South Dakota is another name on the list of states that is running low on court reporters today, according to the Sioux Falls’ KELO. In a 2018 report, the station identified almost half of the state’s Unified Judicial System court reporters as being eligible for retirement within the next decade.
In a state that is seeing robust population growth, and impressive job growth to match, you wouldn’t think it would be a big problem to replace those reporters, but a lack of educational opportunities and public awareness of the positions is causing a shortage of qualified candidates to replace retirees and build out their ranks in order to keep up with growing demand.
South Dakota doesn’t have any formal certification or licensing requirements that new court reporters need to meet, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a highly involved process for getting the training and credentials you need to perform the job:
|Earn a Degree or Diploma in Court Reporting|
|Become Certified Through a Nationally Recognized Agency|
|Become a Notary in South Dakota|
|Find Employment as a Court Reporter in South Dakota|
|Stay Up to Date on Qualifications in South Dakota|
With court cases occasionally having to be rescheduled for lack of a certified recorder to document the proceedings, the sooner you get started, the better for the South Dakota Unified Judicial System.
Step 1. Earn a Degree or Diploma in Court Reporting
Earning a degree or diploma in court reporting from a college or technical school, whether online on in-person, is really the only way to gain the skills you need to enter the field. When preparing your resume, graduating with a degree or diploma from a court reporting program is second only to experience when it comes to the things employers look for in a candidate. And a great education can make up for the fact that you’re new to the field.
The Unified Judicial System is clear on what its requirements are for anybody who wants to become a court reporter, and chief among them is graduating from an accredited court reporting school. In the absence of a specialty accreditor for court reporting schools and programs, this would simply mean a school that has been accredited by any regional or national accreditation agency recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the US Department of Education. This type of institutional accreditation is standard for schools operating in the US, so in all likelihood any school you may be considering has met this standard, but it’s still worth verifying.
The programs you’ll find in South Dakota and online are structured as associate degrees or technical certificate programs and may include titles like:
- Associates in Court Reporting
- Associates in Stenography
- Associates of Science in Court Reporting
- Technical Skills of Court Reporting
Court reporting is a field that has evolved over the years, and there are now several branches of the profession including:
- Stenography is the traditional approach to court recording which makes use of the stenotype machine that you’ve seen in so many movies and television shows. When someone thinks of court reporters, this is the image that comes to mind, although the machines are now extremely high-tech.
- A voice writer records legal proceedings verbally by using a microphone and specialized transcription software. Sometimes they even use a special face mask equipped with noise cancellation technology that keeps other noise out of the recording and improves accuracy and speed.
- Various kinds of electronic recorders that create crystal-clear digital voice or video records of court proceedings for later transcription and reference.
A proper associate’s program will cover all of these approaches in some detail, with a firm grounding in English and communication skills. Diploma or certificate programs are more likely to focus in on only one branch, although they will also take less than the two years commonly required for an associate’s degree.
Step 2. Become Certified Through a Nationally Recognized Agency
South Dakota has no licensure or certification requirements for court reporters in the state, but both the court system and private employers commonly expect you to hold a certification from an agency such as the National Court Reporter’s Association, which is the largest and best recognized of all national court reporter certifiers. Although the state courts do not require a certification specifically, they do have a similar skill level requirement, so if you can pass these requirements you are capable of meeting the official state standard as well.
In order to become certified with the NCRA you will need to pass the Registered Professional Reporter exam. The written knowledge portion of the exam is handled in person via a partnership with Pearson VUE at test centers nationwide and covers a variety of topics and requires a score of at least a 70 percent in order to pass.
It also requires a demanding online skills tests, which comes in three components consisting of pre-recorded mock proceedings that you will transcribe and then edit to produce a final, polished version:
- Literary (180 wpm)
- Jury charge (200 wpm)
- Testimony and Question/Answers (225 wpm)
You’ll have to complete each portion at not only the specified rate of speed while typing, but also demonstrate a 95 percent accuracy rate on the final transcription. You will be given a 75-minute transcription period following taking the dictation to produce the final document.
The RPR is not your only option; you could also consider earning the CVR (Certified Verbatim Reporter) credential from the National Verbatim Reporters Association (NVRA), or the CER (Certified Electronic Reporter) from the AAERT (American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers). The CER is focused more heavily on digital recording and has a primarily knowledge-based test for you to pass; the CVR is so similar to the RPR that you can actually get a CVR simply by having an RPR already and applying.
Step 3. Become a Notary in South Dakota
Not every court reporter position in the state will also require that you hold your notary public seal, but it is required of official court reporters who swear in witnesses, which is a standard job duty for reporters in many Unified Judicial System courtrooms.
Being a notary will allow you to administer oaths and complete other official paperwork on the job. You’ll need to obtain a notary seal with your name, the words “Notary Public” and “South Dakota” on it. You will also need a six-year, $5,000 surety bond through a local insurance company, or arrange to offer a personal surety in the same amount.
You can find more information about becoming a notary in South Dakota here.
Step 4. Find Employment as a Court Reporter in South Dakota
Court reporters in South Dakota have a variety of employment options. South Dakota courts are employers of court reporters and include:
With extensive federal and tribal lands in the state, you might also have luck looking for positions with the federal judiciary or in tribal courts.
Much of court reporting work can be done outside of the court, in different kinds of legal proceedings. Some additional employment opportunities can be found in the following areas:
- National Court Reporters – South Dakota
- Apex Court Reporting – Rapid City
- Prairie Reporting
It’s also increasingly possible to find real-time transcription work in entertainment or business working as a CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) transcriber. This fast-paced work involves providing translations for television programs, presentations, or other audio feeds that are displayed for the hearing impaired and ESL audiences.
Step 5. Stay Up to Date on Qualifications in South Dakota
One of the most important aspects of being a court reporter in South Dakota is staying up to date with all the different changes and updates that take place in the industry. To keep up with changes, you may want to join industry groups, such as the NCRA. If you hold an RPR, the NCRA requires that you complete three CEU credits (30 hours) every three years in order to maintain licensure. The CVR requires twenty CE credits every two years to stay current.
Another good resource is the South Dakota Court Reporters Association. Membership with this association will give you a boost in networking, finding employment, and registering for continuing education courses which are meant to help you continue your learning and development as a professional court reporter.
South Dakota Court Reporting Salary
Although there are many demands for court reporters in and out of the official positions found in South Dakota, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found in 2019 that there were only around 50 positions statewide… the vast majority of them with the state itself.
That’s reflected in the relatively high average salary, $54,710 per year, or $26.31 per hour, which is more than $10,000 better than the overall state average for all professions, which is only $42,920.
With advanced certification and training, however, court reporters can do much better. BLS found that those at the very top of the profession, with the most experience and most in-demand specializations, could earn $62,080, or almost $30 per hour.
Annual Salaries For Court Reporters in South Dakota
- Median – $54,710
- More experienced – $59,170
- Certified and experienced – $62,080
Hourly Wages For Court Reporters in South Dakota
- Median – $26.31
- More experienced – $28.45
- Certified and experienced – $29.84
*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.