Education and training. The amount of training required to become a court reporter varies with the type of reporting chosen. It usually takes less than a year to become a novice voice writer, although it takes at least 2 years to become proficient at real-time voice writing. Electronic reporters and transcribers learn their skills on the job. The average length of time it takes to become a real-time stenographic court reporter is 33 months. Training is offered by about 100 postsecondary vocational and technical schools and colleges. The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) has certified more than 60 programs, all of which offer courses in stenotype computer-aided transcription and real-time reporting. NCRA-certified programs require students to capture a minimum of 225 words per minute, a requirement for Federal Government employment as well.

Electronic court reporters use audio-capture technology and, therefore, usually learn their skills on the job. Students read manuals, review them with their trainers, and observe skilled electronic transcribers perform procedures. Court electronic transcribers generally obtain initial technical training from a vendor when the audio -capture technology is placed in service, with further court-specific training provided on the job. In a private company or organization, hands-on training occurs under direct supervision of an established practitioner or firm.

Licensure. Some States require voice writers to pass a test and to earn State licensure. As a substitute for State licensure, the National Verbatim Reporters Association offers three national certifications to voice writers: Certified Verbatim Reporter (CVR), Certificate of Merit (CM), and Real-Time Verbatim Reporter (RVR). Earning these certifications is sufficient for licensure in States where the voice method of court reporting is permitted. Candidates for the CVR must pass a written test involving spelling, punctuation, and vocabulary, legal and medical terminology, as well as three 5-minute dictation and transcription examinations that test for speed, accuracy, and silence. The CM requires additional levels of speed, knowledge, and accuracy. The RVR certification measures the candidate's skill at real-time transcription, judicial reporting, CART reporting, and captioning, including webcasting. To retain these certifications, the voice writer must obtain continuing education credits. Credits are given for voice writer education courses, continuing legal education courses, and college courses.

Some States require court reporters to be notary publics. Others require the Certified Court Reporter (CCR) designation, for which a reporter must pass a State test administered by a board of examiners.

Other qualifications. In addition to possessing speed and accuracy, court reporters must have excellent listening skills and hearing, good English grammar and vocabulary, and punctuation skills. Court reporters also must work well under time and deadline pressures and be able to concentrate for long periods. They must be aware of business practices and current events, as well as the correct spelling of names of people, places, and events that may be mentioned in a broadcast or in court proceedings. For those who work in courtrooms, an expert knowledge of legal terminology and criminal and appellate procedure is essential. Because capturing proceedings requires the use of computerized stenography or speech recognition equipment, court reporters must be knowledgeable about computer hardware and software applications. Voice writers must learn to listen and speak simultaneously and very quickly and quietly, while also identifying speakers and describing peripheral activities in the courtroom or deposition room.

Certification and advancement. Certifications can help court reporters get jobs and advance in their careers. Several associations offer certifications for different types of reporters.

The National Court Reporters Association confers the entry-level designation Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) upon those who pass a four-part examination and participate in mandatory continuing education programs. Although voluntary, the designation is recognized as a mark of distinction in the field.

A court reporter may obtain additional certifications that demonstrate higher levels of experience and competency, such as Registered Merit Reporter (RMR) and Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR). The NCRA also offers the designations Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR), Certified Broadcast Captioner (CBC), and Certified CART Provider (CCP), designed primarily for those who caption media programs or assist people who are deaf.

With experience and education, court reporters also can receive certification in administrative and management, consulting, or teaching positions.

The United States Court Reporters Association offers another voluntary certification designation, the Federal Certified Realtime Reporter (FCRR), for court reporters working in Federal courts. The exam is designed to test the basic real-time skills of Federal court reporters and is recognized by the Administrative Office for the United States District Courts for purposes of real-time certification.

The American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT) certifies electronic court reporters. Certification is voluntary and includes a written and a practical examination. To be eligible to take the exams, candidates must have at least 2 years of court reporting or transcribing experience, must be eligible for notary public commissions in their States, and must have completed high school. AAERT offers three types of certificates: Certified Electronic Court Reporter (CER), Certified Electronic Court Transcriber (CET), and Certified Electronic Court Reporter and Transcriber (CERT). Some employers may require electronic court reporters and transcribers to obtain certificates once they are eligible.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition, Interpreters and Translators, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos175.htm (visited 11th August 2010)

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