In the state of Washington court reporters are licensed and regulated by the Washington State Department of Licensing. You may not represent yourself as a court reporter in the state without a state-issued certificate.
The steps to becoming a court reporter in Washington are as follows:
|Enroll in a College or Technical Institute with a Court Reporter Program|
|Select one of Four Ways to get your Certificate in Washington|
|Review your Employment Options in Washington|
|Maintain Washington Certification and Join an Industry Organization|
In the 21st century many people may believe that all court proceedings are recorded by high-tech means such as high definition video and audio. Many people may be surprised to learn that the court reporter, the figure seen in so many depictions typing away as the star witness gives their testimony, is still the way that most recordings of court procedures are made. In Washington State, court reporters have the important distinction of being responsible for developing the court record, which serves as the permanent record of judicial proceedings. These records become especially important in the case of appeals of other court challenges.
An example of the importance of the court record in Washington occurred in late 2013 when the defense for a man who was convicted of murdering his wife announced that they planned to appeal the verdict. The man was said to have used his wife’s phone after murdering her to make a phone call, which was a key piece of evidence in the trial. Defense lawyers will go over all the court records, testimony, and the court report in order to find and collate grounds for an appeal.
Step 1. Enroll in a College or Technical Institute with a Court Reporter Program
The state of Washington does not require you to have a college degree in order to meet qualifications to become a court reporter. However, if you are new to the profession you will need to enroll in a formal training program from a college, technical institute or one of the specialized court reporter schools in Washington. This kind of intensive training is not about meeting state qualifications for licensure, but it is crucial to performing the job effectively and efficiently.
Among the court reporter programs that can be found in Washington’s court reporter schools and technical institutes include:
- Court reporting – computer
- Court reporting technology
- Associates of court reporting
Step 2. Select one of Four Ways to get your Certificate in Washington
In Washington you can get your court reporter’s certificate in any of four ways. They include:
- If you already have a court reporter’s license in another state, Washington may grant you a certificate based on the principle of reciprocity.
- You can take and pass the Washington State court reporter exam. Fill out this application. You will be scheduled for the exam.
- You can take and pass the Registered Professional Reporter certification exam which is given by the National Court Reporters Association.
- You can take and pass the steno mask certification which is given by the National Verbatim Reporters Association.
Step 3. Review your Employment Options in Washington
Once you have chosen one of the four above ways to get your Washington court reporters certificate, and have completed the task, it is time to look for work.
Private sector employers in Washington include:
- Buell Realtime Reporting LLC
- Byers & Anderson
- Moburg, Seaton & Watkins
- Central Court Reporting and Video
Court reporter jobs are found with the Washington State judiciary and other courts in the state including:
- Washington State Supreme Court
- Washington State District Courts
- Seattle Municipal Courts
- Superior Court of Spokane County
Step 4. Maintain Washington Certification through Continuing Education
Once you have gained your certification it is a good idea to join local and national organizations that focus on the profession. The Washington Court Reporters Association is the most prominent industry association in the state. Becoming a member of this organization is a great way to network and job hunt. The WCRA will also help keep you up to date, with their requirement of 5 continuing education units before you can renew your license. One credit equals 60 minutes of instruction.
Though you do not have to become a member of the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) in order to seek their certification, you may consider the benefits of membership anyways. Just remember that they require 3 CE credits every three years in order for you to be able to renew your certification.
Additionally, if you do decide to go the route of voice recording, joining the National Verbatim Reporters Association (NVRA) would be a wise move. Their certification, too, requires continuing education. You need 30 credits every 3 years to maintain certification.
Washington Court Reporting Salary
The number of court reporter jobs in Washington is projected to increase by 2.2% a year in the period from 2011 to 2016 according to the state’s Employment Security Department.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that 210 court reporters were employed in Washington in 2012. Their average annual salary was $48,860 with those in the top ten percent of the field making $85,800.
Most of the court reporters in Washington are located in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area. In 2012, over 80% of these professionals were employed in this area according to the BLS. Their average annual salary in 2012 was $44,910 with the top earners making $86,850 a year.
State and local courts are major employers of court reporters nationally. 2013 salary information is available for an official court reporter in Spokane County. This position started at $60,744 a year. Applicants for this position were expected to be highly skilled and possess one of the following certifications:
- Registered professional reporter (preferred)
- Certified shorthand reporter
The county also requires that applicants either have three years of experience or be able to report and transcribe at the following speeds:
- Testimony – 200 words per minute
- Judge’s charge – 175 words per minute
Additional employment avenues for court reporters and stenographers in Washington include private court reporting firms. These businesses provide skilled court reporters to transcribe business and legal proceedings and to provide closed captioning of broadcasts.
The BLS provides a breakdown of 2012 salary information by percentile for all of the court reporter positions in various parts of Washington. This data is shown below: