It’s a good time to think about becoming a court reporter. The work is highly specialized and uses technology that few people know how to use, but the industry is growing quickly—currently there are more jobs available than people to fill them. So how do you find the training you need to get in on the action?
“In order to become a court reporter, one must attend a court reporting program,” says Dan Winer, registrar at the Canadian Centre for Verbatim Studies (CCVS). Most programs run for 2 years.
Similar skills can be learned in medical transcriptionist programs, but it’s better to prepare yourself for legal-specific work if that’s what you want to do.
You have to go to school because court reporting usually requires the use of steno machines, specialized chorded keyboards or typewriters that facilitate shorthand typing. Potential real-time court reporters must be able to type at a speed of at least 225 WPM (words per minute) with near 100% accuracy.
Sounds easy right? Well, steno machines aren’t like regular keyboards. They use a phonetic system and have much fewer keys than the conventional alphanumeric keyboards. As a result, the typing style is totally different. Court reporters hit multiple keys at once—called chording or stroking—to produce syllables, words, and phrases in single motions. The system’s software translates these strokes into sentences.
Where to get trained
There are only two court reporting schools in Canada that have been registered by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA): the CCVS, which is in Toronto, Ontario, and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton, Alberta.
Both programs offer internships and official court reporter accreditation. The NAIT program is flexible but is only offered to full-time, in-person students. CCVS is a bit more accessible, offering three program types: In-class, hybrid (in-class and online), and online only.
Note: At some point you will have to buy a steno machine and related equipment. Because so few of them are manufactured, new stenotypes can cost more than a few thousand dollars—so get saving.
Edited July 18, 2012 @ 4:44 p.m. EST: A previous version stated different speed and accuracy levels. We apologize for any misunderstanding and thank our readers for the correction.