10 cities offering the greatest number of well-paying jobs for court reporters:
- New York
- Los Angeles, CA
- Chicago, IL
- San Antonio, TX
- San Diego, CA
- Dallas, TX
- San Jose, CA
Prerequisites Before Becoming a Court Reporter
- Speak, read and write English fluently
- Dedicate yourself to becoming an expert in spelling and English grammar
- Apply self-discipline for extended periods of intense concentration
- Type at or above the national average of 41 wpm and be eager to put in the extra work required to improve your speed
Most of the skills you will need can be taught. What has to come from the inside, however, is a dedication to staying impartial and professional no matter what is said during emotionally charged statements. Everyone is equal under the law and court reporters must faithfully record their statements for the legal system to function properly.
Court Reporting Degrees and Certification Programs
Some states do not accept national certifications but require a passing grade on their own certification exams. Those states include: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.
States that do not have any court reporter certification requirements, or where certification is voluntary, are:
States that do not have any court reporter certification requirements, or where certification is voluntary, are: Alaska, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Florida, Indiana, Nebraska, New York, South Carolina and Virginia.
These laws can change unexpectedly, so make sure you research the latest information on state certification requirements for the region where you intend to practice.
Exam Scores Required for RPR Certification
The online skills test measures your stenography skills in:
- Literary at 180 wpm
- Jury Charge at 200 wpm
- Testimony/Q&A at 225 wpm
Transcription is required at every step. You must be able to transcribe your notes within 75 minutes and achieve 95 percent accuracy in reporting.
The written portion includes 115 multiple-choice questions in the areas of:
- Technology: 22 percent
- Reporting practices: 62 percent
- Professional practices: 16 percent
You must reach a score of at least 70 percent to pass.
What You’ll Learn in a Court Reporting Program
- Master class in English spelling and grammar
- Communications skills
- The most commonly used legal and medical terms
- Machine vs. manual shorthand
- The basics of the US legal system
- Elements of electronic reporting
- Captioning software and technology
- How to prepare transcripts for legal firms
- Essential procedures in court reporting
Court Reporting Programs: Classroom vs. Online
Pros: Some students need a great deal of support from professors and other students. The classroom provides instant feedback and a structured approach to learning. Many students feel that a requirement to show up at a specific place and time keeps them more accountable and more closely approximates the environment of a court reporter in the real world.
Cons: The time demands and expense of attending a classroom are too demanding for many people making the transition to court reporting. Classroom learning can be too rigid in skimming over some lessons and devoting too much time to others in order to keep the entire class on schedule.
Pros: The freedom to take classes at any time, from home or on the road, is the primary appeal of online coursework. In many cases, the online tuition can be much less expensive because the school does not have as many expenses in providing the training. Online classes can be paused and repeated as much as necessary until certain skills are mastered. It takes self-discipline to finish online classes, but that is precisely what is required to excel at court reporting also.
Cons: Some students find that online classes provide too much freedom. They do not fully simulate the normal working environment of a courtroom where there is no pause button. The routine of showing up to a classroom and answering to a professor for your work is exactly what some students need to learn. Some online students say they miss the interpersonal factors of working directly with a teacher and other students. It’s difficult to network with other court reporters and gain their unique knowledge when you are primarily working alone.