Court Reporter Jobs and Training Opportunities in Iowa

Court reporter jobs in Iowa are located virtually anywhere there is a courtroom, and that means at least every county seat, as well as the circuit court option that will have you traveling as part of the job.

For many court reporters in Iowa, riding the circuit between small communities around the state is a way of life, taking five week shifts roaming around the picturesque countryside, accompanying a circuit court judge making the rounds to dispense justice.

The tools of the trade are state-of-the-art, and rather than an old-school steno pad, you’ll pack a top-of-the-line stenographic machine and transcription setup along with you to make sure every single syllable is captured into the official court record.

Like other parts of the country, however, Iowa faces severe shortages of certified and capable court reporters in the coming years. According to a 2019 article in the Quad City Times, a spokesman for the Iowa Judicial Branch estimated that 64 court reporters around the state would be eligible for retirement in the next five years, six of them in the 7th Judicial district alone. The last reporter vacancy in the 7th took almost two years to fill.

That means you won’t have to worry about positions being available as a reporter in Iowa when you graduate. You just need to develop the skills and meet the requirements to get your foot in the door:

Get Familiar with the Basic Requirements to Become a Court Reporter in Iowa
Passing the Iowa Certified Shorthand Reporter (CSR) Examination
Maintaining your CSR Certification
Working in Iowa

Iowa court reporters work throughout the state’s judiciary system:

  • Supreme Court in Des Moines with seven judges
  • Court of Appeals in Des Moines with nine judges
  • District Courts in eight regions representing 99 counties, including:
    • 116 authorized district judges
    • 37 quarter-time judges (working 13 weeks per year)
    • 12 juvenile judges
    • 152 part-time magistrates

As a court reporter you will be responsible for transcribing the official record of all court proceedings, working alongside justices, lawyers, juries, and parties to the case. It’s a job with a lot of responsibility, and it comes with a salary and a level of respect to match.



Step 1. Get Familiar with the Basic Requirements to Become a Court Reporter in Iowa

Becoming certified and legally allowed to work in the state requires you to pass the Certified Shorthand Reporter examination, sponsored by the Iowa Board of Examiners of Shorthand Reporters (BESR).

To be eligible to take the exam you’ll have to get your skills up to standard, however. For most applicants, this means following the traditional path by attending a training program and passing the knowledge and skills exams required to earn the Earn the RPR (Registered Professional Reporter) credential through the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA).

Even without the RPR, you can still meet the Iowa state requirements for licensure by meeting ONE of the following requirements:

  • Graduate from a court reporter school approved by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA)
  • Take a court reporting course and attain a speed of at least 200 words per minute
  • Have a work history that includes two years of previous experience as a court reporter

To find NCRA-approved schools, many students these days are looking online. Many open enrollment programs are available with the kind of flexibility that makes attendance easy from anywhere.

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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.

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Step 2. Passing the Iowa Certified Shorthand Reporter (CSR) Examination

Once you have the appropriate training under your belt you can apply online to take the Iowa CSR exam, which is offered twice a year on the second Saturday in March and September.

There are two parts to the Iowa examination; everyone must take and pass the written portion. You do not have to take the skills evaluation if you hold the RPR certification.

There is a $200 application fee for each test and the testing is conducted at the Iowa Judicial Branch Building in Des Moines. Make sure you turn in your fee and application at least 30 days before the exam.

Skills Test (only required if you do not hold the RPR credential)

If you do not hold the RPR and decide to take the state-based skills test, you’ll find that it aligns almost exactly with the NCRA RPR skills exam. You’ll listen to a five-minute recording for each of these three categories, which you’ll need to transcribe with at least 95 percent accuracy:

  • 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

Written Test

The written test consists of the following modules. A passing score is considered to be 70 percent and above:

  • Medical and legal terminology
  • Spelling
  • Court procedures
  • Iowa Code Sections (3101-602.3302) and court rules relating to court reporters

Once you have passed both examinations you will have fulfilled the license requirements to become a Certified Shorthand Reporter (CSR) as recognized by the Iowa BESR.



Step 3. Maintaining your CSR Certification

You will need to keep up with a 30-hour (3 units) continuing education requirement every three years. By September 1st of each year you will be required to complete the following in order to renew your CSR Certification with the Iowa BESR:

  • Renewal application
  • $85 renewal fee
  • Continuing education form

Continuing education can be completed through courses, workshops, or seminars that are integrally related to the field of court reporting and contribute directly to your professional competency.

If you earned the RPR as your path to becoming licensed in the state, you’ll find these continuing education requirements happen to be similar to the NCRA’s maintenance requirements for the RPR Certification, making it easier for you to remain certified through both agencies.



Step 4. Working in Iowa

As you begin your job search you may consider joining a professional organization such as the Iowa Court Reporters Association (ICRA) where you can find information about:

  • Continuing education opportunities
  • Job announcements
  • Legislation affecting the court reporter profession
  • Colleague support and networking opportunities
  • Additional information about certification

You can also search for CSRs through the judiciary registrar to find out who your colleagues are. Some of the biggest court reporter employers in Iowa are:

  • Court Reporters of Iowa covering the state including Sioux City
  • Irish Reporting, Inc providing coverage for Eastern Iowa including:
    • Cedar Rapids
    • Davenport
    • Iowa City
    • Waterloo


Iowa Court Reporting Salary

It might surprise you to learn that Iowa has one of the highest concentrations of court reporters for its population level in the entire United States. The state is fourth overall in that category according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Des Moines area alone ranks second in the nation for metro regions.

Salaries come in closer to the mid-range through most of the state, but with a low cost of living, you’ll find that they feel pretty generous. Moreover, and unusually, court reporting salaries are fairly flat across the state. That means a small-town court reporter can make nearly as much as one located in the bright lights of Des Moines. In fact, on the national level, this makes rural Iowa among the best places for high-paying work in non-metro regions, with Southeast Iowa ranking third overall for top pay rates at an average of $63,800 per year.

Annual Salaries For Court Reporters in Major Iowa Metropolitan Areas

Des Moines and West Des Moines

  • Median – $77,920
  • More experienced – $77,930
  • Certified and experienced – $77,930

Hourly Wages For Court Reporters in Major Iowa Metropolitan Areas

Des Moines and West Des Moines

  • Median – $37.46
  • More experienced – $37.47
  • Certified and experienced – $37.47


*Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labors 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 Iowa Division 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.

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