Court Reporting and Legal Transcription Programs

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Whenever and wherever there’s a trial being held, court reporters are present and hard at work, creating accurate reports and transcripts of the proceedings. Court reporters are responsible for creating detailed transcripts of conversations, speeches, official events, important meetings, and most notably legal proceedings. Court reporters play an important role in ensuring that what is said and communicated is preserved for future reference and analysis. While court reporters most frequently work in legal settings, they also work at television and broadcast stations (that require captioning), government agencies, state legislatures, Congress and the United Nations and even corporations.

Job Description and Details

Court reporters work in just about every setting where verbal communication must be accurately recorded and preserved. Notwithstanding diverse work settings, the large majority of court reporters work exclusively within the field of law. They are most frequently employed by courts and legal offices, but they may also work as independent contractors for a variety of legal clients. Whenever any formal legal proceeding takes place, whether in a large courtroom, a judge’s chambers, a private meeting, or arbitration, a court reporter must be present to record the communication. In short, court reporters, who work within the field of law, are responsible for creating verbatim transcripts of all verbal communitions, noting emotional and physical gestures, and documenting official legal proceedings.

In our modern era of technology, court reporters employ various tools to assist them in their trade. The most common device used by court reporters include a stenotype machine connected directly to a computer. Another commonly employed device is the digital recording machine that translate voice recordings into writing which can then be saved, transfered and re-presented in a variety of formats. This form of recording, known as “voice writing”, is becoming increasing popular method for recording trials and other important legal proceedings.

Graduates with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in court reporting, or a closely related specialty, can find careers as Court Reporters, Judicial Reporters, Broadcast Captioners, Medical Transcriptionists and Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) Reporters. Prospective students should make sure that any degree or training program is accredited by the National Court Reporting Association (NCRA). To be accredited by the NCRA a program must require its graduates to type a minimum of 225 words per minute.

Job Outlook and Trends

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for court reporters is predicted to be excellent over the next decade. In fact, between 2010 and 2020 opportunities for court reporters are expected to increase by 25%. Strong job growth within the industry will be due in large part to (1) a generation of older court reporters who will be retiring and (2) fewer than normal job seekers desirinng careers in court reporting. In addition, as voice writing technology becomes a much more popular and widespread method for recording legal proceedings, there will be fewer and fewer traditional stenotypists. Many courts still prefer stenotypists, so court reporters who learn stynography will continue to be in high demand.

Notwithstanding a recent downsizing within the industry, the BLS estimates that the there will still be more job openings than there are qualified applicants to fill them. What do this mean? Quite simply, there will be excellent job prospects and not a lot of competition for court reporters that have good skills. Court reporters who take the time and make the investment in their education will find that they will be able find good career positions.

Education and Training

Earning an accredited degree or obtaining skills focused training is critical if you want to qualify for the best career positions in court reporting. The most popular path to launching a career in court reporting is earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in court reporting, or receiving advanced training in an industry relevant technical discipline.

The most popular degree earned in preparation for entry-level positions in court reporting is the associate’s degree. The associate’s degree in court reporting introduces students to both the conceptual and practical aspects of the profession. Common topics addressed in an associate’s degree program include transcription and computer-aided transcription, legal and medical terminology, legal and court proceedings, and machine shorthand. Students are also introduced to the technology (e.g., voice writing) and equipment (e.g., computer hardware, software, etc.) employed within the profession. (Note: There are several certificate programs in court reporting that are comparable to an associate’s degree).

A bachelor’s degree in court reporting is another popular, and recommended, educational path for preparing for career in court reporting. Students enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program learn how to use computerized equipment to transcribe verbal communication in realtime, and a bachelor’s degree ensures students are disciplined, computer literate and that they have strong language skills. A bachelor’s degree program typically goes into more depth than an associate’s degree with regard to traditional coursework (legal terminology, realtime transcription, judicial reporting, testimony, etc.) and students are provided the opportunity to enhance their technical skills and become proficient in all the latest court room and reporting technologies and equipment.

Student enrolled in either an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in court reporting will spend about half of their time in the classroom and the other half in the lab. Classroom training will focus on vocabulary, terminology, procedure and other basics of the career, while laboratory training will focus on developing technical skills, including the use of court reporting equipment, hardware, and software. Some of the more common courses offered in a court reporting degree program include court reporting, transcription, legal terminology, medical terminology, foundations of law, and language and writing.

Most associate degree programs require applicants to have a high school diploma or GED. The prerequisites for a bachelor’s degree in court reporting are usually the same as those for an associate’s degree. High school students interested in pursuing a career in court reporting can prepare by taking classes in writing and computers, government, social studies and English. Having a good grasp of English and grammar is imperative to becoming a successful court reporter.

Court Reporting Degrees, Certificates and Programs


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