Travel is often part of the court reporter’s job, but Alaska really pushes that obligation to the extremes. In most of the country, real-time reporters who need to attend and record an off-site deposition might expect to drive across town, or, at most, spend a couple hours in a car to a smaller town without independent reporters.
On the Last Frontier, though, those little trips can turn into an odyssey that involves climbing in and out of bush planes and hopping over some of the highest mountains on the continent, or getting into a small boat to be ferried to a tiny village on a remote, rainy island somewhere in the Southeast. Litigation service firms here operate with mottoes like “No deposition is too remote!”
The courts here, too, operate on the old-fashioned circuit rider system, with judges and lawyers and reporters making the rounds monthly to remote villages to try cases. There’s nothing about being a real-time reporter here that isn’t an adventure, but like anywhere else in the country, a reporter with the right certifications and training can make a comfortable middle class income… and go home with some incredible stories at the end of the day.
In the absence of any state issued licensure or certification, becoming a court reporter in Alaska is all about developing the right skills through a formal training program and earning a national credential that employers and courts around the county respect and recognize.
|Complete a Court Reporter Education and Training Program|
|Earn a Certification in Court Reporting For Maximum Recognition in Alaska|
|Find Work as a Realtime Reporter in Alaska|
|Stay Current and Certified in Your Profession|
Step 1. Complete a Court Reporter Education and Training Program
Court reporter educational programs are offered as certificate or diploma programs that can be completed in less than 18 months through a specialized court reporter/stenography school, as well as associate degree programs through community colleges and technical schools (lasting two years), and and even bachelor’s degrees (four years) for the most ambitious.
You can select from court reporting programs recognized by the Council on Approved Student Education (CASE), the curriculum development and program approval division within the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA).
If you’re not already familiar with NCRA, you will be soon. They evaluate programs to ensure that they are up-to-date and contain courses on subjects such as:
- Judicial Process and procedures
- Machine shorthand stenography
A full college degree will expand on these basic elements with more liberal arts and communication training, while certificate and degree programs may be quite narrowly focused on only a certain specialized aspect of reporting processes.
Step 2. Earn a Certification in Court Reporting For Maximum Recognition in Alaska
NCRA is not only the standard bearer for education and training in the field, the organization offers several nationally recognized court reporter certifications, from entry-level to advanced.
Although earning the NCRA’s standard entry-level Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) certification is a completely voluntary process in Alaska since there are no state laws that require it, you’ll find that, or the very similar NVRA (National Verbatim Reporters Association) Certified Verbatim Reporter (CVR), are essentially a de-facto requirement. Either one tells prospective employers and the courts that you have the skills, training, and ethical and procedural knowledge necessary to be recognized as a trusted, professional court reporter.
Both tests involve written and skills components. The NCRA allows skills tests to occur online, while the NVRA process is entirely in-person.
The written portion of the RPR certification examination is administered by the third-party testing firm Pearson VUE, so you’ll be registering for it separately.
The NCRA written knowledge test consists of 120, multiple-choice questions that include the following content:
- Technology used in the field: 43%
- Reporting practices: 34%
- Professional practices and ethical considerations: 23%
You must receive a scaled score of 70 or better to pass the exam. The NVRA exam is substantially similar.
For the skills component, both certifications are all but identical. You are given five minutes to record notes in each of the following categories at the minimum speeds:
- Literary at 180 wpm
- Jury charge at 200 wpm
- Testimony/Q&A at 225 wpm
Afterward, you’ll have 75 minutes to clean up those notes and produce a solid transcript of the session that is 95 percent or better accurate.
The costs of testing are:
- NVRA – $150
- NCRA – $120 / $95 for members / $77 for students
- NVRA – $125
- NCRA – $220 / $195 for members / $160 for students
It’s also possible to get your CVR if you already have an RPR for only a filling fee of $50.
For certain positions in Alaska, it might also benefit you to earn the Certified Electronic Reporter (CER) from AAERT (American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers), a certification that focuses on digital and video recording and transcription versus realtime efforts.
Step 3. Find Work as a Realtime Reporter in Alaska
With a strong resume and the right certification in hand, you’ll find employment opportunities in Alaska’s Judicial System primarily through one of the state courts:
- Appellate Courts (Supreme Court, Court of Appeals)
- Trial Courts (Superior Court, District Courts)
And if working for a private company is more your thing, you’ll find a number of firms in the state that contract their services to various courts and law offices throughout Alaska, and around the country:
- Pacific Rim Reporting in Anchorage
- Atkinson-Baker, Inc. Court Reporters (national)
- Glacier Stenographic Reporters, Inc in Juneau
In Alaska and elsewhere, CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) captioning jobs are also a viable option for trained and certified court reporters. These positions involve real-time transcription of television, radio, or other important presentations that need to be translated for the hard-of-hearing or ESL audiences.
Step 4. Stay Current and Certified in Your Profession
A great way to enjoy networking and professional opportunities is through a professional association. Of course, at this point you’ll likely already be a member of the NCRA or NVRA, and we would encourage you to also get to know your local professional organization, the Alaska Shorthand Reporters Association.
With the lack of licensing requirements for court reporters in Alaska, it is not uncommon for employers to look for qualified court reporters through professional associations. That’s because they can count on members being held to the highest standards of verbatim reporting and professional ethics.
Professional associations are also an excellent way to keep up on the continuing education required for certification renewal. The RPR requires 3 CEUs every three years, while the CVR requires 20 credits every two years. You’ll find plenty of options to fill these through those respective organizations or the local chapter.
Alaska Court Reporting Salary
There are so few court reporters working in the Great White North that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t even keep tabs on the state. But the Alaska State Department of Labor and Workforce Development does, and their numbers show something a bit surprising: as of 2016, they estimated 578 court reporters working across the state—twice the number of, say, Washington State, which has 7 million residents compared to Alaska’s not quite 700,000.
There is, of course, good reason to suspect those estimates, and they are older than other nationally-provided data. But that’s the official word for now!
You’ll find that, contrary to how things work down in the Lower 48, the big bucks for court reporters in Alaska are pulled down outside the major urban area. There’s probably good reason for that, since the judicial system relies on extensive travel to small villages and municipalities and the added challenge makes for increased wages.
Hourly Wages For Court Reporters in Anchorage and Elsewhere in Alaska
Anchorage (including the Mat-Su area)
- Median – $22.06
- More experienced – $25.33
- Certified and experienced – $30.09
Other Areas of Alaska
- Median – $26.69
- More experienced – $31.59
- Certified and experienced – $40.53
*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 June 2020.