Do you have a knack for paying attention to detail? Are you impeccable at relaying details accurately? Do you want to put that talent to good use in the career world? If so, perhaps a profession as a legal transcriptionist (better known as a court reporter) will allow you to thrive professionally. Before you can begin pursuing the education necessary to become a court reporter, you will need to obtain your high school diploma or the equivalent. It is important to note that the educational requirements you will need to complete vary depending on your chosen area of specialization and the state you reside in.
In your capacity as a legal transcriptionist, you will spend much of your time documenting accurate transcripts of legal proceedings, conversations, speeches, and meetings. It will also be your responsibility to ensure that the legal record is correctly created and preserved. Keep in mind, court reporters are required to sit for extended periods of time and often works in stressful situations, so you will want to be sure that this type of work environment suits your career goals. Also, depending on your employer you may be required to be on call or work a variety of scheduled hours. Keep in mind, with your formal training in legal transcription you will also be capable of gaining employment as a legal assistant or a legal secretary.
While in some states it is not required that court reporters have a Bachelor's degree, in today's competitive, career-focused world it is a good idea to have formal training that will allow you to stand out against fellow job seekers. As you work to obtain your bachelor's degree you will be required to successfully complete courses such as legal terminology, court reporting, dictation, criminal procedure, grammar, composition, equipment use, and appellate procedure. While working on your degree course work, you will want to continually work to improve your typing accuracy, your use of vocabulary, your punctuation accuracy, and your accuracy with grammar.
Your success will largely depend upon your ability to accurately hear what is being said and to record it as such. Depending upon the post-secondary school that you choose to attend, some of the courses you may be required to complete are: criminal law, law office procedures, English grammar, the United States court system, civil litigation, and legal terminology. In addition, many traditional colleges and universities require their students to successfully complete a dictation practicum. It will be important for you to do your homework in relation to the learning institution you choose to attend.
Many schools will only allow admittance into the court reporter degree program if they already have experience in the work force relative to office administration. Once you have completed your Bachelor's degree in court reporting and you can begin your career as a court reporter, you may want to pursue certification in your field of study. Possible organizations that you can seek certification through are Transcribers and Legal Secretaries International and the American Association of Electronic Reporters.
With over 125 colleges that offer court reporting choosing the right one can be challenging. If you are interested in earning your Bachelor’s Degree in Court Reporting make sure you review the below areas.
Transfer of Credits – When researching court reporting schools it is important that you find out what their credit transfer policy is. If you are earning your certificate or degree you’ll want the option of transferring any earned credits into the school. Also if you plan on continuing with your education after your Bachelor’s degree you want to make sure your credits are valid to another school. Most regionally accredited schools won’t cause any issues when transferring credits.
Accreditation – It is advised that you find schools that are accredited also by the National Court Reporting Association (NCRA).
Certification – Find a program that will allow you to sit for the Registered Professional Reporter Certification. This independent test will certify you as a court reporter and is something that employers look at when hiring.
Financial Aid – If financing your education is a problem then you’ll want to find schools that offer financial aid as well as Pell Grants. Financial aid, also known as Title IV, has to be paid back where a Pell Grant is issued to you on a “needs” basis and doesn’t. Also be sure to ask the school if they offer any court reporting scholarships. Some schools have their own payment plans as well which some could be with zero interest.
Graduation Success – One of the most overlooked areas when people are looking into schools is to find out how successful their graduates are. Some schools will list their most successful graduates and even show where they work as a kind of testimonial. However since this info can easily be misleading one factor that can’t is the outcome scores the schools must post. If the school offers federal funding they must post on their website both the completion rate as well as the placement rates for the program. Some court reporting programs we work with have a 92% placement rate which is a great number. Once you request information you can ask your admissions representative that you are working with at the school to provide these numbers.
Faculty – What kind of faculty does the school have? Are they experienced with years of actual court reporting work or are they new to the industry. We recommend looking for schools where the core faculty has proven years of experience. This experience is something that will benefit you when you are taking your program.
Class Size - Most classes sizes should be between 5-10 people. This allows you to have more personal one-on-one time with your court reporting instructors. If taking an online program you might not know how many other students are taking the program at once but I would still ask. The reason is if you have questions at night you want to make sure the instructor isn’t teaching 50 other students as it will take them a long time to respond to your questions.
Flexible Classes – Does the school offer morning, afternoon, evening and weekend classes? Do you work during the day so you can only study at night? Having a school that is flexible is the way to go when it comes to finding the right school for you. Most online schools will allow you to work around your schedule so you can study when you have time and even finish the program early.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics the overall job outlook for being a court reporting is expected to grow by 2%. The median pay for a court reporter is $23.97 per hour ($49,860 per year). The highest salary is those in the local and federal governments and the highest 10% of those in the industry earn over $90,000 per year. Companies and state agencies are having a hard time finding qualified court reporters. Because of this it is recommended you earn your Bachelor’s Degree in Court Reporting to give yourself more experience.