Government statistics indicate that there are currently approximately 100 actively employed court reporters in Montana and the number of jobs is expected to increase 14 percent by 2020. Court reporters are either employed directly by the courts (official court reporters) or by other entities (freelance court reporters).
There is no formal licensing or certification requirement in Montana. However, the stenography skills and procedural knowledge needed can only be acquired by earning an associate’s degree or certificate in court reporting.
You need to take the following steps in order to embark upon a successful career as a court reporter in Montana:
|Attend a Court Reporter School Training Program|
|Get a Job as an Official Court Reporter or work as a Freelance Court Reporter in Montana|
|Earn National Court Reporters Association Certification|
Step 1. Attend a Court Reporter School Training Program
Although there are few schools physically located in Montana, there are several first-class, online court reporter training programs available to state residents. These schools allow you to complete your education from the comfort of your own home while saving both time and money. They offer the same classes and degrees as on-site schools.
In addition to the knowledge and skills that can be learned through formal education, the following qualities are needed in order to do the work of a court reporter:
- Able to sit in one position for extended periods of time
- Practice tact, patience and impartiality
- Exercise independent judgment
- Type fast and prepare complex documentation
- Be able to concentrate and focus for hours at a time
Once you have an associate’s degree or certificate you are qualified to apply for a court reporter jobs in Montana.
Step 2. Get a Job as an Official Court Reporter or Work as a Freelance Court Reporter in Montana
Official court reporters are hired directly by a court and usually work with one judge.
The three-tiered Montana judicial system consists of:
- The Supreme Court
- District Courts
- Courts of Limited Jurisdiction
District Courts include a Water Court that adjudicates water rights, a Workman’s Compensation Court and 56 district courts in 22 jurisdictional districts served by 46 judges. They handle all serious criminal and civil trials. The Courts of Limited Justice consist of 84 City Courts, 61 Justice Courts and six Municipal Courts served by 112 judges. These courts deal with such matters as local ordinances, small claims and misdemeanor trials.
Some district courts have additional requirements for court reporter positions, including a valid Montana driver’s license, proof of automobile insurance and certification as a Notary Public. The latter involves obtaining a $10,000 Notary Surety Bond (available from most insurance companies) and completing a certified training course. A notary public certification course can be taken online or by attending on-site classes which are offered at various places throughout the state at no cost.
Apply for official court reporter jobs with the particular court(s) you are interested in working for. The salary for entry-level court reporters in Montana varies between courts but averages $17.50/hour or $36,400/year.
Freelance court reporters work in a variety of areas including:
- Municipal Hearings
- Board Meetings
- Working With the Deaf/Hearing Impaired
Potential employers of freelance court reporters include but are not limited to:
- Court Reporting Agencies
- Law Firms
- Insurance Companies
- Trade Unions
- Non-Governmental Organizations
- Video Conferencing Companies
Freelance court reporters need to be flexible and willing to travel to a job, especially in a large, more sparsely populated state like Montana. The Montana Court Reporters Association (MCRA) maintains a list of open positions in Montana and nearby states while the National Court Reporters Association has listings of available jobs all over the country.
Salaries vary with location. Average annual median wages in certain Montana cities are:
- Billings – $46,215
- Great Falls – $45,484
- Helena – $41,098
- Butte – $35,265
- Missoula/Bozeman – $30,654
Step 3. Consider National Court Reporters Association Certification
The NCRA offers several levels of certification that provide a significant boost to a court reporter’s resume. Earning a certification gives you an edge for promotions and salary increases. Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) certification is the first of three levels of certification offered. Any active court reporter is eligible to apply for certification which involves passing both a written and a skills examination. The written examination covers three areas:
- Technology (20%)
- Reporting Practices (62%)
- Professional Practices (16%)
The three-part skills test involves dictations of three different types of material (literary matter, jury instructions, questions and answer testimony) which must be accomplished at speeds of at least 180, 200 and 225 words per minute respectively with 95% accuracy.
The examination is offered in Montana twice a year, in the spring and fall. A list of test times and places is available from the NCRA.
The NCRA’s continuing education program is intended to “raise the field of court reporting to a verifiable professional level.” Many continuing education opportunities are conveniently available through membership in the Montana Court Reporters Association and include such things as:
MCRA membership is open to all persons actively involved in court reporting, retired or interested individuals not currently working as court reporters and students.
Montana Court Reporting Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 100 court reporters worked in Montana in 2012. The state’s Department of Labor and Industry indicates the number of court reporting jobs in Montana is expected to increase by 5.5% from 2010 to 2020. These jobs are projected to come from the replacement of employees who are leaving the workforce.
A major employer for court reporters is the state’s government, especially the judiciary. In Montana, a court reporter for the Judicial Branch of the state had a starting salary of $36,483 in 2013. Professionals in this position that own their equipment may retain the fees paid to obtain transcripts of legal proceedings.
Although certification is not required for this type of position, applicants must have graduated from an approved program in court reporting.
Other employers of court reporters and stenographers include business and support services. A number of companies retain these professionals to contract out their services to legal personnel and businesses that may require transcripts of their proceedings. Many companies also provide closed captioning services for the hard of hearing.
A partial list of court reporting firms that are active in Montana is found below:
- Agamenoni & Frank Court Reporting
- Animas Reporting Service
- Atkinson-Baker Court Reporting
- Barry Jan Court Reporting
- Brinkman Court Reporting, Inc.
- Cavanaugh-Martin & Associates
- Fisher Court Reporting
- Jeffries Court Reporting, Inc.
- Kaplan, Leaman & Wolfe Court Reporters
- Lesofski Court Reporting
- Martin-Lake & Associates, Inc.
- Nordhagen Court Reporting
- Safeco Court Reporters