wikiHow to Be a Court Reporter

Two Methods:Becoming a StenographerBecoming a Verbatim Reporter

Court reporters create transcripts of legal proceedings and other events where spoken words must be preserved. There are different types of court reporters. Stenographers key what was said into a stenotype machine, and voice writers speak into a mask containing a recorder and voice silencer. The training required to be a court reporter depends on the specialization.

Method 1
Becoming a Stenographer

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    Assess your skill level. In order to be certified as a stenographer, you will need to be able to type far more accurately and quickly than most people. Therefore, if you are considering stenography as a career path, its best to get an idea of your relative skill level. The National Court Reporters Association specifies that at a minimum, a court reporter should be able to type a Q&A session in real time at 225 words per minute in machine shorthand with 97% accuracy.[1]
    • Machine shorthand is something you will learn in any educational program for court reporting, so if you don't know what that is already, don't worry.[2] However, you should already know how to type non-shorthand at a fairly rapid pace--nothing less than 60 words per minute--before applying.
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    Determine the requirements for your state. The requirements for becoming a court reporter vary by state. Some states, for instance, only require certification from one of the court reporter's associations, while some require both certification and completion of a vocational program at a technical school. Many states prohibit felons from becoming court reporters.[3] Determine the licensing requirements by visiting
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    Research educational programs. Since licensing requirements vary by state, the amount of accredited educational programs varies as well. Some states, like New York, which have relatively lax requirements, have many ways for students to pursue their education in court reporting, including online, at community and technical colleges, and at schools devoted exclusively to court reporting. Other states, like Georgia, have more strict requirements. As a result there is only one accredited institution in Georgia which educates court reporters.
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    Find out what equipment you will need. Like many professions, court stenographers have their own tools of the trade. Unfortunately for aspiring court reporters, the cost of those tools is not insubstantial. Most programs will require you to have access to a manual steno type machine, which usually costs between $100-$250, and a computerized writer, which costs between $400 and $2000. Since the cost of the computerized writer is high, many schools allow students to rent one from the school.[4]
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    Enroll in a program. After familiarizing yourself with the requirements to become a court reporter in your state and the educational facilities available to you, pick a reputable program that suits your budget, schedule, and the regulatory requirements of your state.
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    Take the test. Although some states allow the professional associations to test their own members, many states require aspiring court reporters to take a licensing test produced by the state. The fees vary, but expect to pay anywhere from $200-$600 total for the exam and licensing fees. Most tests consist of both a written portion and a skills portion. You must pass the written portion of the NCRA's exam with a 70% or better.[5] What constitutes passing differs by state, but typically, the skills portion is in line with the standards set forth by the National Court Reporters Association, which are:
    • Literary at 180 wpm
    • Jury Charge at 200 wpm
    • Testimony/Q&A at 225 wpm
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    Join a professional association. Some states require you to join a professional like the NCRA in order to be fully licensed. If this is the case in your state, be prepared to pay fees ranging $65-$260.

Method 2
Becoming a Verbatim Reporter

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    See if your state allows voice reporters in court. Verbatim Reporters speak into a mouthpiece during the trial and transcribe their recordings later. As of September 2015, only 37 states allowed voice reporters in the courtroom. Although verbatim reporters do have avenues of employment open to them other than court reporting, if you want to be a verbatim court reporter, this should be the first thing you check.[6]
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    Determine what schools are available to you. The list of schools that offer instruction in Verbatim Reporting is smaller than those offering purely stenographic court reporting. Although many of the verbatim training schools offer online courses, if you must be in an in-person classroom, you should investigate other types of court reporting. Find a list of accredited verbatim reporting schools at
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    Budget for the equipment. The equipment for voice reporting is more expensive and more extensive than that for stenographic reporting. Over the course of your training, which will take 6 months to a year, prepare to spend between $1800-$2200 on equipment alone.[7]The tuition costs for any program will of course be much larger, but prepare to spend between $4,000 and $7,000 for tuition at a program endorsed by the National Verbatim Reporters Association.
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    Get tested. Since voice writing--in which the reporter speaks into a mask and it is automatically transcribed onto a data file--is relatively newer than stenography, states that allow voice writing usually allow the NVRA to test and certify that verbatim reporters are ready to work in the field. Testing requirements for the NVRA exam are similar to that required by the NCRA.[8] For the most basic certification, the Certified Verbatim Reporter (CVR), you must score at least 70% on the written portion of the test, and take dictation with real-time transcription with 95% accuracy at:
    • Literary at 180 wpm
    • Jury Charge at 200 wpm
    • Testimony/Q&A at 225 wpm
    • The written test has vocabulary, spelling, punctuation and legal and medical terminology. The dictation and transcription tests assess your speed, accuracy and ability to work silently.
    • The Certificate of Merit (CM) requires higher levels of knowledge, speed and accuracy.
    • The Real-Time Verbatim Reporter (RVR) certification test assesses your real-time transcription, CART reporting and captioning skills.


  • Expect training to become a voice writer to take at least a year and developing proficiency as a real-time voice writer to take up to 2 years.
  • Expect it to take more than 2 years to become proficient enough to be a real-time stenotypist. You must be able to capture at least 225 words per minute to work in a federal court.

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Categories: Legal Careers