How to Become a Court Reporter

To become a court reporter, there are a number of choices to make as to how you'll get there. The field of court reporting, or "stenography", is a varied and rewarding career with several different categories to explore. This article will detail basic training and education requirements, as well as the two different kinds of stenography careers available today.

Court reporters no longer use typewriters to record the words spoken in the courts of law; rather, they use a machine known as a stenotype, which allows for more rapid data entry than a standard keyboard as the stenotype uses buttons encoded with full words or parts of words instead of single letters.

Stenographic Typist

The first and best-recognized form of court reporting is the stenographic typist. This person sits in on court cases, witness debriefings, evidence analyses and other legal proceedings, and records word-for-word the exchanges that take place. They take statements, lawyer's notes, and other important information in regards to the proceedings of several court cases at a time.

Voice Writing

The second, lesser-known stenography career is called voice writing. A voice writer wears a device called a stenomask, which resembles a medical facemask. This apparatus contains an embedded microphone which transmits the voice writer's spoken voice to a computer. Depending on the voice writer's preferred method of operation, the computer either records the voice as an audio file to be translated into text later, or it uses speech recognition software to create voice-to-text files in real time.

Freelance stenography

In both cases it is possible to get freelance work as a stenographer, using your skills as a typist or voice writer to translate audio files for various venues into written text. The most popular use of stenographers for this purpose is for closed captioning television shows and movies. Technically, this field is known as "stenocaptioning", and can provide a valuable source of extra income for stenographers, and is a fast-growing field as tele-entertainment becomes more and more global.

Education and Training

Training to become a stenographer can be obtained from any of over 70 schools recognized by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA). There, depending on which category of stenography you've chosen, you'll receive training in how to use a stenotype machine and/or stenomask, legal proceedings, typing/speaking proficiency, and general writing skills.

Stenography is a perfect example of the benefits that can come from gaining a wide spectrum of knowledge. For example, a stenographer who knows several languages fluently will be of greater use (and therefore higher paid) than a single- or even bilingual one.

After completing the training, prospective stenographers can take a certification test administered by the NCRA, and received a license to practice stenography in

On average, a stenographic typist can be trained and certified in around 33 months, whereas a voice writer can reach the same level of readiness in around 12 months.