The first step to becoming a court reporter involves the completion of a recognized court reporter program. Because this field has increased – and continues to increase – in popularity (The BLS states that demand for court reporters will increase 14 percent between 2010 and 2020.), court reporter programs are plentiful, both in physical campuses and throughout a number of online institutions.
A court reporter program may consist of an associate’s degree or a professional diploma or certificate depending on the school through which the program is located. Court reporter programs must be reflective of the licensure requirements in the state in which they are located, and licensure requirements between states are often similar; therefore, differences among these programs is often negligible.
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Some programs are accredited through the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA), which ensures that the program meets the standards required for the Registered Reporting Professional (RPR) designation, an entry-level designation that is recognized by 22 states that license court reporters. Therefore, seeking an NCRA-accredited program may provide students with the peace of mind knowing that their program meets or exceeds the RPR requirements. However, since most states have licensure requirements (and corresponding licensure exams) that are distinctly similar to the RPR certification requirements, the majority of court reporter programs have followed the NCRA model.
A comprehensive court reporter program, whether it is encompassed within a community college, technical school, or dedicated court reporter school, will generally have the same curriculum outline and will demand similar requirements of its students and graduates.
Graduation from a recognized court reporter program demands the achievement of 95 percent accuracy on a number of dictation tests and the successful completion of coursework in:
- English grammar and vocabulary
- Medical/legal terminology
- Court reporting procedures
- Foundations of law
- Word processing
- Transcript preparation
- Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART)
Not all states require licensure of court reporters; therefore, it is important that individuals interested in how to become a court reporter educate themselves on their state’s requirements. It is also important to recognize that, even in states with no state licensure, many employers demand professional certification.
States with licensure requirements may require passing state exams to become licensed; they may require certification through the Certified Verbatim Reporter’s examination (CVR) through the National Verbatim Reporters Association or the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) designation through the National Court Reporters Association; or they may accept the CVR or RPR designation in lieu of state exams.
Individuals pursuing an RPR designation must pass both a written exam and a skills test. The written portion of the exam must be taken through one of the Pearson VUE testing centers, which are located across the United States, and a score of at least 70 percent must be achieved to pass. The written portion includes 115, multiple-choice questions in the areas of:
- Technology: 22 percent
- Reporting practices: 62 percent
- Professional practices: 16 percent
The skills test for the RPR designation takes place in locations throughout the United States. NCRA skills exam testing locations are posted on their website.
The NCRA skills exam includes testing in:
- Literary at 180 wpm
- Jury charge at 200 wpm
- Testimony/Q&A at 225 wpm
All legs of the skills exam require transcription. Candidates must be able to transcribe their notes in 75 minutes (for each leg) and then achieve an accuracy of at least 95 percent to pass the skills portion of the exam.
Individuals pursuing the CVR designation through the National Verbatim Reporters Association must also pass a two-part examination. The skills test involves five-minute dictations that must be passed with 95 percent accuracy:
- Literary at 180 wpm (45 errors)
- Jury charge at 200 wpm (50 errors)
- Voice Q&A at 225 wpm (56 errors)
The written portion of the exam, which must be passed with a minimum score of 70 percent, is designed to assess an individual’s knowledge of verbatim record, transcript production, transcript distribution, and professional responsibilities and ethics. The testing schedule and testing locations for the CVR examination are available on the NVRA website.