Many states don’t feel the need to impose licensing requirements on court reporters for the simple fact that it’s a skills-based profession, and if you don’t have the skills you simply won’t get the job. Even without state-level certification in Indiana, there is a strong framework in place for what is expected of official court reporters working in the state court system, covering everything from fundamental stenography skills to courtroom ethics and conduct. There is also a high-level of accountability and strict controls enforced here, requiring reporters to e-file transcripts and submit a report at the end of every year to summarize the work they did for the courts. In many ways, Indiana has a regulatory and procedural framework in place that is every bit as robust as you would find in states that do have state-level certification requirements.
Court reporters here take it upon themselves to get the best training they can through a comprehensive program before going on to earn voluntary national certification by way of examination. It’s all done in the interest of mastering the trade and as a way to show they have the skills the court system and other employers expect.
Even so, no amount of state-imposed regulation and standards-setting can build a sense of professional ethics and integrity in a court reporter who doesn’t have them innately. But that’s exactly what you have to bring with you if you want to conduct business with the judiciary. This is something that, unfortunately, came to the forefront in Indiana recently.
In early 2020, the court reporter for Howard Superior Court, Rachael Roberts, was convicted on three counts of felony theft for overcharging nearly $10,000 in transcription fees. A five-year investigation uncovered the Class D felony charges after the county sheriff, Superior Court judge, and county auditor became suspicious of extra charges.
Sentencing could run up to three years for each count, so Roberts likely won’t be back for a while. And you can bet that the next reporter to fill that position will have to demonstrate impeccable ethics to match their skills and training.
Step 1. Get the Education You Need to Qualify for a Court Reporter Job in Indiana
According to the Court Reporter’s Handbook put together by the seven-member Indiana Court Reporter Task Force, anybody stepping into the profession needs to be able to demonstrate the following:
- Fast typing speed
- Language interpretation and translation skills
- Basic familiarity with court procedures and processes
To achieve this kind of proficiency, the Handbook states that reporters are encouraged, though not strictly required, to meet three basic qualifications:
- 24 months of study and practice to develop shorthand and stenotype skills
- Law experience
- Associate degree, especially in the areas of law and court reporting
Private employers tend to want the same qualifications too. Both online and campus-based programs are available to help you get them.
It’s well worth considering a formal degree or certificate program that aligns with the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) Council on Approved Student Education (CASE) standards. In Indiana, one (NCRA)-approved school can be found on-campus in Valparaiso, offering programs in both stenotype and voice writing.
With real-world input from current reporters and employers, those standards ensure that your program offers classes in:
- General English and grammar skills
- Technical aspects of stenotype and stenomask machine operation
- Legal and medical terminology
- Courtroom and legal procedure
- Speedbuilding and transcript production
The NCRA has gone on record stating that it takes an average of 33 months to master stenotype skills to the level or proficiency required to become certified. You will find certificate programs that focus strictly on skills development and fundamentals that can be completed in as little as 28 months with a lot of focus. Associate’s programs will deliver a broader scope of liberal arts education and more time in each of those areas, so you can expect them to take considerably longer.
Indiana is among 37 states that allow voice writers using specialized stenomask equipment and speech-to-text software in the courts, which is a skillset that can often be mastered in considerably less time than a traditional stenotype machine.
Step 2. Become Certified in Court Reporting
Whether you went with a training program that covered traditional typed stenography or voice writing, it’s a good idea to pick up the most relevant certification for the type of work you’ll be performing.
That typically means obtaining the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) designation from the NCRA, the most well-recognized in the field and the common standard in states that have licensing requirements. But without licensing laws on the books, you have more options in Indiana.
The NVRA’s (National Verbatim Reporters Association) Certified Verbatim Reporter (CVR) is one of those options. The CVR is more oriented toward voice writing, with the NVRA being generally more welcoming of professionals with this skillset. The RPR is more common in traditional stenotype operation, but you can qualify for either credential whether you’re trained on stenotype or stenomask.
You’ll have to meet standards for speed and accuracy for either of these certifications by passing a skills test. Interestingly, NCRA and NVRA standards are so similar that if you already hold the RPR you can actually qualify for the CVR through reciprocity with nothing more than a $50 fee and registration.
The qualifying tests are nearly identical. Both come in two parts, a recorded audio listening exercise to test transcription skills, and a multiple-choice written exam. The skills component puts you through three five-minute transcription scenarios, each with different typing speed standards:
- Technical Q&A at 180 words per minute
- Non-technical Q&A at 225 words per minute
- Non-technical multi-voice at 200 words per minute
After the conclusion of your real-time transcription, you get 75 minutes to clean it up and produce a final transcript that must be 95% accurate or better.
The written knowledge exams cover areas such as professional standards and ethics, stenographic technology, and English knowledge. The knowledge and skills tests are generally taken separately.
Keep in mind that you will be competing with other court reporters in Indiana, and there are other transcription jobs, both in and outside of the courts, that may favor other national certifications.
CART-related certifications are becoming more and more important for breaking into that expanding part of the real-time transcription field. CART is all about providing real time captioning of live events and broadcasts rather than creating a permanent record of proceedings, so the work is found outside the courts with media companies, captioning firms that provide services to corporations during shareholder meetings and other events, as well as with government agencies that frequently hold live press conferences and public forums. The testing involves both skills and written knowledge components, similar to the CVR and RPR, although shorter and more focused on the specific challenges of real-time captioning. These certifications include:
- NCRA’s Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC), which requires a special training workshop
- National Verbatim Reporters Association (NVRA) (For Stenytope or Voicewriting)
- Realtime Verbatim Reporter (RVR)
- Certificate of Merit (CM)
- Registered Broadcast Captioner – Master (RBC-M)
Aside from stenographic certifications, there are also options for reporters who strictly perform official digital and audio recording services to create a record that can then be transcribed to create a hard copy document later on. This is frequently the method used in pre-trial depositions, though some courts around the country are beginning to incorporate this style of reporting for judicial proceedings, partly as a cost saving measure.
The widely recognized certifications for electronic reporting are offered through the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT):
- Certified Electronic Reporter (CER)
- Certified Electronic Transcriber (CET)
Step 3. Become Familiar with Indiana Laws and Regulations Concerning Court Reporting
Before you begin working in the court room it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the proper decorum and procedures. The Court Reporter Handbook found on the state Judicial Branch Court Reporter Resource Page is a good starting point.
The resource page also provides transcript templates and covers everything you need to know about how to format and submit your final transcripts. You’ll even find training resources to ensure you’re comfortable with the e-filing system the Indiana Courts use as a secure portal for submitting your work.
As an employee of the courts, your year-end duties will involve submitting a summary of the work you performed for the court system and the fees you collected using the Court Reporter Annual Report Form, also found on the resource page.
Certain judge’s you serve under may expect you to perform services in addition to transcribing the record, which may require you to adhere to additional rules of conduct. It is always a good idea to attend a particular judge’s courtroom session as an observant member of the public before you act in an official capacity as a court reporter.
Step 4. Working in Indiana as a Court Reporter
As you prepare to begin looking for work in Indiana it is worth considering joining a professional organization such as the Indiana Court Reporter’s Association (INCRA).
Membership in organizations such as this offer several advantages:
- Notification of upcoming conventions and events
- Professional networking opportunities
- Updates on legislation affecting the court reporting field
- Employment vacancies and opportunities
As the fourth edition of the Court Reporter’s Handbook states, court reporters who have mastered their skill are in great demand in the Indiana freelance field. Some employers across the state include:
- Midwest Reporting in South Bend
- Marilyn M. Jones and Associates, serving Indiana and Southern Michigan
- Stewart Richardson and Associates, offering services in:
- Fort Wayne
And, naturally, the state Judicial Branch will always offer excellent employment opportunities for court reporters. If the Howard County position that opened up when court reporter Rachael Roberts was arrested doesn’t interest you, there are many other opportunities all around the state:
- Appellate Courts
- Supreme Court
- Court of Appeals
- Tax Court
- Trial Courts
- Circuit Courts
- Superior Courts
- Municipal Courts
The field goes far beyond its legal origins today, and you can also find traditional court reporting agencies catering to new and innovative fields like CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) captioning. Offering real-time transcription of business events, public meetings, and radio and TV shows, CART is a popular alternative employment path that is driven by ADA accommodation requirements that offer long-term job security.
Step 5. Maintain Your Certification
No matter what certification you have picked up along your path to a job in court reporting, you’ll have to put some time into keeping it current. Almost all certs have ongoing continuing education requirements, which include:
- RPR – Three credits every three years
- CVR – Twenty hours every two years
- CRC – Three credits every three years
- CER/CET – Three credits every three years
Each of the respective agencies offering these certifications can point you toward CEU opportunities, as can INCRA.
Indiana Court Reporting Salary
More than 700 court reporters work across the state, making an average salary of $38,260, or $18.57 per hour. Like most jobs, though, education and experience both pay off for court reporters. Those at the top end of the profession make $50,390, or $24.23 per hour.
The state comes in fifth in the nation for the overall employment level, and first for highest concentration of reporters according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so you have a good shot at finding a position – particularly in Terre Haute, which leads the country with the highest concentration of reporters.
And like most states, major urban centers tend to offer higher pay rates at both the median and top end of the professional ladder. Indianapolis, for example, beats the state median with a salary of $39,430 annually.
But Evansville is the real winner if you are looking for the best compensation. The average reporter there makes $43,810, or more than $21 per hour, while those at the very peak of the profession make nearly $70,000 per year, or $32.81 per hour.
Annual Salaries For Court Reporters in Major Indiana Metropolitan Areas including Indianapolis, Bloomington, and Evansville
- Median – $35,630
- More experienced – $38,700
- Certified and experienced – $44,880
- Median – $43,810
- More experienced – $50,230
- Certified and experienced – $68,230
Indianapolis (including the cities of Carmel and Anderson)
- Median – $39,430
- More experienced – $46,440
- Certified and experienced – $51,670
Hourly Wages For Court Reporters in Major Indiana Metropolitan Areas including Indianapolis, Bloomington, and Evansville
- Median – $17.13
- More experienced – $18.61
- Certified and experienced – $21.58
- Median – $21.06
- More experienced – $24.15
- Certified and experienced – $32.81
Indianapolis (including the cities of Carmel and Anderson)
- Median – $18.96
- More experienced – $22.33
- Certified and experienced – $24.84
*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.