In an era of 4K video capability and crystal clear audio recorders riding around in everyone’s pocket, court reporting can sometimes seem like a throwback to an earlier time. But court reporters know that the selectivity and sensitivity of the human ear is important for creating the definitive record of important courtroom interactions.
But as one Shawnee County reporter found in 2016, technology can come back to bite court reporters in unexpected ways. Social media is as pervasive in society today as smartphones, and sometimes it gets users into hot water… even people working in the judicial system.
The reporter had worked a first-degree murder case in 2012, and during the appeals process, was drawn into an argument on Facebook about the trial and sentencing. In the course of the argument, she made a number of comments that crossed the bounds of professional ethics, calling into question her impartiality in the matter and opening up the defendant’s chances of appeal.
It’s a situation that points to the need for court reporters to undergo extensive training on the ethical and legal requirements of the job, and just as importantly, to reorient their online lives to fit their chosen profession… it’s also a reminder that it might be wise to just steer away from Facebook all together.
Kansas takes such matters seriously. The Judicial Branch oversees mandatory licensing and regulation of court reporters in the state through the State Board of Examiners of Court Reporters. Mandatory testing means that the reporter in question definitely knew and understood her ethical obligations. That’s because, like every Certified Court Reporter (CCR) in the state, she went through a 5 step process to get her position, taking and passing both written and skills tests before being awarded that certification. It’s the same process you’ll have to follow for a job in court reporting in Kansas:
Step 1. Get the Education You Need to Qualify for a Court Reporter Job in Kansas
Court reporters everywhere in the nation face a specific challenge, a challenge that the fabric of our judicial system relies on them being able to meet: to quickly and accurately record the words and events of legal proceedings. The freedom and fortunes of thousands of accused criminals and litigants are at stake. Appeals and case law can hang on a single word murmured in a noisy courtroom on a sleepy afternoon.
So if you are planning to join their ranks, you will need to develop a very specific set of skills required to tune your ears to take in multiple voices, comprehend the words, and quickly record them in a standardized format.
That almost always means years of study and practice. And a formal education in the complex underpinnings of the process is the best way to start that journey.
You can find diploma, certificate, and degree-based court reporting programs online today, or at a handful of court reporting schools and community college programs at various locations across the state. The Kansas Court Reporters Association has a convenient list on their website.
The NCRA is on the record as stating that the average reporter requires 33 months to master the kind of stenotype skills necessary to be proficient enough to receive certification in the field.
There’s another path to becoming a court reporter in Kansas, however, one that can be mastered in considerably less time than traditional stenographic typing. Voicewriting is a procedure that uses a special microphone and noise-reducing headset called a stenomask together with specialized voice recognition software that allows court reporters to verbally process courtroom proceedings. Since it bypasses the unique chording keyboard mastery required by stenotype machines, it’s a faster skill to learn and master… and one allowed in 37 states, including Kansas, for official recording duties.
An associate’s degree will take at least two years and often includes more traditional liberal arts education alongside the specific industry-grade training in stenographic and voice writing procedures.
Certificate programs in voice writing can be found that compress the coursework down to the essentials and allow you to develop stenomask skills in as few as 12 months, but programs that cover stenotype are typically two years at minimum, with even more time in self-study and practice required to master the skills.
Whether you select an associate’s program or a shorter certificate, you can confirm that it delivers the kind of knowledge you need by making sure that the curriculum is aligned with the National Court Reporters Association’s (NCRA) Council on Approved Student Education (CASE) standards.
Those standards, called the General Requirements and Minimum Standards, are developed with input from court reporters and industry employers who are at the cutting edge of the field today. They ensure that the courses you will take are relevant to building competency in all the court reporting skills you need. Classes typically include:
- General English and grammar skills
- Stenotype and stenomask machine technology and operation
- Specialized medical and legal terminology
- Courtroom processes and procedures
- Transcript formatting and production
Transcription demands don’t stop with the court system, either. In addition to trial and deposition work, real-time reporters are increasingly involved in ADA-required CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) captioning work for employers that run the gamut from government offices to the entertainment industry, to businesses that need to capture notes and details for shareholder meetings and presentations.
Step 2. Become Nationally Certified in Court Reporting
There are three different paths you can take to earn your CCR in Kansas, but by far the most popular involves starting off with a nationally-recognized and accepted certification to establish your eligibility to practice in the state.
Certification can be one of the most confusing aspects of becoming a professional court reporter. There are dozens of different certifications available, at different levels, in different specializations, from different agencies. Each of them may be valuable depending on your particular niche of practice.
The most widely sought and most commonly required is the NCRA’s Registered Professional Reporter (RPR). It’s so well-regarded that many states use it as the de facto standard for licensure, or duplicate its requirements in their own licensing tests.
While the RPR can be taken and passed using voice writing software, the NVRA (National Verbatim Reporters Association) offers the Certified Verbatim Reporter (CVR) credential that is more oriented toward voice writers. The NVRA is more oriented toward voice writing in general and you may be more comfortable obtaining the CVR if that’s your specialty.
In Kansas, holding an RPR or CVR will allow you to bypass the state-run skills test for the CCR.
Both certifications have almost identical testing requirements, each broken into two segments:
- Skills Test – Establishing your actual transcription skills, you will listen to five minutes each of recorded audio in three different formats that demand different speed standards. After the real-time transcription process, you are given 75 minutes to produce a complete and corrected transcript that is 95 percent or better accurate in:
- 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 – This segment evaluates your knowledge in a multiple-choice test of approximately 100 questions and a minimum passing score of 70 percent or better that cover topics such as:
- Stenographic technology and innovation
- Industry practices and general English knowledge
- Professional standards and ethics
The tests can be taken separately and do not need to be applied to the certification itself; some states or employers may only care about exam scores and not the certification itself. The costs of testing are:
- NVRA – $150
- NCRA – $120 / $95 for members / $77 for students
- NVRA – $125
- NCRA – $220 / $195 for members / $160 for students
NVRA tests are all conducted in person. The NCRA offers their skills test online, and holds the written knowledge tests in coordination with Pearson VUE testing centers nationwide.
Both associations also offer more advanced versions of these tests, such as the NCRA’s Registered Merit Reporter and the NVRA’s Certificate of Merit certifications. Both can help you advance your career by demonstrating higher skills and professional knowledge.
Other certifications are available dealing with other specializations:
CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) is a fast-expanding field in realtime transcription that introduces its own technical demands and skills. CART is all about delivering real-time captioning for live events and broadcasts, developing an accessible translation for hard-of-hearing or ESL audiences to read during the event itself. Everything from football games to corporate shareholder meetings and government press conferences are required to offer this service, so many transcription jobs are emerging with media companies, government, and traditional business.
- NCRA – The Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC) cert requires that you go through a special training workshop and then pass a captioning-specific set of skill and written tests.
- NVRA – The Realtime Verbatim Reporter (RVR) and Registered Broadcast Captioner – Master (RBC-M) use simulated tests that cover the kind of longer periods of speaking that are common in broadcasting.
Digital and Audio Recording services are another cutting edge reporting process that are increasingly being used in pre-trial depositions around the country. Some court systems are beginning to integrate the technology as well, creating an official digital record from which written transcripts can later be created on demand. The American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT) offers two certifications covering these new skillsets:
- Certified Electronic Reporter (CER) – $275
- Certified Electronic Transcriber (CET) – $275
These certifications also rely on a basic online, multiple-choice knowledge exam, each lasting two hours and requiring a score of 80 percent to pass. The CET adds a practical exam that requires you to produce an actual transcript from a digital recording, accomplished within 150 minutes and at a 98 percent accuracy rate. AAERT membership is required to take the exams, which costs $125 per year.
Step 3. Qualify for the Kansas CCR Certificate of Eligibility
Every official court reporter in Kansas has to possess a certificate of eligibility issued by the State Board of Examiners of Court Reporters, and there are only three paths to that certificate:
- Take and pass written and skills examinations administered by the Board in May and October in Topeka
- Hold a Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) Certification issued by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) and be in good standing with the agency, and pass the Board written exam for Kansas
- Qualify for admission on motion based on current licensure in another state
The state also offers temporary certification, which may be granted to applicants who have submitted their application for testing, but have not yet taken the exams. They must be associated with an existing court reporting firm in the state and agree to be supervised directly by a currently certified court reporter during their practice under the temporary certification.
The CCR Examination is administered by the SBECR and is divided into a knowledge portion and a skills portion. You can check the Judicial Branch’s website for future examination dates.
You must get at least 70 percent on the written knowledge portion of the exam, and the skills portion will be dictated in five-minute segments at the following speeds, with the minimum passing score being a 95 percent accuracy rate:
- 180 words per minute two-voice medical testimony
- 200 words per minute one-voice solid matter
- 225 words per minute two-voice ordinary testimony
After you have passed the CCR Examination you will need to complete a final procedures examination which will be mailed to you. To prepare yourself for the procedures test and written portion of the CCR Examination you can familiarize yourself with the official state Handbook for Official Court Reporters.
A complete application packet to take the CCR Examination will include:
- Completed application
- $125 filing fee
- Three Certificates of Character
- Evidence of training, certification, or education
Once you have passed the CCR Examination and the final procedures test you will have met all the license requirements in Kansas and be eligible for recommendation by the SBECR to the Supreme Court for certification.
Step 4. Working as a Court Reporter in Kansas
Once you’ve earned your CCR, it’s time to put it to work in a lucrative real-time transcription job somewhere in the state.
As you begin searching for court reporter jobs in Kansas you may find it beneficial to join a professional organization such as the Kansas Court Reporters Association (KCRA). A Regular Membership costs $100 and dues are collected once a year. As part of the KCRA you will be privy to information regarding:
- Statewide employment opportunities
- Changes to the laws governing CCRs
- Networking opportunities with your colleagues
- Conferences, presentations, and workshops which are pertinent to the court reporter field
The state courts are the natural habitat for CCRs, and the judiciary branch employs 135 authorized reporters state-wide in full and part-time positions. With many current reporters set to retire in the coming years, it’s worth keeping tabs on openings coming up for these stable and interesting government positions.
Many court reporters work for commercial court reporting firms operating across the state. The following are some of the CCR employers in Kansas:
- Emerald Court Reporting in Overland Park
- Court Reporting Services in Wichita
- AAA Court Reporting Company serving the Kansas City area including Olathe
Court reporters in Kansas have other options that extend far beyond just the legal system today. Whether offered through court reporting agencies or working directly for business or municipal employers, CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) captioning work is exploding due to ADA accommodation requirements that mandate that live presentations, sports broadcasts, and other shows be captioned in real time for hard-of-hearing or ESL audiences. You’ll find long-term job security in the field with more and more of this type of business increasing the demand for talented real-time transcriptionists.
Step 5. Maintain Your Certification to Practice in Kansas
Earning your certifications was just the first step in becoming a court reporter or transcriptionist. Once you have them, you have to put in the time and effort to keep them up. In a constantly evolving profession like real-time transcription, keeping your skills current is vital to your employment and salary prospects. Mandatory continuing education requirements for certifications will ensure you stay at the top level of the profession.
Fortunately, the requirements to stay current for each of the major certifications outlined above break down to almost exactly the same amount of time: ten hours per year, the equivalent to one CEU (Continuing Education Unit). They do have different timelines for how frequently you have to report your CEUs, however:
- 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 agency also has different validity requirements for what constitutes an acceptable continuing education course; check their websites for details.
You will also need to renew your CCR certification each year, but Kansas does not have any specific continuing education requirements. To do this simply return the renewal form which will be mailed to you by May 1st, making sure to enclose the designated renewal fee. Remember that you must keep the Clerk of the Appellate Courts informed of your current address, and CCR certifications expire on July 1st each year.
Kansas Court Reporting Salary
With approximately 230 court reporters working here in 2019 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Kansas ranks third in the nation for the highest concentration of jobs in the field. Wichita is the ninth highest metro area in the country for employment concentration as well.
The Wichita area also has better pay for court reporters than the state overall, with a median of $58,260 per year, or $28.01 per hour, compared to the state average of $53,270, or $25.61 per hour.
Topeka is actually worse than both, on average, but it’s the place you want to look for a job if you are confident in your skills and experience—at the top end there, reporters make $64,240 annually, or more than $30 per hour, far and away the best in the state. And the rural areas of the state do well on the national level, ranking fourth overall for nonmetropolitan pay levels for court reporters.
Annual Salaries For Court Reporters in Major Kansas Metropolitan Areas Including Wichita and Topeka
- Median – $48,520
- More experienced – $54,130
- Certified and experienced – $64,240
- Median – $58,260
- More experienced – $58,280
- Certified and experienced – $60,710
Hourly Wages For Court Reporters in Major Kansas Metropolitan Areas Including Wichita and Topeka
- Median – $23.33
- More experienced – $26.02
- Certified and experienced – $30.88
- Median – $28.01
- More experienced – $28.02
- Certified and experienced – $29.19
*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.