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Court reporters compose verbatim transcripts of legal proceedings, lectures, conversations, and any other spoken word that requires documentation. To become a court reporter, you must have keen listening skills and an ability to think and act quickly to ensure vital information is properly recorded. Many court reporters work in courtrooms and some have private practices wherein they work freelance for attorneys creating depositions or for companies who need meeting minutes recorded for legal purposes. Still more work as close-captioned transcribers, creating on screen dialogue in real time or recorded for the hearing impaired.
An academic program must be completed to become a court reporter. In the past, the bulk of the academic programs were assigned to instruction on the use of a stenotype machine. These machines require the court reporter to learn phonetic combinations of keystrokes that represent a sound rather than a word spelling. Unlike a QWERTY keyboard, where each letter is pressed individually, the stenotype keyboard has a limited number of letters, and several keys are pressed at once.
Though court reporters still spend a great deal of time learning the stenotype machine, which is somewhat like learning a new language, technology has changed many things about the profession. Now, instead of just producing a paper printout, most stenotype machines are linked to computers. This is how close-captioning is created and removes the step wherein the court reporter must later translate the stenotype, as the computer manages that in real-time. Many of the courses in current court reporter programs cover the advanced technology used in different industries, some of which are in lieu of the stenotype machines, such as voice writing.
Though some of the new technology allows on the job training, to become a court reporter certified by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) with the designation of Registered Professional Reporter (RPR), an accredited program of two to three years must be completed. In addition, a four part exam must be passed and a court reporter must prove accurate speed of a minimum 225 words per minute. The RPR is an entry level credential, and many more certifications are available, depending on the area in which one wishes to become a court reporter.
Some of the other certifications available are Registered Merit Reporter (RMR) and Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR). For those interested in real-time tasks like closed-captioning, they may seek certifications such as Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR), Certified Broadcast Captioner (CBC), and Certified CART Provider (CCP). If you want to become a court reporter for the federal courts, she should pursue the Federal Certified Realtime Reporter (FCRR) title.
A good place to learn about court reporting.
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