Rhode Island is a pretty middle of the road place to live when it comes to courts and the legal climate. It has a lower than average crime rate, particularly for violent crime, but comes in about the middle of the pack overall. The state ranks 24th in terms of the lawsuit climate for litigation according to the Institute for Legal Reform, which is about as close to the middle as you can get out of 50 states.
The U.S. Department of Labor doesn’t even keep track of how many court reporters work in the state, the numbers are so small. But it’s an elite group that the state judiciary, as well as local law offices and businesses rely on for legal transcription work.
There is all of the same routine crime and human drama here as you would find anywhere else, and a robust court system to sort through it all, so you better believe it’s keeping court reporters here busy.
With salaries that come in far better than the national average and a good quality of life, court reporting in Rhode Island might just be the perfect career. And it’s one you can get into with only a handful of steps:
|Complete a Relevant Degree Program in Court Reporting|
|Obtain Certification From a Nationally Recognized Agency|
|Find Employment as a Court Reporter in Rhode Island|
|Continuing Education and Career Advancement in Rhode Island|
Step 1. Complete a Relevant Degree Program in Court Reporting
As the technology in the field advances, you’ll find an increasing number of different specializations available in court reporting. That’s as true in Rhode Island as elsewhere, but the most common types of court reporting in the state still fall into just two primary categories:
- An electronic court reporter must have an intimate knowledge of electronic recording equipment and be extremely organized. They must be prepared to produce a verbatim transcript of court proceedings from these recordings.
- A stenographer uses a stenotype machine to type everything that is said or can be heard during the legal proceeding, and then creates an edited, highly polished transcript after the fact that serves as the legal record. Stenographic work like this is the traditional trade of all court reporters.
In both cases, a diploma or degree program can help you acquire the detailed technical knowledge necessary to get started in a real-time reporting career.
Some titles of relevant degree and diploma programs include:
- Court Reporter Associate Degree
- Associates of Science in Stenography
- Associates of Electronic Court Reporting
An associate’s degree in the field will take around two years to complete and covers a wide range of subjects, including:
- Courtroom procedures
- Medical and anatomical terminology
- English language and grammar
- Captioning processes
- Recording and transcription technology
Diploma or certificate programs may be more specifically focused on specific approaches to reporting, such as voice transcription or electronic recording.
Step 2. Obtain Certification From a Nationally Recognized Agency
Rhode Island does not have any mandatory certification requirements, and it’s possible for you to find a position in the state solely on the strength of your educational background. But most employers, including the state court system, will give more weight to applicants who have taken the time to earn a national certification from a widely recognized industry group.
The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) and the National Verbatim Recorders Association (NVRA) are the nation’s premiere court reporters certifying agencies and professional associations. Each company offers various kinds of certifications for different specialties within the field.
The NCRA’s standard certification is called the Registered Professional Reporter certification. You will need to know technology, reporting practices, and professional practices, and score at least a 70% in order to pass the knowledge portion of the exam to become certified. The knowledge test is conducted at a Pearson VUE test center in your area.
You’ll also have to pass an online skills test. This involves listening to and taking dictation of three five-minute pre-recorded blocks of legal proceedings and meeting a minimum word-per-minute rate for each:
- Literary – 180wpm
- Jury Charge – 200wpm
- Testimony/Q&A – 225wpm
You’ll then have 75 minutes to transcribe your notes to create a near-flawless document before final submission. You’ll have to hit 95 percent accuracy in each of the three categories to pass.
The NVRA’s certification is called the Certified Verbatim Reporter certification. This test also includes three 5-minute sections which focus on literary, jury charge, and two-voice question and answer sections. A 95% is needed to pass this test and get certified, although holders of the RPR can be automatically awarded the certification without testing.
Finally, the AAERT (American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers) offers a Certified Electronic Reporter (CER) certification for professionals involved more heavily in digital recording and reporting, which focuses more heavily on knowledge and technical testing. This doesn’t take the place of certification in stenography, but can be a great adjunct.
Step 3. Find Employment as a Court Reporter in Rhode Island
Once you have obtained the relevant degree or certificate, the next step is to look for employment. As you might expect, one of the first stops on your employment search would be through the court system itself, where the greatest demand is. Courts in Rhode Island include:
- Rhode Island Supreme Court– This is the final stop for court challenges in the state of Rhode Island. Working at the Supreme Court is a real honor and is a highly esteemed position for a court reporter
- Rhode Island Superior Court– This is the first stop for all felony cases, and civil cases over $10,000. Court reporters in this court must be highly responsible and have a strong will, as testimony can be graphic, emotional, and disturbing
- Rhode Island Family Court– This court is the first stop for family cases. This is another court where emotional and disturbing testimony may be encountered at high rate.
Official reporters working for those courts do have to meet certain standards for employment. National certification is voluntary, and no written exam is required, but you will have to demonstrate your skills by sitting in on an actual trial and transcribing 10 pages.
Other potential employers of freelance court reporters in Rhode Island include:
- Rhode Island Court Reporting
- Allied Court Reporters
Finally, CART, or Communication Access Realtime Translation, is an increasingly common role for talented real-time transcriptionists in Rhode Island. Whether offering real-time television captioning, or offering a translation for deaf and hard of hearing individuals for speeches, presentations, and other accessibility scenarios, many public and private agencies hire trained court reporters for this purpose.
Step 4. Continuing Education in Rhode Island
Court reporting is a profession that is constantly evolving with new technologies and new techniques. You’ll want to keep up with current developments in the industry to help secure your position even after you find one. On top of that, continuing education is required to maintain your RPR or CVR certification, if you obtained either of those. A minimum of 3 CEUs (30 hours) of continuing ed in three years is the standard for the RPR, while the CVR requires 20 hours every two years.
You can also find an extensive library of court reporting CE by accessing this website.
Rhode Island Court Reporting Salary
Although the U.S. Department of Labor (Bureau of Labor Statistics) doesn’t have data on either salaries or the number of court reporters statewide, that’s not much of a problem in a small state like Rhode Island. As you might expect, most reporters are concentrated in the major urban area of the state, Providence, and so those numbers are likely to be reflective of the profession in the state as a whole.
As of 2019, there were 80 court reporters in the Providence and Warwick area, making an average salary of $76,240 annually, or $36.65 per hour on a freelance basis. That’s considerably better than the national average of $60,130 for the median court reporter. It’s also before you factor in the advantages of advanced certification and experience.
At the top end, with the right specializations and training, court reporters in Providence make nearly $90,000 per year, pulling in $43.24 per hour. Combined with a decent cost of living and good quality of life here, that’s a very respectable salary for a highly respected position in the American justice system.
Annual Salaries For Court Reporters in Major Rhode Island Metropolitan Areas Such as Providence
Providence (and the Warwick area)
- Median – $76,240
- More experienced – $84,090
- Certified and experienced – $89,940
Hourly Wages For Court Reporters in Major Rhode Island Metropolitan Areas Such as Providence
Providence (and the Warwick area)
- Median – $36.65
- More experienced – $40.43
- Certified and experienced – $43.24
*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.