To most people, court reporters are just wallpaper, little more than background players in modern courtroom proceedings. There’s a tremendous amount of training and skill that goes into the job, though. They have to have a stoic disposition and can’t be easily rattled, even when taking dictation in cases like the murder trial of Muscogee’s Antonio Magee. It’s a job that requires razor sharp focus and precision, and there’s real consequences for getting things wrong.
Magee was convicted in 2008 for the killing of his girlfriend in 2005 and was sentenced to life in prison. But in 2017, that all went out the window when it turned out that the court reporter at his trial had lost her certification before transcribing the case, and turned in a transcript that was so riddled with errors that the appellate court found more than 1,300 mistakes in the document – an average of 4.6 errors per page.
With complete audio recordings also missing, a judge concluded that no accurate representation of the trial existed.
Whether Magee was guilty or not, it’s a clear case of botched justice and a convincing argument for ensuring that court reporters in the field today undergo rigorous training and certification before they take their posts in Georgia courtrooms.
The Board of Court Reporting of the Judicial Council of Georgia is the agency responsible for certifying the state’s court reporters – a credential you must obtain to be able to legally work in the state.
Review the details in the following step-by-step guide to learn how to become a court reporter in Georgia:
|Meet Georgia Prerequisites|
|Choose an Agency for Certification in Georgia|
|Certification by the Board of Court Reporting of the Judicial Council of Georgia|
|Maintain your Certifications in Georgia|
|Working in Georgia|
Step 1. Meeting Appropriate Georgia Prerequisites
Both the NVRA and the Board of Court Reporting of the Judicial Council of Georgia require their candidates for testing and approval, respectively, to have the appropriate skills developed through court reporter schools in the state that are approved by either the NCRA, NVRA, or both.
After completing training, the next step to working as a Georgia court reporter is to become certified through one of these two agencies:
- National Court Reporters Associate (NCRA)
- National Verbatim Reporters Association (NVRA)
Becoming certified through these organizations requires passing their certification tests, which in turn have certain prerequisites. Certification by either agency is acceptable to the Georgia Board of Court Reporting, and their exam prerequisites are as follows:
- The NCRA requires that their test candidates are stenographic reporters
- The NVRA requires test candidates to:
- Attend a $125 workshop
- Become a member of the NVRA
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Step 2. Choosing an Agency for Certification in Georgia
Of the several certification programs offered by the NCRA, you will want to choose to become a Registered Professional Reporter. This involves passing a written knowledge test (WKT) and a separate skills test. You are given 105 minutes to complete the WKT, which is comprised of 115 multiple-choice questions covering:
- Professional practices
- Reporting practices
Your skills test will involve a dictation at the following rates:
- Jury charge at 200 words per minute
- Literary at 180 words per minute
- Q&A and testimony at 225 words per minute
After the dictation you are allowed 75 minutes to transcribe your notes to an accuracy of at least 95 percent. You can register for both the written knowledge test (WKT) and skills test online. The cost for each exam is as follows:
- Written Knowledge Test:
- NCRA member: $185 (student $150)
- Non-member: $210 (student $210)
- Skills Test:
- NCRA member: $170 (student $135)
- Non-member: $210 (student $210)
The NVRA’s Certified Verbatim Reporter (CVR) credential is also accepted by the Board of Court Reporting of the Judicial Council of Georgia for state employment. To gain this certification, you will need to pass a $125 written knowledge test and a $150 skills test. This latter evaluation is divided into three five-minute dictation tests, requiring a 95 percent accuracy rate in the following areas:
- 200 words per minute jury charge
- 180 words per minute literary
- 225 words per minute two-voice Q&A
You can register for both these exams online.
Step 3. Certification by the Board of Court Reporting of the Judicial Council of Georgia
Once you have been certified by either the NCRA or NVRA you may apply for certification with the Board of Court Reporting of the Judicial Council of Georgia. This involves completing the following:
- An application for a Georgia Certification
- $125 certification fee
- Passing the Georgia State Board of Court Reporting Test (an open book test)
Once you have submitted these you will have fulfilled the court reporting license requirements in Georgia and be ready to go to work when your state certificate comes in the mail.
Step 4. Maintaining your Certifications in Georgia
In order to maintain your Registered Professional Reporter Certificate you will need to earn at least three continuing education units (CEUs) over a three-year period and keep your NCRA membership up to date. At least one of the three CEUs must be from an ACCET-approved activity, and you may choose to earn all your CEUs from these activities. Annual membership rates with the NCRA vary depending on which type of membership you would like to obtain:
- Participating Membership for $260, available to professional court reporters
- Student Membership for $65, available to students who are enrolled in a court reporting educational program
- Associate Membership for $155, for vendors, attorneys, paralegals, instructors and school officials
You must also pay a $25 certification renewal fee to the NCRA every year.
Maintaining your NVRA Certified Verbatim Reporter credential requires the following:
- Annual renewal of your NVRA membership
- Student: $100
- Military: First year free (2-year average $135)
- Associate: $185
- General: $200
- Completion of 30 continuing education (CE) credits every three-year cycle
Renewing your Georgia License
Just as you must keep your NCRA or NVRA certifications up to date, so too must you keep your Georgia court reporter license current. This involves an annual renewal process that must be completed before the end of the work day on April 1st of every year, and requires the following:
Step 5. Working in Georgia
As you begin researching employment opportunities in the state you may consider reaching out to professional organizations such as the Georgia Certified Court Reporters Association (GCCRA). These can be very helpful in providing local networking resources, information on continuing education or additional court reporter training, and any developments with Georgia court reporting schools. Over half of the state’s court reporters are employed in the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta area, who in 2012 numbered 400. Additional concentrations of court reporters can be found in:
- Augusta Municipal Court
- Columbus Magistrate Court
- Eastern Judicial Circuit Court in Savannah
- Macon Municipal Court
- Athens-Clark County Juvenile Court
Prominent court reporting firms across the state include:
- Professional Court Reporters in Atlanta
- Alliance of South Georgia Court Reporters
- Brown Reporting
- Kathleen Humphrey and Associates
Georgia Court Reporting Salary
Although the average salaries for Georgia court reporters are below the state median, you can improve your opportunities through the right kind of certifications and by getting experience in the field. At the top end, court reporters here can make $93,160 per year, or $44.79 per hour, which compares favorably with the region as a whole.
There are also plenty of jobs available, with a projected growth rate of 4.3 percent in the field during the two-year period from 2019 to 2021. That will result in about 50 job openings each year, a combination of turnover in current positions and new jobs opening up.
Many of those will be found in the northern part of the state, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks as fifth in the nation for employment concentration for court reporters. But urban areas tend to have the edge when it comes to salary levels. Atlanta is an exception to this, ranking below the median for reporters at every level, but in Savannah, you can expect to make almost $15,000 per year more than the state median, which works out to $7 per hour more.
Annual Salaries For Court Reporters in Major Georgia Metropolitan Areas including Atlanta and Savannah
Atlanta (and surrounding area including Roswell and Sandy Springs)
- Median – $27,870
- More experienced – $59,270
- Certified and experienced – $93,020
- Median – $53,270
- More experienced – $75,300
- Certified and experienced – $83,080
Hourly Wages For Court Reporters in Major Georgia Metropolitan Areas including Atlanta and Savannah
Atlanta (and surrounding area including Roswell and Sandy Springs)
- Median – $13.40
- More experienced – $28.50
- Certified and experienced – $44.72
- Median – $25.61
- More experienced – $36.20
- Certified and experienced – $39.94
*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 Georgia Department of Labor 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.