If job security, working as a skilled professional, and the preservation of the public record are important to you then consider what it takes to become a court reporter in Illinois:
|Training to Become a Court Reporter in Illinois|
|Pass a Court Reporter Examination|
|Submitting your Application|
|Begin Working as a Court Reporter in Illinois|
Illinois is divided into five judicial districts and 24 judicial circuits, as well as an Appellate Court and Supreme Court. Once court reporters have gained qualification through the Certified Shorthand Reporters Board (CSRB) of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) they will be ready to seek employment in the state and pursue what can be a challenging and fulfilling career. Last year there were 560 certified court reporters working in Illinois, earning an average annual salary of $48,170.
Step 1. Training to Become a Court Reporter in Illinois
The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), through the Certified Shorthand Reporters Board (CSRB), recognizes three exams which upon passage will qualify you to become a certified shorthand reporter (CSR). One of these exams is sponsored by the CSRB and the other two are sponsored by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA).
Being prepared through a formal associate’s or bachelor’s level training program to pass one of these exams is essential to becoming certified. The primary professional agency in the state, the Illinois Court Reporters Association (ILCRA), as well as the National Court Reporters Association recommend court reporter schools located in:
- Oak Forest
Because court reporter jobs in Illinois require commitment and skill, the state legislature mandates that you meet the following minimum conditions:
- Be of good moral character, and free of any felony convictions
- Have graduated from high school or have proved an equivalency
- Be prepared through college courses to pass a court reporter examination
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 2. Passing a Court Reporter Examination
Once your court reporter training is complete you will be ready to take a final exam that is required to become certified in Illinois. You have the choice to take your exam through the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) or through the NCRA, agencies whose testing criteria vary slightly as will now be detailed.
The IDFPR’s exam is comprised of two parts, a written knowledge portion and a dictation portion. The written knowledge part will test you over:
- English language, vocabulary, and punctuation
- The Illinois Certified Shorthand Reporters Act
The dictation portion is divided into two sections, with 90 minutes allowed for the transcription of each, which must be completed with at least a 95 percent accuracy rate:
- 5-minute general dictation at 200 words per minute
- 5-minute testimony dictation with two voices at 225 words per minute
The exam is offered three times a year and will require about $75 in fees. You can register for this online or by sending a complete application to the state’s exam contracting agency, Continental Testing Services in LaGrange.
The NCRA offers many certification programs for court reporters, two of which are recognized by the IDFPR as conferring eligibility to practice in Illinois:
- Registered Professional Reporter (RPR)
- Registered Merit Reporter (RMR)
Since becoming certified as an RMR requires completion of the RPR certification program, this latter will be detailed here. To become an RPR you will need to pass an exam which includes a written knowledge test and a skills test. This first multiple-choice portion evaluates you on your knowledge of:
- Reporting practices
- Professional practices
The skills test includes the following dictations, after which point you will have 75 minutes to transcribe these with an accuracy of at least 95 percent:
- Q&A at 225 words per minute
- Jury charge at 200 words per minute
- Literary at 180 words per minute
The written knowledge and skills tests are offered separately and you can register for both online. If you are not a member of the NCRA each test costs $210.
Step 3. Submitting your Application
Once you have passed one of these exams you will meet the court reporter license requirements in Illinois and be ready to apply for certification with the IDFPR using the appropriate application:
Your certification as a court reporter will expire on May 31st of odd years, and can be renewed online a month prior to this date. If you are a full-time court reporter you can apply for a continuing education (CE) waiver, and otherwise you will need to complete at least ten hours of CE each two-year cycle. You can earn these credits in the following ways:
- CE Training and courses through the NCRA
- Attend a course, activity or program presented by a CE sponsor approved by the Certified Shorthand Reporters Board (CSRB)
- Participate in one of these programs as a speaker or presenter
- Publish articles you have authored in a CSRB-recognized periodical
Step 4. Working as a Court Reporter in Illinois
Congratulations, now that you are certified you can begin the job hunt in Illinois. Court reporters tend to be concentrated in population centers with a strong Judicial Branch representation such as:
Becoming plugged in with the court reporter community can be an important first step in finding employment, and the Illinois Court Reporters Association (ILCRA) offers job information, networking resources, and news regarding continuing education.
Some of the larger private employers of court reporters in the state include:
- Bridges Court Reporting
- Area Wide Reporting Service
- Thompson Court Reporters
- Jensen Litigation Solutions
Illinois Court Reporting Salary
Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed that 560 people were employed in the court reporting industry in Illinois in 2012. They earned an annual median wage of $45,210 that year with those in the 90th percentile making $71,520.
Information on the 2012 median salary for court reporters in the Chicago metropolitan area is available from the BLS. The Illinois Department of Economic Security provides the median salary for court reporters in Cook County in 2012. They are listed below:
- Chicago – $45,890
- Cook County – $43,618
In Illinois, official court recorders are employed by the Chief Judge of their Circuit court. The starting 2013 salary range for these positions is listed below:
- Illinois (excluding Cook County): $37,440 – $42,440
- Cook County: $47,942 – $52,942
The state employed 261 people at the position of official court reporter III with salaries of up to $92,282 a year. The total payroll for these salaries was nearly $18 million in 2012.
To work as an official court recorder in Illinois, the individual must be licensed as a Certified Shorthand Reporter (CSR). Outside of Cook County, it is possible to work as a court reporter before receiving this license by passing an initial exam (Part-A). Such individuals are qualified for a restricted CSR license.
The courts in Cook Country have an entry-level position known as a court specialist for court reporters who have not yet been licensed. The starting salary was $31,897 a year in 2013. If positions are available, court specialists can transfer to become official court reporters once they have obtained their CSR license.
The BLS provides a detailed salary breakdown for different areas of Illinois that is shown below: