Courts in Illinois are facing a crisis if more people don’t step up soon to become certified court reporters.
According to a 2019 article in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, the NCRA (National Court Reporters Association) estimates a shortage of 5,000 court reporters throughout the United States. That’s already hitting home in Illinois, where the 11th Judicial Circuit has two positions unfilled, and supervisors reported difficulty in finding qualified candidates, citing a lack of schools nearby offering court reporting courses.
But to anyone who enjoys variety and maybe a bit of travel as part of their career, becoming a court reporter in Illinois offers a fulfilling path. With retirements ramping up, more and more openings are due to appear, and long-term job security is almost a certainty in the field.
|Get the Training Required to Become a Court Reporter in Illinois|
|Pass a Court Reporter Certification Exam|
|Submit your Application to Become Certified|
|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), part of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), they’ll find plenty of opportunities waiting for them all around the state.
Step 1. Get the Training Required 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 you can choose from to become a certified shorthand reporter (CSR). One is sponsored by the CSRB and the other two are sponsored by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA).
The primary professional agency in the state, the Illinois Court Reporters Association (ILCRA), as well as the National Court Reporters Association, both 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 requirements:
- Be of good moral character, and free of any felony convictions
- Hold a high school diploma or its equivalent
- Be prepared through approved training courses and able to pass a court reporter skills exam
Step 2. Pass a Court Reporter Certification Exam
Once your training is complete you will be ready for the final exam 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.
The IDFPR’s exam is comprised of two parts, a written knowledge portion and a dictation portion. The written knowledge component of the exam will cover:
- English language, vocabulary, and punctuation
- The Illinois Certified Shorthand Reporters Act
The dictation portion is divided into two sections, with 90 minutes allowed for each. Both must be completed with an accuracy rate of at least 95%:
- 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 cost you about $75 in fees. You can register online or by sending a complete application to Continental Testing Services in LaGrange, a third party firm that handles exam administration for the state.
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)
Becoming certified as an RMR requires you to complete the RPR certification program. To become an RPR you will need to pass an exam that 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 dictation styles. You will have 75 minutes to transcribe the following with an accuracy rate of at least 95%:
- 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 will cost $120, while members pay only $95.
Step 3. Submit your Application to Become Certified
Once you’ve successfully passed one of the exams you’ll be ready to apply for certification with the IDFPR using the appropriate application:
Your certification will expire on May 31st of odd-numbered 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, 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. Begin 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 large Judicial Branches, including:
Getting plugged in with the state’s court reporter community can be an important first step in finding employment, with the Illinois Court Reporters Association (ILCRA) offering job information, networking resources, and continuing education opportunities.
Outside of a government job with a state or municipal judiciary, there are some large private contracting firms in Illinois that hire skilled court reporters:
Illinois Court Reporting Salary
About 800 court reporters are employed throughout the state of Illinois as of 2020. The statewide median salary is $63,650, or $30.60 per hour for those working on a freelance, hourly basis.
The numbers shoot up quickly when you start looking at reporters with more experience or more extensive certification, however. The salary jumps to $84,660 at the medium-high range, and $101,160, or almost $50 per hour for those in the top of the profession.
At about $34.88 per hour, reporters In the West Central part of the state earn a median salary that comes in at more than $10,000 more than what they earn in Chicago. Those in the West Central region also come in higher on the salary pyramid, bringing in $107,520, or $51.69 per hour at the top of the profession.
Annual Salaries For Court Reporters in the Chicago Area
Chicago (includes Chicagoland area such as Naperville and Elgin)
- Median – $61,220
- More experienced – $69,220
- Certified and experienced – $95,850
Hourly Wages For Court Reporters in the Chicago Area
Chicago (includes Chicagoland area such as Naperville and Elgin)
- Median – $33.28
- More experienced – $33.28
- Certified and experienced – $46.08
*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.
All salary and employment data accessed June 2020.