If you want to learn how to become a court reporter in California, you must complete a number of necessary steps:
California ranked second in the nation, only behind Maryland, for its employment of court reporters. It also ranked second, only behind New York, for its pay of court reporters, with an average yearly salary of $76,840 as of May 2012.
The California Court Reporters Board, within the Department of Consumer Affairs, is responsible for the oversight of the court reporting profession, which includes testing, licensing, and disciplining court reporters. The California Court Reporters Board is also responsible for recognizing schools that meet state curriculum standards for court reporters.
Step 1. Meet Minimum Requirements for California Licensure
The California Court Reporters Board requires candidates for court reporter licensure to:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Possess a high school education or its equivalent
- Not have committed any crimes that would be ground for denial of licensure
Candidates must also be able to show proof of ONE of the following:
- 12 months of full-time work experience in making shorthand writing and transcribing
- An RPR Certificate or Certificate of Merit from the National Court Reporters Association (NCPA)
- A valid certified shorthand reporter’s certificate or license to practice in Georgia, Nevada or Texas
- A verified certificate of completion from a California Recognized Court Reporting School
Step 2. Complete an Approved Court Reporter Educational Program
If you want to practice as a court reporter in California, and you do not have prior experience, an RPR or Certificate of Merit from the NCPA, or a reciprocal court reporter license or certificate from Georgia, Nevada or Texas, you must complete a court reporter educational program that is recognized by the California Court Reporters Board.
State-approved court reporter programs include a set number of hours/credits related to:
- Transcript preparation
- Resource materials
- Apprentice training
Graduates must be able to type at least 45 wpm and complete a total of 660 academic hours and 2,300 machine hours.
Explore Other Education Options Related to Criminal Justice and Legal Studies
Here you’ll find schools that offer certificate and degree programs well suited to a career in legal assisting, law office management and the paralegal profession.
Step 3. Pass the California Licensing Exam
The California Court Reporters Board requires the successful completion of a three-part licensing exam, which requires 200 wpm and an accuracy rate of 97.5 percent. The licensure exam includes both written and performance sections.
You must first complete an Application for Examination as a Certified Shorthand Reporter and send it to the Board, along with:
- A filing fee of $40
- An initial certificate fee of $75
- Two current passport photos (2”x 2”)
- 2 fingerprint cards and a $49 fingerprint processing fee (for out-of-state applicants)
Mail the completed application packet and related documentation and fees to:
Court Reporters Board of California
2535 Capitol Oaks Drive, Suite 230
Sacramento, CA 95883
Step 4. Sit for the Dictation and Transcription Exam
Upon receipt of your application packet, you will receive a Final Notice of Examination form that includes a testing time, date and location for your dictation exam. If your application is incomplete or not accepted, you will instead receive a Rejection of Application letter.
You will be required to show your Final Notice of Examination form and two approved forms of photo identification (driver’s license, U.S. passport, certification of naturalization, military ID, etc.) before being admitted into the exam room.
The dictation and transcription exam includes four-voice dictation from an actual court or deposition transcript at 200 wpm for 12 to 13 minutes. Allow 3 hours for transcription. You will be permitted to bring your stenotype machine and tripod into the examination room.
Step 5. Sit for the Written Examinations in California
Upon your application approval, you will receive a Candidate Information Bulletin from PSI that includes a unique identification number and instructions how to schedule your exam through PSI.
PSI Testing Centers are located in:
- Walnut Creek
- Santa Rosa
- Santa Clara
- San Francisco
- San Diego
- El Monte
Step 6. Get to Work as a Court Reporter in California
Upon successfully passing all examinations and qualifying for your court reporter license in California by completing an Application for Licensure for New Licensee, you may seek employment in California’s court system:
There are also many professional opportunities in the private sector, including the following large court reporting/stenographer agencies:
- California Deposition Reporters, Covina
- Toby Feldman Incorporated, nationwide
- Hahn & Bowerstock, nationwide
- M&M Court Reporters, Santa Ana
- R&R Reporting, Riverside
- Beach Court Reporting, Orange County
- Northern California Court Reporters, Sacramento
A number of professional and networking opportunities are also available through membership in the California Court Reporters Association.
Step 7. Maintain your California License
All court reporter licenses in California are renewed on an annual basis. You must apply for renewal by completing a Renewal Conviction Certification form and submitting a renewal fee of $125.
California Court Reporting Salary
There are a number of reasons why California is a lucrative state in which to work as a court reporter or stenographer. Statistics for 2012 provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) include the following:
- California had the second highest level of employment in the country.
- It had the second highest average salaries of any state.
California also contains the metropolitan area with the highest employment level of any such area in the country: Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale.
The field of court reporting is increasing in California. The state’s Employment Development Department (EDD) estimates the number of jobs to increase by 8.7% in the state as a whole from 2010 to 2020. Job growth is projected to be even greater in certain regions of California that are shown below:
- San Francisco Bay area – 20% increase
- Sutter and Yuba Counties – 20% increase
- San Diego County – 12.5% increase
- Inland Empire area – 10% increase
- Los Angeles County – 9.4% increase
The BLS indicated that the annual median salary for court reporters in California was $82,800 with those in the top ten percent of their salary bracket making $105,720 a year. According to the EDD, the median wage for these professionals in the first quarter of 2013 was $83,920.
According to the BLS, the following cities were among the highest paying metropolitan areas in the country for court reporters based on their average salary in 2012:
- Riverside – 3rd highest paying
- San Diego – 4th highest paying
- San Francisco – 9th highest paying
2012 average salaries for some of the major cities in California are listed below:
- Los Angeles – $74,030
- Riverside – $83,590
- Sacramento – $69,520
- San Diego – $83,100
- San Francisco – $75,500
The BLS provides detailed salary information from 2012 for these and other areas of California in the following table: