Alabama has a special spot in the hearts of court reporters and legal drama aficionados as the setting for the fictional town of Maycomb that is at the heart of the beloved novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Probably based on little Monroeville, where author Harper Lee grew up, the novel features some of the most heroic and memorable courtroom scenes in American literature.
Harper Lee studied law at the University of Alabama but she became known for her writing instead. Even though court reporters here won’t ever be as widely read, the stakes in real life court cases are a lot higher, and their readers, however limited, are just as grateful.
The average pay for court reporters down in ‘Bama hovers comfortably around the state median, coming in at $44,660, or $21.47 per hour. And those jobs aren’t hard to find. Sleepy, picturesque old Montgomery has the fourth highest concentration of court reporting jobs in the nation as of 2020, for instance.
All court reporters practicing in the State of Alabama must be licensed as Certified Court Reporters (CCR) through the Alabama Board of Court Reporting. The Board is also responsible for testing, regulatory matters and disciplinary procedures for court reporters in the state.
Follow these steps to become a court reporter in Alabama:
All court reporters practicing in the State of Alabama must be licensed by the Alabama Board of Court Reporting. The Alabama Board of Court Reporting is also responsible for the testing, certification and disciplinary procedures for court reporters in the state.
Step 1. Complete an Approved Court Reporter Educational Program
The first step to becoming a court reporter in Alabama is to get your training through a program approved by the Alabama Board of Court Reporting.
The Board defers to the Council on Approved Student Education (CASE), the curriculum development and training approval arm of the the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA), to determine which programs meet the standards of training required of professionals in the field.
NCRA-approved court reporter training includes certificate and diploma programs, as well as associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in the following areas:
- Judicial Reporting
- Professional Transcription
- Office Assistant
- Court and Realtime Reporting
An associate’s degree is a broad-based, two-year program with both court-reporting specific training and broader college coursework. Bachelor’s programs are four years in length and include far more liberal arts education along with domain-specific subjects. Diploma and other programs take far less time to complete, but are concentrated almost entirely in certain specific areas of court reporting, like electronic reporting or stenographic transcription.
Step 2. Pass the ACRA Skills Exam and Consider NCRA Certification
You have the option of applying for a temporary license in Alabama that will allow you to work under the supervision of a state-licensed court reporter for up to 18 months, during which time you must pass the exams required to become a Certified Court Reporter (CCR) in the state. The temporary license requires you to furnish proof of having completed a qualifying program and cannot be renewed.
You are free to skip the temporary licensing process and move straight into earning your CCR and becoming licensed after completing an approved program in court reporting. This will involve providing the Alabama Board of Court Reporters with proof of having completed an approved program before going on to take both knowledge and skills based exams.
Alabama is one of several states that either accept or use NCRA’s Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) certification, or the Certified Verbatim Reporter (CVR) certification from the NVRA (National Verbatim Reporters Association) as the path to qualifying for state licensure. This means you have the option of earning the nationally recognized RPR or CVR certification en route to becoming a Certified Court Reporter in Alabama, if you’re interested in holding a credential that’s recognized and respected around the country.
It also means you have the option of taking the skills test either through the NCRA, NVRA, or the Alabama Court Reporters Association (ACRA), a state-based organization that represents and advocates for professional court reporters. The ACRA Alabama Skills Examination is closely aligned with the NCRA and NVRA skills tests, respectively.
The exam involves taking dictation of three separate five-minute recordings and meeting the word per minute requirement for each of the three categories:
- Literary at 180 wpm
- Jury charge at 200 wpm
- Testimony/Q&A at 225 wpm
After dictation of each five-minute recording, you will have 75 minutes to transcribe your notes. You must score 95 percent (accuracy) on each part to pass.
You can take the NCRA skills test entirely online, while the NVRA and ACRA handle their testing in person.
The RPR skills text requires a fee of $120 for non-members, while members pay just $95 and student members pay $77. NVRA’s skill tests is $150. You are also eligible to receive your CVR if you hold an RPR already and pay a $50 transfer fee.
If you are an ACRA member (which costs $105 per year) or just prefer to test through the local organization have no interest in RPR certification, you’ll find the ACRA administers the Certified Court Reporter (CCR) skills exam twice a year, in June (live or via Zoom) and October at the Gadsden State Community College. The cost of taking the CCR exam is $75.
Step 3. Pass the NCRA or NVRA Written Exam
After passing the skills exam, you’ll go on to take a written knowledge test. ACRA does not offer this portion of the exam, so you’ll have to go with the NCRA or NVRA written tests even if you are not going on to earn their credentials.
The RPR written exam is a 120-question, multiple-choice test that covers:
- Technology: 43%
- Reporting practices: 34%
- Professional practices and ethics: 23%
You must receive a scaled score of 70 or better to pass the exam. The NVRA test is substantially similar.
You must first register with NCRA and submit your exam fee of $195 if you are a NCRA member or $220 if you are not, before you can register to take the exam. Student members pay just $160. The NVRA test is only $125.
Once you have registered, you can schedule your test online and learn about upcoming NCRA testing dates through Pearson VUE. Pearson VUE also offers a testing tutorial and practice exam to help you prepare for the exam. Pearson VUE testing centers are located in:
Step 4. Apply for a License through the Alabama Board of Court Reporting
Once you have successfully completed all required exams, you may apply for a license to practice as a court reporter in Alabama. You must complete the application and include the following documents with your application:
- A current photo, taken within the last 6 months
- Proof of a passing all licensure examinations
- Application fee of $50
- License fee of $200
- Proof of graduation from a court reporting school (copy of diploma)
- Proof of citizenship (POC form at the end of the application)
Mail the completed application and all related documents to:
Alabama Board of Court Reporting
P.O. Box 241565
Montgomery, AL 36124-0066
Upon acceptance of your application, the Board will issue you a license as a certified court reporter and provide you with an identifying number. All court reporting licenses in Alabama are renewed annually on September 30th.
Step 5. Get to Work as a Court Reporter in Alabama
Many Alabama court reporters join professional associations, such as the Alabama Court Reporters Association for access to networking and other professional opportunities.
Professional opportunities abound for court reports in Alabama’s Unified Judicial System, which includes:
- Supreme Court of Alabama
- Court of Civil Appeals
- Court of Criminal Appeals
- Administrative Offices of the Courts
Some of the larger court reporting/stenography firms in Alabama include:
- Bain & Associates
- Eagle Court Reporting
- Alabama Court Reporting
Many court reporters today also find themselves qualified to perform work in CART, or Communication Access Realtime Translation captioning. This provides real-time transcription for television shows, business presentations, or other live events that require accommodation for hearing impaired or ESL audiences.
Although it won’t help you with official Alabama court reporting work, you might also consider looking into becoming a Certified Electronic Reporter (CER). Offered by the AAERT (American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers), this certification focuses on digital recording and transcription work, which other businesses and industries are increasingly relying upon for recording work.
Step 6. Maintain Your Alabama Court Reporter License
You may renew your license during the 60 days preceding its expiration by completing an application for renewal and paying the renewal fee of $200.
You must show proof of at least 5 hours of continuing education to renew your court reporter license in Alabama. Any hours over 5 may be rolled over to the next renewal date.
If you earned the RPR en route to becoming licensed in Alabama, maintaining that certification requires you to keep your membership current and show proof of completing 3 continuing education units (CEUs) every three years. For CVR holders, it’s 20 credits over two years. The 5 hours of state-mandated continuing education can be applied to this requirement.
Continuing education may be obtained through an NCRA or ACRA activity or course, or other approved activities.
Alabama Court Reporting Salary
There were just under 400 court reporters active in Alabama as of 2020 according to the state Department of Labor, but the agency expects a 2.6 percent increase in that number by 2026. Along the way, you can expect to see around 30 openings annually, a combination of both that increase and new jobs being created.
The greater Birmingham metro area leads the way in starting and mid-level salaries, while the Montgomery area will get the average reporter $10,000, or around $7 per hour, less.
Experience pays all over the state, though. If you have the right certifications and enough experience, you’ll find that at the high end, you can make even more in Montgomery as in the Birmingham area.
Annual Salaries For Court Reporters in Major Alabama Metropolitan Areas
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are the types of salaries that court reporters are finding in the major urban areas of Alabama. Since many court reporters work on a contract basis, we provide both the annual salaries that a regular court employee might make, as well as the hourly compensation that individuals might pull in working freelance on depositions or other case-by-case business.
Birmingham (greater Birmingham, including Hoover)
- Median – $41,660
- More experienced – $48,430
- Certified and experienced – $56,230
- Median – $27,520
- More experienced – $56,220
- Certified and experienced – $56,240
Hourly Wages For Court Reporters in Major Alabama Metropolitan Areas
Birmingham (greater Birmingham, including Hoover)
- Median – $20.03
- More experienced – $23.28
- Certified and experienced – $27.04
- Median – $13.23
- More experienced – $270.03
- Certified and experienced – $27.04
*Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2019. Figures represent accumulated data for all employment sectors in which private investigators work. BLS salary data represents state and MSA (metropolitan statistical area) average and median earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries.
All salary and employment data accessed May 2020.