The steps for becoming a court reporter in Pennsylvania vary based on what kind of court reporting you are pursuing. There is, however, a great deal of overlap in the requirements. Some general guidelines that can be helpful in carving your path are as follows:
|Complete an Applicable Degree Program|
|Perform A Thorough Job Search in Pennsylvania|
|Join the Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association|
|Continuing Education in Pennsylvania|
Court reporters in Pennsylvania play an integral role in the judicial process and in the criminal justice system by creating a word-for-word transcript of official legal proceedings. There are three distinct kinds of court reporting – electronic reporters, voice writers, and stenographers.
- Electronic reporters use voice recording equipment to record and document all voice audio.
- Voice writers use a microphone, and sometimes even wear a special mask equipped with a voice recorder and voice damping capability, and document court proceedings by speaking into the equipment.
- Stenographers type all spoken audio into a stenotype machine which looks like a small typewriter but is specifically designed for creating courtroom transcripts.
A common misconception about court reporters is that they are relegated exclusively to working in a courtroom setting. The truth is that less than 30% of the court reporters in Pennsylvania perform their reporting duties in a courtroom. The rest are typically hired on a freelance basis by attorneys and other court officials to report trial witness depositions.
Step 1. Complete an Applicable Degree Program
Completion of a specific degree program is a good first step in the process of becoming a court reporter, but is dependent upon which area of court reporting you are pursuing. For example, voice writers and those looking to do voice dictation with a microphone or steno-mask can usually complete the necessary certificate program in about six months. If you are looking to do stenography, you will generally need an associate’s degree which will take between 2 and 4 years to complete.
Some degree programs available in Pennsylvania include:
- Court Reporter’s Associate’s Degree
- Court Reporting Associate in Applied Science
- Associate’s In Specialized Business – Court Reporting
Step 2. Become Certified
Applicants for court reporter jobs in Pennsylvania have the option of becoming certified on a national or state level. In order to become certified you must complete one of the following:
- NCRA (National Court Reporter’s Association) RPR (Registered Professional Reporter) Certification
- A 95% accuracy score on the Pennsylvania exam which includes WKT (written knowledge test) and SKT (skills knowledge test), the latter consisting of:
- Literary or jury charge – 180 words per minute
- Two-voice medical testimony – 200 words per minute
- Four-voice ordinary testimony – 225 words per minute
Once you have obtained the necessary degree or certification, it is time to begin to look for work.
Step 3. Perform a Thorough Job Search in Pennsylvania
Freelance opportunities are more prevalent for court reporters across the country in general and in Pennsylvania in particular. Law firms and court officials are often looking for court reporters for full-time or part-time reporters. But there are a number of associations and private court reporting agencies that hire or assist in hiring court reporters for assignment work. Some of these agencies include:
Step 4. Join the Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association
The Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association exists to offer support and leadership to all manner of court reporters in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The PCRA community has proven especially helpful in the careers of Pennsylvania court reporters by providing resources and guidance, particularly for new members. Membership is open to both veteran reporters, new reporters, and students currently enrolled in a court reporting degree or certificate programs.
Becoming a member is easy and can be done online at the association’s website. Membership fees vary depending on the membership level and are available in student, associate or participating member categories. All memberships are good for one year and are renewable online.
Step 5. Continuing Education in Pennsylvania
Continuing education works to sharpen your skills as a court reporter and involves supplemental training in transcription, punctuation, and workshops in areas of court reporting specific to the reporting type. Continuing education can be obtained by many different organization including:
- NCRA –Requires 3 hours CE every three years to maintain licensure
- U.S. Court Reporter’s Association
- The Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association
Pennsylvania Court Reporting Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 890 people worked as court reporters in Pennsylvania in 2012. Their average annual salary was $41,730 with those in the top ten percent of their wage bracket making $69,000 a year. Salary data for selected cities is shown below:
2013 starting salaries for Pennsylvania state employees are available for the following positions:
- Clerk stenographer 2: $28,959
- Clerk stenographer 3: $32,620
The employment levels of court reporters are very high in several cities in Pennsylvania. Thirty-nine percent of the state’s court reporters were located in Pittsburgh in 2012. It had the fifth highest level of employment of any U.S. city, while the Philadelphia metropolitan area had the eighth highest employment level.
The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry projects that fifteen jobs a year will become available in the state through 2020 due to the need to replace employees leaving the workforce. In the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), the number of court reporter jobs is projected to grow by four percent.
The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania employs court reporters to transcribe court proceedings. They create a verbatim record that can be used as lawyers argue their cases and when cases are appealed.
A number of court reporters work for business support services such as court reporting firms. Some of the firms that operate in Pennsylvania include the following:
- ERSA Court Reporters
- Geiger & Loria
- Keystone Court Reporting Agency, Inc.
- Love Court Reporting, Inc.
- Summit Reporting
The BLS provides a breakdown of salary percentiles for a number of cities in Pennsylvania in the following table: