Court reporters fill a lot of vital roles in the legal system both in and out of the courtroom in Arkansas, but being the only person between a furious witness and the defendant he was intent on attacking was a new one that emerged during a 2020 murder trial in Benton County Circuit Court.
The details of the case were among the gruesome things that transcriptionists have to deal with all too often… the murder of a 6-year-old boy by his stepfather. During the sentencing phase of the trial, the boy’s stepbrother was on the stand, and asked a question about whether or not the defendant had ever sexually abused him.
In a rush of emotion, the stepbrother jumped out of the witness stand and leapt completely over the astonished court reporter on his way to attack Torres and defense counsel. The anguished witness was quickly taken into custody by bailiffs and no one was injured.
That reporter was probably thinking that they weren’t getting paid enough that particular day, but overall, Arkansas court reporters do quite well for themselves. With an average annual salary of $48,910, or $23.52 per hour, they make exactly $3.00 per hour more than the overall state average while performing important work that provides a front row seat to the judicial process as it unfolds in real time.
You will need a state license through the Arkansas Board of Certified Court Reporter Examiners to become a Certified Court Reporter (CCR) in Arkansas. Follow these steps to learn how:
Step 1. Complete a Certificate or Degree Program in Court Reporting
Earning a degree or certificate is the logical first step to earn your Certified Court Reporter credential through the Arkansas Board of Certified Court Reporter Examiners. You need to develop stenotype or voice writing skills and build your understanding of courtroom procedure and legal terminology, and it takes a formal education to do it.
You’ll need a lot of specialized practical knowledge to succeed as a court reporter, not to mention formal training in how to operate the high-tech transcription machinery that dominates the profession today. That means either a stenotype for traditional finger-keyed typing or a stenomask for voice writing, or both.
A certificate, diploma, or full associate’s degree from an accredited college will give you all of those things and more.
Arkansas is among 37 states that allow voice writers using stenomask machines to serve as court reporters in state courts. Programs that specialize in stenomask training for voice writing can be completed in a handful of months, while it typically takes about three years to really master stenotype at adequate speeds.
In any program you choose, you can expect the curriculum to cover:
- Stenotype or stenomask training and related software
- Fundamentals of taking dictation
- Speed building
- Communication theory
- Medical and legal terminology
- Courtroom and judicial processes
With that kind of training you can also look at getting into CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) captioning work, whether in the courtroom or in TV and online broadcasting.
CART involves real-time transcription of television shows, business and shareholder meetings, speeches from public officials, and other live events that require the spoken word to be turned into text in real time for the hearing-impaired or ESL audiences. It’s a growing part of the court reporting business and makes good use of the skills your education has delivered.
Step 2. Pursue Certification and Membership with a Professional Organization
Arkansas is actually among a relatively short list of states where voice writing court reporters work in the state court system, making the NVRA (National Verbatim Reporters Association) Certified Verbatim Reporter (CVR) credential among other NVRA credentials particularly relevant here.
Stenotype-trained court reporters choose to become members and achieve professional certification through the National Association of Certified Court Reporters as an Registered Professional Reporter (RPR)
Both of these are nationally-recognized credentials that many states use in lieu of formal certification testing and that most employers expect job candidates to have. Arkansas neither requires nor accepts the certifications as part of their licensing process, but, as you’ll see, there are still many benefits to earning a credential like this before you proceed on that path.
The tests for either certification agency are broken down into two components: a skills test and a written knowledge exam.
NVRA testing is all handled in person; the NCRA offers the skills test entirely online and written testing through Pearson VUE at a variety of locations nationwide. The tests cost the following amounts for each component:
- NVRA – $150
- NCRA – $120 / $95 for members / $77 for students
- NVRA – $125
- NCRA – $220 / $195 for members / $160 for students
Another valuable certification is the Certified Electronic Reporter (CER) through the AAERT (American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers). This is aimed at reporters specializing in digital recording and annotation, a new trend in the field that is coming into more and more courtrooms across the nation.
Step 3. Pass the Arkansas Certification Examination
When you are fully prepared, you may apply to take the Arkansas Certification Examination, which also includes both a written and skills test:
The written test assesses individuals in:
- General knowledge
- Rules governing preparation of transcripts
You must score at least 75 percent to pass the written portion of the test.
The skills test is all but identical to the NCRA and NVRA tests, so if you have already passed those, you are in good shape at this point.
To apply to take the certification examination and receive the designation of certified court reporter in Arkansas, you must complete the Certification Examination application, pay the $75 application fee, and complete the Criminal Background Check form, which is required for all applicants. The form, which is attached to the examination application, must be completed and sent with the test application, along with $25 for the background check.
The completed application, criminal background check form, and related fees must be mailed to:
State of Arkansas
Board of Certified Court Reporter Examiners
625 Marshall Street
Little Rock, AR 72201
You may prepare to take the examination by reading the CCR Exam Instructions posted on the Board website.
Step 4. Get to Work as a Court Reporter in Arkansas
Employment opportunities may be found through Arkansas’ Judiciary:
Or through the private sector in one of the state’s many large court reporting agencies that provide services to businesses, courts and law offices on a contract basis:
Step 5. Maintain Your Certification in Arkansas
All court report certifications must be renewed on an annual basis on January 1, and the cost of renewal is $50.
The reporting period for continuing education credits is every 3 years on January 1, at which time certification holders must show the completion of at least 30 continuing education credits. Any credits over the required 30 may be carried over into the next reporting period.
This requirement overlaps with the continuing education that the RPR and CVR certifications require. Both of the parent organizations behind those certs offer many acceptable continuing education opportunities, but it’s also worth your while to consider joining ACRA, the Arkansas Court Reporters Association.
For a $100 per year membership cost, you’ll not only get access to their own continuing ed opportunities, but you’ll be kept informed about the latest issues and information affecting court reporting in the state, as well as enjoy an excellent source for new job opportunities or networking with fellow professionals.
Arkansas Court Reporting Salary
Arkansas not only offers a very competitive salary to court reporters today, but it also offers great opportunity to enter the profession in the future. The 200 court reporters in the state are projected to expand their ranks by an astonishing 15 percent over the next six years, about 15 times the overall average rate in the United States.
Between new jobs being created and openings in existing positions, that comes to about 20 new openings each year across the state. Each of those will pay, on average, $23.52 per hour or $48,910 annually, with the numbers going up considerably for those with the right kind of experience and advanced certifications, as outlined below.
Although there’s no breakdown for major cities in the state like Little Rock or Fayetteville, you can expect to find wages higher than the state average in any urban center with a concentration of lawyers and courts.
Annual Salaries For Court Reporters in Arkansas
- Median – $48,910
- More experienced – $57,760
- Certified and experienced – $65,120
Hourly Wages For Court Reporters in Arkansas
- Median – $23.52
- More experienced – $27.77
- Certified and experienced – $31.31
*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 court reporters 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.
2019 job growth projections from the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services are aggregated through the U.S. Department of Labor-Sponsored resource, Projections Central. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
All salary and employment data accessed June 2020.